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Whitewall Tires


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I've been asked if whitewall tires would have been available in 1911. I thought tires in 1911 would have been all-white or a light grey and that whitewalls were not 'invented' until 1914 or so. Does anyone know if whitewall tires could have been uses on a 1911 car in 1911? 

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Early rubber shortages caused experimentation to 'stretch' rubber supplies to fill growing demands by the burgeoning automotive industry. Use of carbon black was found to help make more tires out of limited natural rubber supplies. Legend has it this was caused by the world war, however, this use predated even the European outbreak of 1914. Whatever initially caused the experimentation to stretch the supplies, it was discovered that carbon black not only made more tires from a given amount of natural rubber, but those tires were tougher, lasted longer, and were less susceptible to damage than tires made before.

Beyond that, whitewall tires were not 'invented' per se. Sort of a cart before the horse technicality. As a basic method of manufacturing early tires (a lot of the work done by hand!), the casing was often fairly thin, and used basic white rubber (binding the cloth casing materials). The outer tread areas would then be added in whatever form or design desired. This was where the most rubber material was used and therefore where the carbon black was most needed. So it was black tread added to a white casing that became in effect, whitewall tires.


Tire history is fascinating. Another mostly forgotten bit of era tire history, is that in the mid 1910s into the early 1920s, tire companies experimented with and marketed tires of other colors! Many tires were made and sold using combinations of reds, greens, blues, and yellows, in differing combinations of tread and sidewalls. Some quality magazines of the 1910s printed the covers in colors, and sold advertisements to tire companies showing tires in other colors (I wish I had some to share, I saw several many years ago) on the back cover!

A collector I have known for many years, has a few such tires hanging on his shop's walls. I have seen red in sidewalls or treads, and green in sidewalls, either red or green mixed with gray in either tread or sidewall combinations.

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