1961: Goodyear's Limited Edition Illuminated Tires On A Ford Consul Classic 315 Sedan (Colorized)

January 30, 2021

The Tire of Tomorrow

An aesthetic pleasure, Goodyear's illuminated tires are the height of mid-century grandeur. Like a lot of innovations from the late '50s and early '60s they're a triumph of form over function. These tires aren't just from another era, they're from a world with a completely different mindset than the one we have today.

The middle of the 20th century was a time when anything was possible. Humans were going to space, the economy was booming, and we were enjoying sunken conversation pits. So why not have light up tires? Seen as both a way to improve safety on the road and make cars look cooler, these illuminated tires never actually made it to the market. 

source: jecinci

In the late 1950s, Goodyear research chemist William M. Larson along with Goodyear chemist Anthony F. Finelli developed a polyurethane compound derived from petroleum and synthetic chemicals called Neothane. Larson described the mixture as ‘’a three-dimensional fishnet,” and it allowed the company to build a tubeless, cordless tire. After a few tests found that tires made of the compound were road ready. But more than just able to withstand speeds of up to 65mph on the highway these tires were believed to be more averse to wear and tear that the standard rubber tires of the day.

Aside from being more rough and ready than common rubber tires, those made of Neothane were also clear and could be painted any number of colors. The possibility of colorized accessorizing of tires was exciting for Goodyear’s marketing department who felt that they could push customers to buy more tires to make their lives aesthetically pleasing. One piece of internal documentation from Goodyear read in part:

Goodyear’s translucent tire can be produced in any color to match the car... or perhaps the wife’s new outfit. Some day a wife may tell a husband: ‘Charlie, go out and change the tires. I’m wearing my blue dress tonight.’

Every color of the rainbow

source: life magazine

The most unique thing about these tires was their ability to let light pass through their walls. Even without a coat of paint these bad boys make for a unique viewing experience. They don’t make a car look like it’s driving on air, but they do give off the effect that something special is afoot. Goodyear took full advantage of the possibilities and fitted the tires with 18 lightbulbs which were then wired to the steering wheel. When switched on, the tires cast a luminescent glow that surrounded the vehicle and illuminated the underside of the car. To show off their new product, Goodyear painted tires red, blue, green, orange, yellow, and pink before parading them in a photo spread in Life Magazine and taking them out on the street in hopes of stirring interest in the public.