After more than half a century of making exclusively radial tyres, Pirelli has begun to make traditional crossply tyres again for classic car lovers wanting tyres with an original look and feel, but still capable of offering some advantages from the modern world.
Urged on by manufacturers such as Ferrari and its renowned Classiche department, Pirelli has created a new tyre for the Collezione family, launched at the Padova Classic car and bike show in Italy. As a result, a historic name is reborn: Stella Bianca, which was Pirelli’s longest-lived tread pattern and the first modern tyre in the Italian firm’s history, introduced in 1927.
A HISTORIC RETURN
In 1927, the first transatlantic phone call between the United States and Great Britain was made, while the first radio sports broadcast was made in Italy. It was from a horse race at San Siro race course. A few kilometres away, Pirelli’s engineers were giving life to a new tyre: the Stella Bianca. The design remained as part of the range for decades, right up to the beginning of the 1950s, when it made way for the Pirelli Stelvio. Before it was pensioned off, the Stella Bianca enjoyed a final moment of glory: winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza with Alberto Ascari at the wheel of a Ferrari 500.
CROSSPLY COMES BACK
Today the Pirelli Stella Bianca returns to the market: looking identical to how it was, but with more modern technology inside it. The compounds used reflect the best of Pirelli’s technology to guarantee efficiency, safety even in wet conditions, and respect for the environment. The construction however goes back to the past: after more than half a century, Pirelli has returned to making crossply rather than radial tyres. This choice has been made to guarantee the dynamic originality of the cars for which the latest Stella Bianca tyre has been recreated. This decision posed a particular challenge for the Izmit factory in Turkey, where Pirelli’s motorsport and Collezione tyres are made, as they effectively had to re-learn the techniques of the past.
The tread pattern of the new Pirelli Stella Bianca is identical to that of the original, having been redesigned with the help of the Pirelli Fondazione archive, which keeps all the company’s historic documents. The sidewall markings as well as the Pirelli logo of the time are also recreated perfectly, with the development team having scrutinised the Fondazione archives closely. The size chosen for the Pirelli Collezione Stella Bianca is the most common size for classic sports cars – the 6.00-16 – while the tread echoes that of the original Corsa variant, which offered specific characteristics to ensure optimal grip and resistance to stress, which also made it suitable for competition use.
In 1927, Europe was recovering from World War I and technical research was entering a new era, helped by the economic recovery seen throughout the ‘Roaring 20s’. There were not many cars on European roads back then; most were either luxury or sports cars that are still among the most collectable models today. But the 1921 Alfa Romeo 20-30, Diatto Tipo 30, Itala 61, Lancia Lambda, OM Superba, Fiat 525SS and other gems of the Italian automotive industry needed tyres that were capable of coping with their high performance: this is how the Pirelli Stella Bianca was born. The product was sufficiently ahead of its time that it was still being fitted to cars such as the Ferrari 166 or Jaguar XK120 in the 1950s, having originally been created for cars of the 1920s.
The same Stella Bianca tyres were used at the highest levels of motorsport, where important information was gathered to improve road car tyres. So Pirelli’s first tyre of the modern age, with the longest-lived tread pattern in the history of the company, proved to be equally at home on everyday cars, sports cars, and even vans. Now it’s back to equip the world’s most desirable classic cars.