Michigan Marvels: The Uniroyal Tire

Andy Morrison
The Detroit News

Google "the largest tire in the world" and numerous stories and photos pop up about the Uniroyal Tire that's anchored in concrete along Interstate 94 in Allen Park. Trouble is, it's not really a tire at all.

It is the world's largest tire model ever built, standing 80 feet tall.

The tire began life as the U.S. Rubber Company's 80-foot-tall Ferris wheel ride at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. More than two million visitors, including former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her children, boarded its red and white barrel-shaped gondolas for a bird’s eye view of the grounds.

Built from a Uniroyal-developed polyester resin reinforced with glass fiber, it was created as a Ferris wheel for the 1964-65 World's Fair in Queens, New York City. The architectural firm that designed the Empire State Building — Shreve, Lamb and Harmon — also designed the tire. 

And while it isn't a real tire, it likely carried more people than any real tire in history.

The Uniroyal Tire stands tall along I-94 in Allen Park, Sunday March 22, 2021. The tire was built as a Ferris wheel for the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York.

More than 2 million people rode the wheel during the fair, including prominent passengers such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Telly Savalas and the Shah of Iran. It could carry up to 96 passengers in 24 gondolas and was driven by a 100-horsepower engine.

The interior of the tire measures 120,576 cubic feet, with the tread measuring a half-foot deep. It weighs 12 tons. When the fair ended, it was broken down into 188 sections and shipped by rail to Detroit. Workers spent four months to rebuild it at what was then the Uniroyal sales office.  

A hawks nests on the "y" of the Uniroyal Tire along I-94 in Allen Park, Sunday March 22, 2021. The tire was built as a Ferris wheel for the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York.

It was updated in 1994 with LED lighting and a new hubcap. Uniroyal invested nearly $1 million in 2003 to refresh the tire. Thirty steel beams were replaced inside the tire, the exterior was painted, reflective lettering was applied, storm drains put in and other structural improvements were made to the tire that stands as a symbol to Detroit's automotive history. 

amorrison@detroitnews.com

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