Older cars from the early 20th century typically didn’t ride very smooth. Not only were the bodies basically just a bunch of wood or metal pieces harshly joined together and the suspension setups rudimentary, but the rigid structure of the tires also made the bumps and vibrations even worse. Now Pirelli is looking to bring back some of that “charm” for vintage car owners.
Pirelli calls the tire it’s bringing back the Stella Bianca, which was the company’s longest-produced pattern up until it was replaced in the early 1950s. “Stella Bianca” is also the name of a cheese-making company, Jalopnik has learned.
Anyway, I guess it’s probably a bit of a headache trying to find new tires to fit a vintage car. You know the kind—the skinny ones on all of the old Formula cars and also a lot of the old normal cars. The reason they’d be hard to find is that the old cars used tires with a different structure that isn’t very common anymore.
Pirelli claims it’s focused on honoring the construction and driving dynamics of the old Stella Bianca tire design, but modernized it to be more efficient, better for the environment and to provide better performance in wet conditions. It also brought back the identical old tread pattern and the old Pirelli logo for the sidewall, and the Pirelli factory had to go back and learn the old manufacturing process from the company archives.
The Jaguar XK120, Ferrari 166, Alfa Romeo 20-30, Diatto Tipo 30, Itala 61, Lancia Lambda, OM Superba, Fiat 525SS were mentioned as some of the many highly collectable cars of today that could benefit from the tire going back into production. But while it was designed to handle motorsport, it was also put on regular cars and even vans.
The Stella Bianca is what’s called a crossply tire, named for its construction consisting of multiple plies of nylon cord crossed over one another to build up the structure of the tire. It was replaced with a more modern radial design that features steel belts in the construction for more modern cars.
Crossply construction tires are known for rigid sidewalls that are great for preventing sidewall punctures, but are poor for soaking up the bumps in the road. They also have a tendency to overheat and wear down quicker than radials, and the contact patch is obviously a lot smaller than a modern radial tire, hence why most modern vehicles go with radials now.
But if you’re the owner of a highly valuable collector car from the era and need an authentic set of vintage tires, you can sleep safe knowing you’re also getting the same authentic uncomfortable handling they enjoyed all those years ago, too.