X marks the spot!
The Michelin X radial truck tyre is celebrating its 60th anniversary! And this momentous occasion means that it is the perfect time to take a trip down memory lane to honour the tyre that represented nothing less than a revolution for the transport industry …
Tyres have been around for a while. In fact, back in 1895, André Michelin was the first person to use pneumatic tyres on a car (albeit unsuccessfully).
Fast forward to 1915 – this was when the Palmer Tyre Company of Detroit pioneered the first rubberised “cord” fabric and made the first so-called “cord tyre”. The fabric the company used was not woven, it was all warp and no weft. All the strands of cord were laid parallel to each other and pressed into sheet rubber. The tyre casings were built using sheets of cord material, cut on the bias and laid across each other – each ply completely separated from the next by its rubber coating. The cross-ply tyre had come into being!
Although the conventional cross-ply tyre gave an enormous boost to mobility around the world in the first half of the 20th century, it posed various limitations to manufacturers. Design restrictions, resistance to high speeds, longevity and reliability were all in need of tweaking.
Many vehicles were often out of service due to tyre-related incidents. As such, the manufacturers decided that they had some serious work to do …
Enter Michelin researcher – Marius Mignol. In the late 1930s, he designed a concept tyre where the sidewalls were replaced by widely spaced, radial metal cables. Because of its very singular architecture, the prototype was known in-house as the “fly cage”.
The trial product underwent complex tests and measurements and the result was successful. The assessments confirmed that the tyre’s tread was defiant to heat, whereas the movements of the cross-ply layers of a conventional tyre generated most of its heat in the sidewalls.
The Michelin team was convinced that the radial tyre was destined to have a great future and began preparing adequately for the total revolution that the tyre represented.
But then, out of the blue came another radial car tyre – a rival company filed exclusive rights in 1946. Needless to say, the team at Michelin acted quickly and filed a trade mark, hence the tyre’s rather unimaginative generic name: X.
In 1952, Michelin completely transformed the transport industry by introducing the first radial truck tyre, followed by the first radial earthmover tyre in 1959. In 1981, Michelin also created the first radial tyre for aircraft and 1984 saw the first radial tyre for motorcycles, initially developed for racing bikes.
The company tapped into the opportunity the radial tyre presented and quickly transferred the technology to street tyres, launching the A59X and M59X range in 1987.
The tyre set new standards in terms of road-holding performance, shaping Michelin’s history by innovation.