In 1946, Michelin set a milestone in tyre technology: the patent for the the first radial tyre, the MICHELIN X, revolutionised tyre construction, with a steel belt and carcass threads arranged at right angles to the direction of travel.
1946 is a year of great events. Harry S. Truman is President of the USA, fashion designer Louis Réard presents the bikini in Paris, causing a worldwide scandal, the CDU elects Konrad Adenauer (1949 to 1963), who later becomes German Chancellor, as its chairman, and Piera and Pietro Ferrero found the confectionery company of the same name. And: Michelin registers the patent for the MICHELIN X tyre on 4 June 1946. The radial tyre starts its triumphal drive around the world.
It all began at the end of the 1930s: the bias-ply tyres of the time were extremely short-lived, their reliability left much to be desired and the sidewalls in particular heated up quickly at high temperatures, making them more prone to punctures. As a result, many vehicles were stranded at the side of the road due to tyre problems. This aroused the ambition of Michelin engineer Marius Mignol. He had a radical new idea and developed a tyre concept in which the sidewall structure consisted of wires arranged radially (parallel to the radius) and spaced further apart. Because of this special architecture, Michelin called the prototype "fly trap" in-house. All the tests were extremely promising.
The MICHELIN radial tyre: safe, comfortable, durable and economical
So Michelin continued to research the new technology. The engineers added an extra thread to the existing diagonal structure to form a 90° angle with the centre line of the tyre: The radial tyre as we know it today was born! On 4 June 1946, the company applied for a patent for the MICHELIN X tyre. Compared to the cross-ply tyre, the radial tyre has clear advantages: The tread is harder, ensuring better grip and around twice as long a service life. The sidewalls have a higher load-bearing capacity, which improves driving comfort. The lower overall deformation reduces energy loss and fuel consumption. Other advantages include better grip in wet conditions, less heat generation and a harder tread that is less prone to injury. In short: the radial tyre is safer than a cross-ply tyre, more durable, more comfortable, more resistant and more economical.
First passenger car production models with the innovative MICHELIN radial tyres
In 1951, the legendary Lancia Aurelia B20 was the first car to roll off the production line with MICHELIN radial tyres. For car enthusiasts, the Lancia Aurelia B20 is one of the most beautiful and technically innovative cars of the 1950s. However, the decisive factor for the cooperation between the Italian and French companies was another: the duo of Lancia Aurelia and MICHELIN radial tyres had won the class victory in the two-litre category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1951.
However, in order to fully exploit all the advantages of the radial tyre, a vehicle with a specially tuned chassis is required. This is exactly the case with the Citroën DS - affectionately called "the goddess" by DS fans - which was launched in 1955. Because of the patent deadline, the other tyre manufacturers have to wait 15 years before they are allowed to use the radial technology.
Important contribution to the development of global mobility
Capitalising on this period, Michelin continued to develop this groundbreaking technology for other vehicle segments. In 1952, the company patented its radial tyre with the X marking for trucks. In 1959, radial technology is used on tyres for construction and earthmoving machinery, in 1981 for aircraft and in 1984 for motorbikes - initially for racing, then in 1987 for road motorbikes.
70 years after its birth, the radial tyre can be found everywhere today. It contributes significantly to greater safety in road traffic and helps to save fuel and thus conserve resources. As is so often the case in the tyre sector, Michelin has developed a groundbreaking technology and brought it to market. And as always, it all started with an ingenious idea...