Uniroyal Giant Tire
Location Name: Uniroyal Giant Tire (Allen Park, Michigan)
Location Type: Landmark (Roadside Attraction)
Year Completed: 1964
Architect(s): Shreve, Lamb and Harman
The Uniroyal Giant Tire greets drivers along Interstate 94 in Allen Park; just west of Detroit. This colossal tire is one of the best known landmarks in the Detroit area. The tire has represented the Motor City for nearly half a century, yet few know the story behind its construction. The tire began as a Ferris wheel at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65. Built by the Uniroyal Tire Company, it is the largest non-production tire scale model ever built. It once held twenty-four barrel-shaped gondola, each with a capacity of four riders; the wheel was driven by a 100 horsepower engine. The firm of Shreve, Lamb and Harman designed the 86 foot-tall Ferris wheel with a tread six inches deep. Although it may appear to be made of rubber, it is actually faced by a polyester resin reinforced with glass fiber. After providing rides for some two million fair-goers, the tire-designed Ferris wheel was dismantled after the closing of the fair.
The inner working of the Ferris wheel was sold off to an amusement park but Uniroyal had plans for the iconic tire. After being shipped to Detroit, the tire was re-assembled with an inner framework of structural steel and anchored in twenty-four feet of concrete. The tire stood along the newly-built Interstate 94 outside a Uniroyal sales office. While the sales office has since been removed, the tire continues to stand as a legendary Detroit area attraction. The property is now owned by the nearby Baker College and is not open to the public.The white wall bias-ply design tire, typical of those designed in the 1960s, was renovated in 1994. The tire was given a new hubcap and changed to resemble a radial tire. The tire’s Uniroyal lettering was also re-done in neon lighting. In 1998, an 11-foot, 250 pound nail was placed in the tire’s tread; a promotion for Uniroyal’s new Nail Gard puncture resistant tire. It was removed in 2003 as part of yet another major renovation. In this most recent work, some of the interior steel beams were replaced and the neon-lighting was replaced with reflective lettering. Though the tire has been modernized to look more in style, the largest purpose-built advertisement in Metro Detroit has become a much-loved part of the city’s culture. The Uniroyal Giant Tire is certainly a roadside attraction of the highest caliber.Sources