A friend of mine who works at the Piquette Plant asked me today about the evolution of tires used on Model T's and earlier Fords. I assume he is working on a display project for the museum.
Do any of you know what tires were offered throughout the T production and even perhaps before the T? I know smooth tires came first, followed by treads on the rear & smooth on the front, followed by treaded tires all around but, I don't know what years these changes occurred and what color the tires were. Any help?
I don't know the answer to your questions, but if I were going to research this subject I'd be looking at the history of Firestone too.
I know large contracts went to Ajax and Firestone for Model N tires as early as July 1906. I believe Hap has worked on brands and styles of tires used with pre T (and possibly T) models.
According to this late 1907 article, Firestone is to provide all Ford tires for 1908:
Early tires had natural rubber color without any thread. Fords may have been among the last to get threads on the front tires - in 1915 only rear tires were threaded, I think(?), while the 1917 Rip Van Winkle Ford with original tires had threaded front & rear tires with just the rubber in the thread part was mixed with coal powder for better thread life, the tire walls were still natural rubber. By the early/mid 20's blackwall tires became popular and balloon tires were offered as a very popular option in 1925. Almost all Fords were sold with the 4.40x21" balloon tires by 1926 and perhaps only TT trucks got any 30"x3.50" tires in 1927?
See this thread for pictures of the 1917-20? natural rubber side tires made by Firestone(?) but marked Ford:
Factory photos show the 2-tone tires used in late 25 models and what looks like natural colored tires on 26 models. I'm not sure there was a standard on the tires.
This is all hearsay, but I have heard that the original tires were gum rubber color. Someone put some zinc oxide in the rubber to make white tires. The white tires were very popular, but during WW1 the supply of zinc was cut off. So they started using lamp black for the tires. It was found that the black tires wear better than either the natural rubber or the white tires. After the war, the white sidewall became popular. It had the longer wearing black for the treads and the white sidewalls. Later only one side of the tire was white.
as i understand it, the early tires were white, but the vendors also sell grey treadless tires, what era would that be, i've not seen them in old photos
A few period ads for tires
I believe this was an NRS wheel/tire at Bakersfield. It looked like leather.
The original tires on my '17 Torpedo Runabout were United States Rubber Company. They were white walls on both sides, with black treaded area. They had "Ford" script on both sides of the tire along with the USRC markings.
We had them in the attic of Dad's garage until the 1980's when an unfortunate spurt of house cleaning caused them to be discarded.
My 1910 Touring came from Ford with Diamond Tires according to the build sheet for it. The car was delivered to the Ford agency in New York City.
I would have thought any good "T" owner should know this one!
Natural rubber is a cream / off white colour as it oozes from the rubber tree. That's where it comes from, like maple syryp. They made the 1st tires in natural colour, white-ish but found they wore quickly, so ended up mixing in carbon to make them harder wearing, hence the black rubber. The initial experiments with tread included the 'gimick' of casting the words "Non Skid" onto the face, then tread development followed.
And EVERY Model T owner should know that Firestone was the ONLY tire Ford used for years at Henry's specific instruction. For no other reason than Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone were fishing buddies from way back.
Ivan,It's kind of hard to believe Bidding for cost was not involved?? Bud.
Firestone was unable to produce enough tires to satisfy Ford's usage. There were several suppliers of tires at any time in Model T production.
There was a time when Henry promised to buy a whole lot of batteries from Edison to build electric cars. Henry spent a little bit of time and money experimenting with the concept of electric cars, only to find that they did not make any economic sense.
Meanwhile Edison had directed his team to build a lot of batteries. Lots and lots of batteries - that were never purchased by Ford.
As things turned out the Edison iron plate batteries were completely unsuitable due to their size and low charging capacity, and lead acid batteries were smaller and much heavier, with only enough charging capacity for an hour's use. One prototype brougham was built before the project was abandoned unceremoniously.
See pages 55 - 61 in Eugene Farkas memoir here: