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October 3, 2023

Detroit’s I-94 Uniroyal Tire Was Once a Giant Ferris Wheel at the 1964 NY World’s Fair

The Uniroyal Giant Tire was created by the Uniroyal Tire Company for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where it functioned as a Ferris wheel. Since 1966 it has served as a static display in Allen Park, Michigan, alongside Interstate 94, between the Southfield Freeway interchange and Outer Drive overpass.

The Tire in 1965

The tire has a diameter of 80 feet (24.4 m) and weighs 12 short tons (11 t), is anchored in 24 feet (7.3 m) of concrete and steel, and can withstand hurricane-force winds. The exterior tire tread is 6 inches (15 cm) deep, with an interior volume of 120,576 cubic feet (3,414.3 m3). It is not made of rubber, but of a Uniroyal-developed polyester resin reinforced with glass fiber, which makes it flame resistant.

It is the largest non-production tire scale model ever built, and one of the world’s largest roadside attractions.

Built next to the Grand Central Parkway at a cost of $750,000, the Tire sat next to the Transportation and Travel Pavilion for both seasons of the fair. Rides initially cost 25¢, but the fare was doubled to 50¢ for the 1965 season. Contrary to some urban legends, the structure is made of steel and fiberglass, and was originally emblazoned with “U S ROYAL TIRES” its sides. It had 24 barrel-shaped gondolas, each carrying up to 4 people, and could carry up to 96 passengers at once. It was driven by a 100 hp engine and sat atop a 40 ft (12.2 m) foundation. During the fair, the wheel carried over 2 million people, including prominent passengers such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Telly Savalas, and the Shah of Iran.

When the fair ended in 1965, US Rubber offered to donate the exhibit to the City of New York or any other entity who wanted it, citing moving costs of $300,000. In response, the Parks Commissioner and City Planning Chair were quoted as saying the Tire’s “use as an integral amusement area is absolutely opposed by the Department of Parks. This type of amusement, commonly known as ‘Kiddie Cities,’ does not enhance a park.” Later that year, the tire was eventually disassembled and shipped via 22 trucks to Allen Park, MI (a suburb of Detroit), where it was reassembled without its passenger gondolas in 1966 as a static display outside US Rubber's Midwest corporate headquarters. Today it still stands tall as a symbol of Uniroyal’s heritage and a Detroit landmark.


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