Firestone Ford, Form and Function in F1

Sponsor, Brands, Specialists and Suppliers: The Companies that supported the Chapman /Lotus Road & Racing Programme

Firestone Ford, Form and Function in F 1

Figure 1


This is a complementary article to an existing piece.

We take the opportunity to provide additional images.

Lotus cars sold

They were bought for their:-

  • Performance –road or track
  • Driving pleasure
  • Reputation and image
  • Aesthetics
  • Symbolism
  • Owner identification /personality extension etc.

All the above were integrated within a total framework design.

The above list is heavily dependent on a select group of components [either bought in proprietary or in house manufacture] that delivered the desired outcomes and met strict criteria.

Many of these components often contributed significantly to the overall aesthetic, many are extremely functional and beautiful in their own right .They formed part of a complementary whole.

In this series we examine:-

  • significant Individual components from all the marque types
  • Briefly explain their role /contribution /evaluation
  • Analysis form and function with regard to their integration, where appropriate
  • Provide suppliers/specialist advertising materials where appropriate

Understanding Lotus’s use of proprietary parts provides invaluable learning opportunities not just historical but right up to the present day. These lessons are not just applicable to automotive engineers/ designers but to the wider Industrial /Product Design professions.

The Skillful and creative adoption, absorption and integration of components was a powerful factor in the Chapman design methodology and contributed significantly to both competition and commercial success. It also feed his ability to mutate parts and materials to his desired ends.

The use of components is a fundamental skill of the Industrial Designer and the direct provision of added value.

The exact interpretation of sponsorship in conjunction with Lotus is difficult to establish objectively. The appearance of a sponsor’s logo on a car is not necessarily evidence of financial support. Access to historical archive and contracts is sought wherever possible but with the passage of time and for various reasons these are not always available or accessible to the public.

This series also embraces the specialist suppliers to Lotus. We are particularly interested in those suppliers and products that have a connectivity with aviation.

In constructing the historic sponsor series, the A&R looks only at the logos worn in period and assumes the company involved had no objection to Lotus promoting their products. The A&R sees much to be gained by the wider promotion of sponsors but in the event that a specific organization disapproves for any reason that article will be removed.

Sponsorship is an instrument of mutual benefit and promotion. Subscribers might like to see A&R articles on Sponsorship and Product Placement to understand the numerical / financial reach provided by sponsorship with its ability to identify and project status through identification.

The principle continues particularly with regard to education based exhibitions [see below for details]

Each of these articles is devoted to a company/ organization that is believed to have sponsored or supplied specialist items to Lotus.

The intention of each article is to: –

  1. Explain the sponsors own history and outline their products and services – past-present and future
  2. Explain the historical connection with Lotus and the contribution made both in competition and the production cars
  3. To suggest how these two interlocking facets may be translated into exciting, interpretive, educational and commercial exhibitions

Subscribers might to see complementary and structured pieces to this article: –

  • Primary sponsors like Gold Leaf / John Player Specials
  • Product Placement
  • Separate dedicated series on engines and gearbox
  • Logo on Lotus
  • Lotus at Indianapolis and Tracks across America
  • Lotus types that were fitted with Firestone Tyres
  • Tyre supplies in this series including? Dunlop, Goodyear, Pirelli, Avon
  • See holistic related articles on brakes, suspension, chassis etc.,

Firestone Company Profile /Abbreviated summary

Firestone was an American company

In the Chapman/Lotus era the Company was identified with tyres of various applications including motorsport.They had been successful at Indianapolis.

See our previous piece for history etc. and websites listed below.

Lotus Connections

We believe Firestone Tyres were adopted on the following Lotus types


Chapman worked closely with Firestone particularly in the context of the type 72

Figure 2 .editors sketch of Lotus type 43 note its win in US GP and publicity value for Firestone

Indianapolis from the net

“ON his third attempt Jim Clark won the annual American classic race on the rectangular Indianapolis track. In 1963 he finished a close second in a rear-engined Lotus with aluminium push-rod Ford V8 engine, in 1964 tyre trouble put him out after challenging for the lead in a Lotus with aluminium 4-camshaft Ford V8 racing engine, and this year in a Lotus 38 with the latest 4-camshaft Ford V8 engine and running on Firestone tyres everything went according to plan and he won the race at record speed, having led for 190 of the 200 laps. Qualifying trials had been held at record speeds with A. J. Foyt taking pole position at 161.233 m.p.h. for the four laps with a Lotus-Ford V8, Clark second at 160.729 m.p.h., and Dan Gurney third at 158.898 m.p.h, in a similar car. Another Lotus-Ford V8 was in the middle of the second row of the start, driven by Parnelli-Jones, so it was not surprising that Lotus cars dominated the race.”

