Five of the most unusual tire company inventions in history

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

Glowing tires

In the days when the streets of many cities were illuminated by modern neon signs, an American tire producer considered the use of this futuristic idea in their tires. In 1961, Goodyear presented a glowing tyre prototype.

The most enthusiastic reviews of this invention hailed them as "the tires of the future".
The tires were made of polyurethane and the light was supplied by eighteen bulbs mounted in the wheel rim. These experimental tires were tested at 100 km/h, but despite positive test results, the decision to mass produce them was never taken.

Goodyear lighttyres.

Goodyear’s glowing tires (source: carthrottle.com)

From today's perspective the reasons seem very clear. Firstly, they were expensive. Secondly, traffic regulations would probably need to have been changed soon after introducing this invention, in order to ensure the safety of drivers. These glowing wheels were quite strong and would unnecessarily distract other drivers. Thirdly, the reliability of the invention was doubtful (probably the whole tire would need to be removed whenever one bulb burns out). Finally, the grip of these tires on wet roads was not sufficient.

Omni Wheel

A tire that can roll sideways? A few years ago, Omni Wheel was presented by Canadian inventor William Liddiard, the owner of Liddiard Wheels. In his opinion, this is the best solution for parking difficulties in crowded cities, which overcomes the natural limitations of cars with limited turning radius.
Liddiard's invention is actually a set consisting of a special tire and a wheel. When the car needs to go sideways, the tire turns thanks to a built-in motor. Speed? It barely reaches 1.5 km/h, but it is just enough for easy parking manoeuvres in places which are difficult to access by traditional methods.

Omni Wheel

Omni Wheel (photo: wikipedia.pl)


The Omni Wheel has become just another media curiosity. The concept was not interesting for tire companies, which is quite understandable. Although Liddiard guarantees that his tires may have similar characteristics to standard models, it is difficult to imagine how to solve the problems of its small surface contact or proper shape and stability of the tread. Most likely, the Omni Wheel will share the fate of glowing tires and will never pass the prototype phase.

Parccar - the fifth wheel of the car.

In the 1950’s, this idea, similar to Omni Wheel, was tested by two car companies.  In 1951, a prototype called ‘Parccar’, designed by inventor Brooks Walker and Firestone, was presented on a popular Cadillac model. The trunk of the car housed a special spare wheel, which could be lowered while parking and with other wheels positioned perpendicularly, it enabled the car to move sideways. The concept was described as the ‘invention that will shorten the parking time to 9 seconds even in difficult conditions’. Problems? The wheel and mechanism required almost the entire trunk space, even in Cadillacs.

Packard Cavalier 1953

Packard Cavalier 1953 (photo: piximus.com)

Two years later, the improved version of this device was tested on the Packard Cavalier model where the fifth wheel was placed outside the trunk. However, ‘Parccar’ never even reached a limited production stage.

Snow tires with belts.

Last year, Citroen’s Spacetourer Hyphen prototype brought the concept of a car combining a minivan, SUV and a small van. Michelin’s designers contributed to the avant-garde nature of this car by providing it with exceptional tires. Each tire was equipped with five detachable elastomeric belts, which in difficult conditions would definitely improve the grip of the car. Speaking of difficult conditions, we think of harsh winter roads. Michelin did not fully explain how this mechanism works and did not describe its benefits, future use or improvements.

Citroen Spacetourer Hyphen (photo: citroen.pl)

It is quite possible that it will never go beyond concept stage. It may share the same fate as the ‘Gross automatic snow chain’. A few years ago, Peter Gross, an inventor from the Czech Republic, developed a device mounted which mounted onto a car wheel, similar to a hubcap. Four remote controlled arms extended from the cap to surround the tire and provide it with additional traction, even on ice. Gross plans to independently produce his ‘automatic snow chains’ because none of the tire companies decided to implement it.

Protective brushes for tires

Protective brushes? At first glance it looks like a joke or as some wild DIY idea, but decades ago the innovators of the developing automotive industry had many different and peculiar ideas.

For example, in 1931, Popular Mechanics magazine offered an unusual solution to the problem of drivers fleeing from the accident site. The invention involved a car bumper equipped with a storage compartment that would include many tags marked with the car registration number and driver's personal data. The tags would be spilled onto the road at the moment of accident. Four years later, the same respected magazine advertised a ‘dog bag’ which was a device just for someone who was particularly keen on keeping the car's interior clean. According to the inventor's concept, the dog was supposed to travel in a bag hung outside the car. It was emphasized that its advantages included not only the cleanliness of the car, but also providing the dog with fresh air while driving.

And back to the protective brushes ... One hundred years ago (and also a few decades ago), the short life of the tires was a huge problem for individual car owners and public transport. The strength of the tires could not be compared to current tire parameters. Secondly, replacing a damaged tire required not only time, but also the skills of a qualified mechanic. Could a device that cleaned the car's route by removing nails, glass or other sharp objects, improve the life of the tires? Certainly not as significantly as its inventors would imagine. The main reason for the short service life of tires, which averaged only a few thousand kilometres (in the interwar period manufacturers declared a target mileage of at least a dozen or twenty thousand km), was the poor quality of roads. No brush was capable of removing holes, bumps or large stones from the road.

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