Historic Sponsor Series: Firestone: On the Rim of Success

General Introduction

The exact interpretation of sponsorship in conjunction with Lotus is difficult to establish objectively. The appearance of a sponsor’s logo on a car is not necessarily evidence of financial support. Access to historical archive and contracts is sought wherever possible but with the passage of time and for various reasons these are not always available or accessible to the public.

In constructing the historic sponsor series the A&R looks only at the logos worn in period and assumes the company involved had no objection to Lotus promoting their products. The A&R sees much to be gained by the wider promotion of sponsors but in the event that a specific organization disapproves for any reason that article will be removed.

Sponsorship is an instrument of mutual benefit and promotion. Subscribers might like to see A&R articles on Sponsorship and Product Placement to understand the numerical / financial reach provided by sponsorship; with its ability to identify and project status through identification.

The principle continues particularly with regard to education based exhibitions [see below for details]

Each of these articles is devoted to a company/ organization that is believed to have sponsored Lotus or have been a major component supplier.

The intention of each article is to: –

  1. Explain the sponsors own history and outline their products and services – past-present and future
  2. Explain the historical connection with Lotus and the contribution made both in competition and the production cars
  3. To suggest how these two interlocking facets may be translated into exciting, interpretive, educational and commercial exhibitions


Figure 1.an interesting period advertising poster. These are worthy of study and reflect changes in technology, society and fashion.

Firestone History and Products

From the net:-

“The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company is an American tire company founded by Harvey Samuel Firestone in 1900 to supply pneumatic tires for wagons, buggies, and other forms of wheeled transportation common in the era. Firestone soon saw the huge potential for marketing tires for automobiles. The company was a pioneer in the mass production of tires. Harvey Firestone had a friendship with Henry Ford. Firestone used this relationship to become the original equipment supplier of Ford Motor Company automobiles, and was also active in the replacement market.[1]

In 1988, the company was sold to the Japanese Bridgestone Corporation.

In 1928 the company built a factory in Brentford, England, a longtime Art Deco landmark on a major route into the city. This closed in 1979.

The 1911 Indianapolis 500 auto race was won by a car running Firestone tires. Firestone-shod cars won all editions of the race from 1920 to 1966. The company also provided tires to Formula One from 1950 to 1974. As a consequence of the 1973 Indianapolis 500, 1973 United States Grand Prix and 1974 Austrian Grand Prix tragedies, Firestone retired from American open-wheel racing and Formula One after 1974. The manufacturer returned in 1995 to the CART series with technical assistance from Bridgestone. Goodyear retired after 1999, thereby leaving Firestone as the single supplier of the IndyCar Series as of 2013.

Sponsor Overview

The following is taken from Firestone tyre brochure Summer 2015.

Under the heading Freedom to Drive Firestone list their landmarks.


Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company founded by Harvey firestone in Akron, Ohio


Firestone delivers 2,000 sets of tyres to Ford Motor Company in the largest single order for tyres in the automobile industry at the time.


Profits of the Firestone Tyre &Rubber company exceed 1MN USD for the first time.


Ray Harroun wins the first Indianapolis 500 o firestone tyres


Firestone opens its first overseas plant in Brentford, UK.Other EU plants in Sweden, Spain, France, Portugal, and Switzerland will follow the next decade


Firestone develops the first practical low-pressure pneumatic tractor tyre and begins the “Put the Farm on Rubber” campaign


Firestone provides Graham Hill is first FIA Formula 1 championship winner on Firestone tyres.


Firestone merges with Bridgestone Corporation, a company that share similar values and tradition of innovative excellence .this merge created what is now the largest tyre manufacturer in the world.


Firestone announces the return to the Indianapolis 500 and Indy/Champ Car 20 years after leaving motorsports


Firestone wins the Indy 500 of the modern era for the first time


Firestone Revival campaign is kicked off in Europe, with the launch of the new Destination HP SUV tyre

Wheels on Fire: The Lotus Connection

The sponsor’s logo has been seen on the following Lotus models: –

Type No. Purpose Year
19 Sports Racing 1960
29 Indianapolis 1963
38 Indianapolis 1965
42 Indianapolis 1966
43 F1 1966
49 F1 1967
56 Indianapolis 1968
57/58 F2&1 1968
63 F1 1969
64 Indianapolis 1969
72 F1 1972



Figure 3.Firestone being of American origin would have natural connections and historical association with Indianapolis. Note again the mutuality aspect.


Figure 4.Editors sketch drawing of Lotus 63 [4×4] fitted with Firestone tyres


Figure 5.Note black and white magazine advertisment.Which driver is being represented?

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Who are the world’s major tyre manufacturers? What is their connection with motor sport?
  • Analyise the statistics of tyre manufacturers in motorsport
  • Explore tyre manufacturers marketing techniques –how to they respond to societal values, fashions and concerns?
  • How important is tyre technology in FI today?
  • How many categories of markets for tyres exist? What are the respective numbers/percentages
  • Examine the physics and chemistry of tyre design
  • Examine sustainability in tyre manufacture
  • Why was the London firestone factory so important? How was its architecture defined?

