A brief his­tory


Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS -

1838 Af­ter decades of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, Charles Goodyear per­fects vul­can­ised rub­ber. In giddy cel­e­bra­tion, he names the com­pound af­ter his favourite ex­trater­res­trial hu­manoid species, fool­ishly for­get­ting that Star Trek won’t be aired for an­other cen­tury and a quar­ter.

1846 Robert Thomp­son prom­ises to rev­o­lu­tionise au­to­mo­bile trans­port with his lat­est in­ven­tion, the pneu­matic car tyre. The break­through is un­der­mined by one tiny tech­ni­cal flaw: that no one has yet got around to in­vent­ing the car.

1904 Mount­able rims are in­tro­duced to cars, al­low­ing mo­torists, for the first time, to change flat tyres on the move. Af­ter sev­eral un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dents, man­u­fac­tur­ers are forced to clar­ify that by “on the move”, they mean “without re­turn­ing to a garage” rather than “lit­er­ally while the car is still rolling”.

1908 Frank Seiber­ling in­tro­duces the first treaded tyres, with grooves in the sur­face to dis­perse stand­ing wa­ter. These grooves re­main in fash­ion un­til the early 21st cen­tury, when sev­eral man­u­fac­tur­ers of high-per­for­mance hot hatches de­cide to do away with them, in the name of a) marginally im­proved warm-weather lap times and b) enor­mous crashes on the pub­lic road at the first sign of mois­ture.

1983 The Austin Metro be­comes the first pro­duc­tion car to re­ceive run-flat tyres as stan­dard. De­spite their ob­vi­ous safety ad­van­tages, the new tyres re­ceive lit­tle pub­lic ac­claim, on ac­count of a) slightly de­creased ride com­fort and b) be­ing fit­ted to the Austin Metro.

2004 The Bu­gatti Vey­ron ar­rives, wear­ing the world’s most ex­pen­sive set of pro­duc­tion tyres. De­vel­oped to with­stand 250mph-plus mo­tor­ing, the tyres cost £6,000 apiece. Yeah, but that’s only if you buy them di­rect from Miche­lin. There’s a re­mould place just up the road from TopGear that’ll does ’em for fifty quid a pop.

2005 Miche­lin in­tro­duces the air­less Tweel tyre, a hub con­nected to the wheel rim via flex­i­ble polyurethane spokes. The fail­ure of the Tweel to reach mass pro­duc­tion in the sub­se­quent decade is ru­moured to be due to the ne­far­i­ous in­flu­ence of ‘Big Air’.

2007 The use of tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems be­comes wide­spread. Mo­torists are im­me­di­ately im­pressed by the abil­ity of the new tech­nol­ogy to sound an alarm in the cabin, warn­ing the driver of a fault with the tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem.

2016 Dubai-based firm Z Tyres cre­ates a set of ‘lux­ury tyres’, in­cor­po­rat­ing 24-carat gold and di­a­monds. The set sells for $600k at auc­tion, to an anony­mous mil­lion­aire who lit­er­ally en­joys burn­ing money.

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