April 5: Firestone launches balloon tires on this date in 1922

April 5, 2013

By the early 1920s, tires had become the chokepoint of the auto industry. Most cars rode on tires not that far evolved from bicycle rubber, which needed changing every few hundred miles and weren't capable of sustaining higher speeds. The thin rubber required high pressure to stay on the wheel (55-60 psi was a common inflation target for Ford Model T tires) and made them easy to puncture. Worse, they couldn't hold much weight, and trucks of that era rode on solid rubber wheels.

That all changed on this date in 1922, when Firestone began production of its Balloon Tire. The Firestone engineers had discovered that if they dipped the individual cotton tire cords in rubber, they could create a stronger but more flexible tire; by changing its shape, they could use a far lower internal air pressure. The design instantly made cars more efficient, less prone to breakdowns and better riding; even Henry Ford was forced to change the Model T and use the new design.