Did you know that the Pirelli Company is nearly 150 years old? Giovanni Battista Pirelli, an engineer from the Milan area, founded the Pirelli Group on January 28th, 1872, when he was only 25 years old. It began as a rubber manufacturer producing telegraph cables and even bicycle tires in a factory near the Sevesetto river.
At that time, few Italians understood the real applications of rubber gum. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that the first Pirelli car tires appeared on the Italian market. The company began to prove itself in the world of motor racing as early as 1907 with the Peking-Paris race, a field in which it is still recognized more than a century later. The following year, the company adopted the logo with the elongated first letter that is still easily recognizable today.
Born in a modest family in the northern Italian town of Varenna, the young entrepreneur had surely never suspected that in the 1910s, his company would become an international conglomerate. It was during this decade that Pirelli factories were opened in Great Britain and even in Argentina.
What made Pirelli such a quick success in a field that was not very developed at the time? The ambitious engineer had had a bit of a boost. After graduating at the top of his class at the Technical Institute of Santa Marta, his abilities earned him the Kramer scholarship, offered so that he could study abroad industrial fields then unknown in Italy. It was undoubtedly during his one and a half year trip through Switzerland, Belgium, France and Germany that he acquired the skills that made his company stand out in the market.
A success story
At the beginning of the 20th century, engineering successes followed one another for the company, including the introduction of its first diagonal tire, the Superflex Stella Bianca, in 1927. However, after the Second World War, Italy’s position weakened Pirelli and the appearance of a new French competitor, Michelin, forced engineers to innovate. The result was the Cinturato radial tire, whose success led the company to open other factories in Greece, France and even Canada!
A mythical calendar
It was in the 1960s that Pirelli created another of its well-known successes: its calendar. A bit strange for a tire company, but this famous calendar became mythical because it was made by the world’s greatest photographers and was exclusive. Produced in only a few copies per year, those who own one are a privileged group!
P7, the low-profile tire
Since the middle of the last century, the company no longer has to prove itself. The low-profile P7 model, developed in the 1970s, was another great success. Pirelli also bought other European tire manufacturers such as Metzeler and Veith. The company also continued to diversify its production by acquiring a telecommunications cable company.
In the 1990s, innovation keeps going with the ultra-low profile P Zero tire. At the beginning of the millennium, the MIRS robotized production system enters Pirelli’s factories and forever changes the way tires are made. Since 2010, the company has also become the official tire supplier for the Formula 1 series.
Giovanni Pirelli, who sadly passed away in 1932, never saw the bright future of his company. However, one thing is sure: his engineering talents and the industrial techniques he learned and developed still change the world of cars more than a hundred years later.