AN AMERICAN STORY
It’s the stars and stripes brand by the Michelin group, which is especially well-known in Italy for its off-road tyres. Less well-known than the 4x4 range, the BF Goodrich on-road products come in a selection of models with high levels of know-how derived from competitions
ON THE OTHER SIDE of the Pond, it is one of the most widespread, dynamic and famous brands. This historical company was set up in 1870 by military surgeon Benjamin Franklin Goodrich who, not long after the end of the Civil War, opened the first factory in the north of America to make products from natural rubber. It was located near the city of Akron, Ohio, which became the world capital of the rubber industry. Continual participation in major events made the American company famous throughout the world. From its first product, a cotton-covered fire hose, and under the aegis of the Goodrich name, the research laboratory made important technological progress, including the invention of polyvinyl, a plastic material with multiple uses, and actively participated in the development of a dawning automobile industry. In 1903, the first car to cross the United States was fitted with BF Goodrich tyres and a certain Henry Ford also equipped his Model A with tyres made in Ohio.
Progress in the automobile industry was matched by aeronautics and fully supported by Goodrich, which not only made tyres suitable for undercarriages but also other essential components. We find them under the wings of the Spirit of Saint Louis, the plane in which Charles Lindbergh flew over Paris on the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in 1927. In the Thirties came wing de-icing systems (the result of Lindbergh’s experience). Chemical progress at the increasingly comprehensive laboratories in Akron led to the first synthetic rubber, which came at just the right time to make up for the lack of raw material from the Pacific southeast after the outbreak of World War II. A conflict in which it played a leading role by supplying tyres for light reconnaissance vehicles, the famous Willys MB (the precursor of the glorious Jeep family), and for the US Army’s GMC trucks.
More recently, in 1987 the brand was acquired by Michelin, which maintained the versatility in the brand’s DNA with its multi-victory racing models for the main rally and off-road competitions. It continued to take part in major events and in 1981 the first space shuttle, Columbia, was equipped with tyres that would cope with the prohibitive temperatures of outer space and offer a safe landing at the delicate re-entry stage.
A talent for off-road
Just for a change, let’s start with the last page, from the end of a list that usually includes more specific products for 4x4s. A reversal of the panorama dictated by BF Goodrich’s popularity with Italy’s off-road enthusiasts, who are long-time connoisseurs thanks to the American brand’s performance in competitions.
Where mud and rocks abound, very popular with off-roaders is the BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM2 with the TriGard casing that was very recently renewed with aggressive grooves combined with deep, self-cleaning independent tread blocks for rapid expulsion of mud and gravel and greater grip. An extremely technical tyre with Q speed rating (160 km/h) available in a variety of sizes from 215 to 305 mm, from series 70 to 85 for rims from 15 to 17 inches, like the ones on vehicles of the calibre of the Land Rover Defender, Toyota Land Cruiser and other unstoppable 4x4s. For this product, the energy label reflects its high level of specialization, with F and G for fuel efficiency, A and C for wet braking and 76-78 dB for noise. Less extreme but equally popular is the All-Terrain T/A, a tyre that delivers very balanced performance both on and off the road, a robust 3-ply casing, a tread pattern with a wide contact patch and grooves that extend to the sidewalls for maximum off-road traction. With sizes ranging from 15 to 18 inches, also in this case the label ratings for the category are E-F-G for fuel efficiency, A and C for wet grip and 77 dB for noise. Meant mainly for road use, compared to more extreme products the Long Trail T/A Tour offers greater ride comfort, superior performance on wet and dry roads and doesn’t mind the occasional off-road excursion where it guarantees good grip even on grass, mud and sand. From 15 to 17 inches, the label ratings are E-F for wet braking, E for fuel efficiency and 71 dB for noise.
In addition to the prestige associated with its name, experience in the field allow the American company to be on the markets that are closest to it with consolidated experience and an image that has been acquired in on- and off-road competitions (including, for example, famous victories at Indianapolis, Pikes Peak, Baja California and the Paris-Dakar). In Italy, and in Europe in general, markets that are less affected by fascinating overseas achievements, it is presented as a prestigious brand from the Michelin group, of which the BF Goodrich division has been a part since it was acquired by the French company.
The most complete road product for cars is certainly the g-Grip summer range, the tyre that meets the needs of a vast number of vehicles, from city cars to hatchbacks to MPVs and saloons in a superior class. Handling and precision on dry roads and safety on wet roads are the characteristics offered by the directional tread pattern with central tread rib, chamfered sipes for greater grip and a “vortex” profile that clears water quickly. The wide choice of sizes ranges from 165 to 245 mm, in series from 40 to 70 for rims from 14 to 18 inches, and T, H, V, W and Y speed ratings. In proportion to the sizes, the European label ratings vary between C and F for fuel efficiency, B and C for wet braking, and 69 dB for noise.
Lastly, the most representative winter tyre offered by BF Goodrich is the g-Force Winter, which features high density siping, an optimized contact patch and directional grooves with wide channels for water and snow drainage that enhances control on snow-covered roads, effective grip and good braking on all types of road surfaces. The extensive range meets a wide array of references, with treads from 175 to 225 mm, series from 65 to 40 and diameters from 14 to 18”, with T, H and V speed ratings.