The Lotus 72


“When the Lotus 72 was launched Team Lotus had a strong relationship with Firestone, with tyres being tailor made for the team.

Because of its inboard brakes the 72 had a low unsprung weight. This meant that it could use softer tyres with less rigid sidewalls and steering geometry that put less work on the tyres.

The brake layout, the minimum overall weight and the smooth, pitch free riding characteristics initially exploited softer tyres. What had been virtually qualifying tyres could now go a full race distance.

The inboard location of the brakes improved such tyres working conditions.

Firestone introduced a new low profile tyre for 1971….with the withdrawal of Firestone, Team Lotus changed to Goodyear tyres for 1973.”

Period Address for economic geography exercise

Bridgestone/Firestone UK,

Bridgestone House,

Athena Drive,

Tackbrook Park,



CV34 6UX


Firestone Tyre and Rubber Co.Ltd,



Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

Understanding the potential of componentry particularly proprietary items provides some of the following learning opportunities; in this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

Specific to Firestone

  • Using statistics from appendix produce spread sheet and explain connectivity between tyre and F1 car and chassis designs and related components
  • Explore Firestone tyre marketing strategies from safety to sustainability, how have they been presented?
  • Visit our related articles to increase learning of theory and practices that connects tyres with brakes etc.
  • Estimate the commercial gain for Firestone in winning Indianapolis?
  • What is the size and value of the industry
  • How has it changed? And what is its future 2020 onwards?
  • Discuss the relationship with a multi-national mass-production brand/manufacturer and its links, how and why did it come into existence?

Figure 3 .editors sketch of Lotus type 29 fitted with Firestone


  • Use a technical dictionary where needed to define components and roles
  • Was there a viable alternative to the part under consideration?
  • Is what might it have been /cost?
  • Examine the suppliers/specialist advertising what does it convey? And what is its iconography?
  • Integrate this item with our series on the economic geography of motor sports locations and manufacturing bases
  • Has the component had exposure at any motor shows?
  • Does the company continue to supply classic/heritage parts?
  • What changes in technology and materials have impacted on Lotus through its history?
  • How does component design impact on form and function
  • Does the supplier/specialist have aviation links? If so what?
  • What is the importance of ergonomics and how does it influence modern automobile design?
  • Does excessive safety/ and or ergonomics impact negatively on aesthetics
  • What is the impact of standardization of platforms through mark ranges and indeed shared with other manufacturers? Could uniformity ultimately impact on sales even if economies of scale improved?
  • Enumerate Lotus bought in components
  • How has mass production and proprietary parts assisted the specialist car market?
  • Produce an engineering drawing of a selected component and consider the specification of the materials and assembly process, costs and volume
  • Explore an enumerate supplier/specialists components used in other Industrial Design fields
  • How did the supplier/specialist extract value from their sponsorship/support?
  • Explore Graces Guide for further background detail
  • Study the economic geography of the British auto industry what factors determined locations?
  • What have been the causes of change and circumstance that have impacted on British motor industry?
  • What has been the role of F1 /motor sport valley based around Bicester?
  • What is the importance of outsourcing to the motor industry?
  • Study a British car specialist like Morgan, TVR, Ginetta or Lotus where do they source parts? What are the advantages?

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following exhibition titles might be appropriate:-


Firestone and Lotus Fire and Brimstone
Firestone No smoke without Firestone
Firestone Smoke and Mirrors
Firestone Smoke Screens
Firestone Rubbing shoulders with Lotus
Firestone Shoulder to shoulder racing
Firestone and Lotus fire up
Firestone Fire Brand
Firestone Fire Works in F1 furnace
Firestone Provides the Firepower
Firestone Lays a headstone on Indianapolis Flagstones
Firestone Form, function and Firestone
Firestone Fan the flames and raise a profile
Firestone and Lotus around the Firestone and Firelight
Firestone and Lotus trail blaze
Firestone Ford, Form and Function in F 1
Firestone Clark driving like on fire
Firestone Clark gummed to the ground
Firestone Clark gets to grips
Firestone and Lotus at Indianapolis a gripping yarn
Firestone and Chapman the Firebrand

Figure 4 .editors part working drawing sketch of Lotus type 56B, turbine car with Firestone Tyres


  • Lotus Parts: Past ,Present Future
  • Lotus Parts: The Winning Factor
  • The Principle Part
  • Act the Part
  • Assign the Part
  • Lotus Components
  • Lotus Components :Parts and Parcel
  • Lotus Sponsors, Specialist and Suppliers:Form,Function and Forte
  • Lotus Components:Parts and Partiality
  • Lotus Aesthetics : With little to spare
  • Lotus Cars: Spare and Slender
  • Product launch with title of dedicated specific relevance

Conclusion: “The whole is greater………”

There can be little doubt about the significant contribution made by Firestone.

