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Lit from Within: Illuminated Tires

Not long ago we featured an incredible George Barris (and later, Jim Street) custom titled The Golden Sahara.  Filled with incredible detail, such as split fins, a clear custom bubble top, a record player, and even a bar (it was the 60s, after all)!

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In researching the many details of this fabulous beauty, there was one element that I couldn’t stop thinking about…

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In this Life photo, we see an example of these tires in full illumination – enough light for a lady to straighten her stockings by (or so the photo suggests)!  This photo is listed in Life’s archives under a section titled “The 30 Dumbest Inventions,” along with the Baby Cage, allowing you to suspend your baby outside your 17th floor apartment window when floor space is at a premium, and the Cigarette Pack Holder, which allowed you to smoke an entire pack all at once.  But seriously, what tire could have been more fitting for the Golden Sahara?


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We mentioned in our previous post that this baby sported illuminated tires.  In the clip from the 60s TV show we featured in our past post, the lights in the TV studio were too bright to show of those gorgeous tires, but we have a few pics of these illuminated tires to share…


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Manufactured by Goodyear in 1961, these tires got their illumination from bright bulbs on the inside of the rim, while one piece of synthetic rubber formed the outer portion of the tire.

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The tires were initially available in a variety of colors.  As one automotive legend goes, a gentleman purchased a brand new, fully loaded pink Cadillac for his wife, and promptly added bright pink illuminated tires to it.  Can you imagine her driving around town at night in that pink illuminated Cadillac?  I’m sure she made quite the impression at her local country club.


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Show stopping?  Yes.  Practical?  Not so much.  It’s not surprising that these tires didn’t quite catch on (or wear well), as glass bulbs and rubber aren’t really a match made in heaven.  Yet the fact that they existed, that someone invented a polymer translucent enough to allow light to pass through, all in an effort to produce a more beautiful tire, and in turn, a more beautiful car, is a testament to the mindset of that era… filled with hopes and dreams of the future.  We should all be so lucky to be so inspired to create something so spectacular!

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