The world’s largest tire was used as a Ferris wheel at NYC’s 1964 World’s Fair
Photo courtesy of Gregory Fournier
The world’s largest tire, the Uniroyal Giant Tire, reached 80 feet high and weighed 20 tons when it debuted as a Ferris wheel at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. First located in Flushing, Queens, the towering tire was commissioned by the Uniroyal Tire Company and designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the same architectural firm behind the Empire State Building. During its time at the fair, the tire carried over two million passengers, including Jacqueline Kennedy and her children, Telly Savalas, and the Shah of Iran. Each ride cost just $0.25 and would last 10 minutes.
Originally, the tire read “US Royal Tires” and included 24 barrel-shaped gondolas that could carry 96 passengers at once, bringing them around the tire with a 100hp motor. Its interior was about 120,576 cubic feet.
At the end of the fair in 1965, the company dismantled the tire into 188 sections and shipped it to a Uniroyal sales office in Allen Park, Michigan. Without any of the Ferris wheel’s gondolas or mechanics, the tire now stands as a monument on Michigan’s I-94, just east of the Detroit Metro Aiport. Over the years, locals have taken shots on the tire with guns and bows, requiring it to be renovated a few times.
In 1994, a hubcap was added and then in 1998, an 11-foot high, 250-pound nail was placed into the tread as part of the company’s campaign for their puncture-resistant “Nailguard” tires. In 2003, after removing the nail, the tire received a $1 million renovation project as part of a revitalization program in Detroit. The project replaced 30 interior steel beams, the asphalt and storm drain installation, and the neon lettering.
Photo courtesy of Mark Brush of Michigan Radio
In May 2015, Uniroyal held an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the tire, letting members of the Automotive Press Association tour its interior. While the sales office has since moved, the Giant Tire remains on the highway today as a Detroit landmark and a symbol of the Amerian auto industry.