Education, Exhibitions, Economics

The proposed museum believes that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In particular an exhibition as outlined above has enormous potential for merchandising. The learning opportunities [individual and collective] and competitions   provided   might be linked to prizes for individuals, schools and related learning centers etc.

In this instance the following might be appropriate:-

  • What goes round comes round: Lotus and Tyre Technology
  • Firestone’s High Profile Prominence: Firestone and Lotus FI Championships
  • Firestone’s Low Profile :Tyre Strategy and Marketing
  • Firestone Rubber: Tree of Knowledge
  • Finding the Right Compound :Lotus and Firestone’s Grip
  • Form and Fusion: Firestone  and Lotus chemistry
  • Firestone Composites: Tyres and Lotus chassis structures
  • Firestone on the Rim


Firestone state their legacy as:-

“An exciting heritage…………

The Firestone story begins in the year 1900 with the efforts of one man, Harvey Firestone.it was his vision, pioneering spirit and passion for innovation that sparked a virtual revolution in the field of transportation, one that has touched the lives of countless generations.

From helping to push the bounds of performance as some of motorsports premier racetracks to helping ordinary motorists broaden their own horizons …. Firestone’s legacy continues to inspire people from all walks of life, letting them rediscover the freedom to drive…..”

There can be little doubt about the significant contribution of firestone to Lotus which includes multiple Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis. Both very high prestige on the world stage .Both lucrative. Firestone would therefore help Lotus sales and possibly increase American receptiveness. Equally Lotus success in Europe would have helped Firestone’s market share.

During the Chapman era Firestone would have a London base and occupy a landmark building. [See appendix below]

Firestone continue to innovate and inspire. Their contribution, products, research and development are worthy of wider publicity and dissemination. The proposed CCM&EC believes that it can achieve this in the most effective manner and capture added value with its educational progammes and allied training opportunities. In such a manner there is greater emphasis on the future. It avoids fossilization or atrophy by ensuring that sponsors are not frozen in time but presented as dynamic. The examination and historical perspective serve the purpose of context, momentum, continuity and an interpretation device for future trajectory.


From the net:-

“The Firestone Factory

Brentford & Chiswick Journal 2 (1981)

In February 1980 the Firestone Tyre Factory on the Great West Road closed and 1,500 people lost their jobs. The building was sold to the Trafalgar House Company – run by Lord Victor Matthews and Nigel Broakes – and contracts were finally exchanged on Friday, 22nd August.

During that August week an Inspector from the Department of the Environment had visited the factory and had decided to ‘spot-list’ the building – an emergency procedure which would protect it from demolition. No senior civil servant could be found to sign the papers before the Bank Holiday weekend. On Saturday 23rd August Lord Matthews ordered demolition men to destroy the main features of the facade – the ceramic tiles around the entrance, the white pillars, the pediment above and the bronze lamp standards.

The Great West Road was once known as The Golden Mile. The factories along it were built in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, often by American companies which relied on advertising to promote their products. The factories themselves were used as advertising, which is why they were so eye-catching and exciting. They had to boast their modernity. Apart from Firestones, there was Trico (American windscreen wipers), Sperry Gyroscope, Pyrene fire extinguishers, Macleans, Gillette and Jantzen American swimwear. A similar company, Hoover, built their factory on the Western Avenue. Of British and European companies there were Henley’s – ‘The world’s biggest petrol station’ – the Garden Bakery of Macfarlane Lang, Coty Cosmetics, and Simmonds Aerocessories (now the Beecham building).

The Firestone factory was designed in 3 weeks by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners; it was built in 18 weeks. This firm was famous in its day for its industrial buildings, for example, the Wrigley’s factory in Wembley, Huntley and Palmer’s in Reading, the Victoria Coach Station, Glaxo in Greenford and Champion Spark Plugs in Feltham. Douglas Wallis himself felt that his buildings were only temporary, a part of the manufacturing process, and that he was not building long-lasting monuments. Many of the workers in the factory will appreciate the contrast between the clean, white exterior and the actual manufacturing process inside; it was dirty, hot and pungent with the smell of rubber.

Our area of west London has derived a lot of its wealth from the Great West Road and the Airport. The demolition of the Firestone factory is symptomatic of a change that is occurring along this road as manufacturing is being replaced by warehouses, distribution centres and offices. The large sites and favourable transport conditions may even tempt retailers here with hypermarkets.

The value of the Firestone factory was that it contained in its shape and appearance the means to interpret what has happened in this area since the end of the First World War It was the best example. Local people felt very bitter about the hasty way it was destroyed and they felt they had been robbed of one of the area’s landmarks. However there is one consolation for the historian who is interested in recording and observing the process of change. The confidence of its construction contrasts noticeably with the lack of confidence surrounding the saga of its destruction.”

Food for thought and the potential loss of the old Lotus factory site Hornsey?


Marks of Excellence.P.Mollerup.Phaidon Press.1997.

ISBN: 0714838381