They assisted Lotus achieve multiple F1 World Championships and Indianapolis.

Success was symbiotic and of mutual advantage.

Both gaping reputational and commercially.An American tyre winning Indianapolis must have been of enormous value.Equally success at international F1 would support sales in Europe and across the world.

Firestone contributed to the performance of Lotus and its aesthetic as recorded in The Art of the F1 Car.

Components were material to reliability and competitiveness.

“Founded in Ohio in 1900, Firestone is a trusted brand that has produced tyres for a range of vehicles for well over 100 years.

Since their creation, Firestone has been one of the market leaders in terms of innovation and safety for vehicle tyres. In 1908, Firestone produced the first ever tyres to feature a non-skid tread pattern design, changing the industry forever. All highway tyres produced since have featured tread patterns for added traction.

As well as safety, Firestone has a rich history of producing tyres for durability and high performance. In 1911, Firestone provided the winning tyres for the first ever Indy 500 race. The race, dubbed ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’, is notoriously tough on tyres, however with continued research into technology and performance Firestone were able to build on their success and have continued to dominate throughout the years. Today, the Firestone is synonymous with the Indy 500, and provided the winning tyres for a record 70th time in 2019.

Now a part of the Bridgestone group, Firestone belongs to the world’s largest tyre manufacturer, and offers a wide range of safe, affordable and high quality tyres. With options suitable for cars, 4x4s, SUVs and vans,”

Chapman’s design and manufacturing methodology rather confirms the adage that “the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts”.

It’s an interesting an important study to consider deployment of components. It contributes to aesthetics, assembly economics and sales [attractive components/ known accepted performance and servicing ability etc.]

It is equally and mutually relevant and beneficial to the component manufacturer.

Chapman and his colleagues often took the best / most appropriate mass produced item and almost reinvented it in its service to design objectives. In this manner many components acquired a new status and indeed their aesthetic was enhanced surrounded by the Chapman conceptual whole.

It’s also extremely significant how many of these components were also used in Lotus competition cars. This created a powerful dynamic and interrelationship. Many components:-

  • Performed well in competition gaining beneficial publicity and sales
  • Both the component and racing reputation carried through to road cars and assisted sales
  • The component manufacturer gained disproportionate publicity and assisted products sell in other applications
  • All together a beneficial spiral was commenced. Publicity of the era often opted to highlight the Lotus dimension in publicity material. In fact there was a powerful synergy.

The relationship between Lotus and is sponsor specialist suppliers is significant and worthy of close study and has lessons for Engineering, Industrial Design and Manufacturing disciplines.

Along the way it’s possible too to study the wider British motor component industry and how it has helped foster the specialist car manufacturers.

Sponsorship is a worldwide phenomenon of immense commercial impotence. Both to host and sponsor organization.

With the Passage of time it’s likely to become more sophisticated and focused and the internet /multimedia technology will play greater role.

Sponsors have existed in motorsport before Chapman but he vigorously exploited the concept with Gold Leaf c 1967/68 and set a pattern for others to follow.

Sponsors of Lotus were likely to benefit financially and in terms of exposure to an extent greater than their investment. The benefits were, and remain essentially similar to present day:-

  • Access to mass international audience consistent with mass production distribution marketing branding etc.
  • Demographics of viewing audience and interest groups
  • Additional subsidiary /secondary advertising through media, news, magazines etc.
  • Identification with market /brand /marque leader in both F1 and road cars
  • Association with success and continuity evolving, developing technology, materials etc.
  • In period the identification with the charm ,charisma and ability to articulate that Chapman possessed
  • All the attendant glamour , drama ,danger ,and spectacle of F1
  • Ability to provide conducive hospitality to conduct business
  • Cost effectiveness of audience cost ratio
  • Possible further complex corporate benefits

Appendix 1

Appendix 2,the%20compound%20of%20the%20rubber%20to%20be%20used.


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