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Street-Legal and Race-Proven: The Tirebird

Can a street-legal performance tire win against pure racing slicks? For a long time, the answer was no. Until 1970.

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In the late 1960s, auto manufacturers in Detroit began building vehicles with 350-450 horsepower engines, and the tires of that day didn't have the strength to hold up to that kind of power. In 1969, BFGoodrich engineers created a low-profile tire that could accelerate fast, brake hard and pull all 450 of those horses into a corner. It was the world's first 60-series radial performance tire; this new aspect ratio created a tire that featured a sidewall that was 60% as tall as the tire's section width delivering unheard of performance for a street-legal tire.

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To test the true strength and performance of this groundbreaking 60-series radial performance tire the engineers at BFGoodrich took it to the track, knowing that if it could perform there, it would excel on the streets. See, a street tire that could punch above its weight class needs the muscle to match. And so the Tirebird Program was born, an agreement with Titus/Godsall Racing to build three Pontiac Firebirds with Radial T/A tires for the 1970 SCCA Trans-Am road racing series. Their first race—a four-hour endurance race at Mosport Park—put them on the podium with a third-place finish, but that wasn’t good enough. There were still more steps to climb.

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Shortly after that initial race, T/G Racing brought the Tirebirds to Watkins Glen International. They took home class wins in both the Saturday and Sunday races, climbing the podium and proving that the Radial T/A street tire could do what no other tire could do; Win a race, then drive home after.

Of the original six promotional cars created to tout this historic win, only one is known to remain in existence. 50 years later, this Tirebird, fully restored to the original livery of the #92 race car, is still every bit as capable on the track.

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