Walnut Shells Make Better Tires
with Bobby Unser
Filmed January 2009

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Interactive Transcript

We tried crushed batteries, in other words, they would take batteries and crush them and grind them up, and mix it in the rubber.

That worked better, but walnut shells were the answer. That really worked good.

I was the one that discovered it. Daddy and I did. We just absolutely set the world on fire.

In other words, I could win a whole lot easier. Of course, doing this, the Hill Climb, Pike's Peak Hill Climb tried to stop us, saying that recap tires were unsafe. They're not unsafe.

So, it was a big court deal. My dad got into fights with them. We did, ultimately, the same way.

Ultimately from that, the next year, I made a phone call, and got Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company involved.

It starts my whole deal with Goodyear. I just got on the phone one day from my shop over here, which you guys were in, just picked up the phone. Showed you how dumb I was in those days.

I called Goodyear, and asked for the guy that's in charge of development. I didn’t have any idea who it's gonna be.

They put me through and some guy gets on the phone. I told him who I was. I wasn't famous in those days.

I told him I wanted to get some tires made for Pike's Peak. I asked him if they'd be interested. He said, "keep talking." So, I did.

He said, "What do you need?" I said, "Well, we use walnut shells, crushed up walnut shells, and they have to be of a certain size. Could they do that?"

He said, "Yep." So, then I asked him the next question. I said, "I need to make the tire a lot lighter, and tires at Pike's Peak need to be real flexible."

I said, "Can you make a two-ply casing as strong as a four-ply casing?" That means the tire. He said, "Oh, for sure."

I said, "Can you make it as strong as a six-ply?" He said, "Yep, we can do that." I said, "How about an eight-ply?" He thought a little bit, and he said, "I think we could."

I said, "Then I need to make two-ply casings." I said, "We need to make the tires." I said, "You need to send them here to Albuquerque, and I'll do the testing here.”

Now, Goodyear wasn't into racing yet. They were just a brand new innocent company.

So, to make a long story short, they made the tires. They'd make me selections. They sent me little blocks, somewhere I still have them, of sample rubber with different size walnut shells in it.

I picked out the ones that looked like the sizes that I liked. They started making the tires.

Right where we're sitting in this house was the turn of a little dinky racetrack that I built here on the property.

Meaning nothing but it just took a drag, and dragged off the weeds and the grass, and made me a little racetrack.

I'd come out of the race shop over there with Goodyear tires, and I'd water it down a little bit, to cut down the dust a little bit. I'd test tires.

That's where I started with Goodyear. Then after we started getting some results, and saw that my testing was working, then we would take it to Pike's Peak.

Of course, getting the road in those days was very easy. Not any money involved, just pay for a little bit of safety stuff, like an ambulance, and stuff like that.

That's all we had to do. So, I became a tire tester, and a developer. I designed the tread for them, along with their engineers at Goodyear. That's still being used today.

It's a lot wider, looks different, but the two-ply casing is still in existence.

That two-ply tire that I basically innovated on the telephone that day, Goodyear ended up making millions of them and selling them all over the world.

Two-ply tires were really in for a long time. So, that shows you what racing does and what innovations do sometimes.


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