Pirelli, like most modern tire manufacturers, didn’t start out making tires alone. But unlike most modern tire companies, Pirelli has been around for 140 years. So let’s take a look where Pirelli started and some of the highlights from its long history.
In 1872, a young engineer by the name of Giovanni Battista Pirelli started G.B. Pirelli & Company to make products out of rubber after the recent discovery of the rubber vulcanization process. The first major step toward becoming one of the leading tire manufacturers in the world occurred in 1890, when Pirelli & Co. began mass-producing tires for velocipedes, an early form of the bicycle.
By 1902, Pirelli opened its first international manufacturing plant in Spain. The plant produced electrical conductors and various rubber products. Those electrical conductors would eventually become an important part of the tire manufacturing side of the business, too. The new plant was also a sign of the demand for their products and the success of their manufacturing processes.
Similar to its competitors around the world, Pirelli’s early success was helped by the notoriety gained in the new and exciting world of motorsports. In 1913, the first ever French Grand Prix was won by Georges Boillot. He sailed across the finish line on Pirelli tires. The next year also saw another big leap forward for Pirelli tires. The company patented tread patterns specifically designed for newly introduced asphalt roads. Then in 1927, Pirelli launched the Superflex Stella Bianca, a sport tire for everyday consumers.
Pirelli in the 1950s
Several more professional racing wins on Pirelli tires and more cutting-edge innovations both in and out of the tire business led Pirelli into the 1950s. The company experienced significant growth in its conductor manufacturing, supplying cables for long distance transmission of radio, television, and telephone signals.
Two more significant milestones came in the 1950s. Pirelli introduced its Pirelli Cinturato radial tires, using its expertise in the cable industry to create stronger and safer tires. Pirelli also broke ground on new headquarters in Milan. This was no ordinary corporate building. As a sign of Pirelli’s desire to lead the way into the future, the building was designed by Giò Ponti, one of Italy’s most famous and most important architects. The Pirelli Tower was at the time the tallest building in the country and was seen as a symbol of Italy’s modern achievements.
Pirelli’s growth picked up during the 1950s and 1960s. They constructed a new plant specializing in tires for passenger vehicles, industrial tires, and racing tires. The new plant was built in Izmit, Turkey, extending Pirelli’s reach even farther. Pirelli also did some major business here in the US. The company ran 7 undersea cables between Long Island and Connecticut.
Innovation in the ‘70s
The 1970s proved to be a decade full of technological innovation for Pirelli. Its Cinturato tires saw an update, getting new metal belts inside. Pirelli created the first wide radial tires after the Lancia racing team asked the company to create tires that could actually stand up to the most powerful cars of the day. During the 1970s, Pirelli developed the low-profile tire, which would change the tire industry forever. The company also invented an experimental new cable that successfully connected telephones using fiber optics.
The 1980s & Beyond
Since revolutionizing the world of tires with the new Cinturato tires and with low-profile tires, Pirelli has continued to refine their tire designs. They’ve also continued to help professional drivers capture more and more checkered flags. In the last 40 years, Pirelli has continued to grow across international borders as well. Today, the company boasts a presence in more than 160 nations worldwide. They’ve led the way in making many of the technologies created for motorsports available to consumers like you and me. Eco-friendly tires and manufacturing processes have also become a priority for Pirelli in recent years.
More Than Tires
Pirelli has grown to be one of the largest, most successful tire manufacturers in the world. They’re telecommunications operations continue their groundbreaking work today. However, Pirelli is known for more than just tires and more than just communications technology. It has earned a reputation as a company that highly values design and art. That reputation is evident in several Pirelli initiatives. In 1964, Pirelli launched its annual calendar, which since its first edition has featured the work of many of the world’s most famous photographers. The HangarBicocca Foundation, a space devoted to the production, exhibition and promotion of contemporary art, was created in partnership with Pirelli in 2004. This exhibition and educational space is right in the neighborhood of Pirelli’s headquarters.
2010 saw the creation of The Pirelli Foundation. The Pirelli Foundation is devoted to historical documentation of business, industry, and human progress. It features hundreds of artworks and other audio-visual installations. It should come as no surprise that Pirelli is so concerned with art and design. The earliest days of the auto industry in Italy saw the vehicles as an opportunity for the marriage function and aesthetics. And Pirelli was a big part of those early days.
If you want to add a touch of Italian design to your vehicle, head to RightTurn today. There you can find out if any of Pirelli’s outstanding tires are right for your ride.