Continental tires may refer to one of two things: the German manufacturer of tires, brake systems and other auto parts often known as “Conti,” and the tires that are often seen mounted on the back exterior of a vehicle. For the German manufacturer Conti, Continental tires are one of the world’s most popular ranking fourth after leading tire manufacturers Bridgestone, Michelin, and Goodyear. The exterior based, continental tire, is often seen on older or antique vehicles, as it was a standard accessory on some earlier car models. Today, there are exterior tires on certain SUVs or vans, but they are not referred to as continental tires as they once were.
The German company, Continental tires came to North America in 1987 during the company’s acquisition of General Tire. Following other foreign based tire makers (Bridgestone is Japanese and Michelin is French) Continental Tire named their North American division “Continental Tire of North America (CTNA). The North American branch has headquarters in South Carolina and the company has a vast global impact. Continental tires may be found in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Denmark, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and in Germany. Those looking for Continental tire dealers will find there are many to choose from statewide. Continental Tires also has main headquarters in Michigan.
Though Continental purchased General Tire, the company (Continental Tyre North America) has a long-standing history. Ohio partners William O’Neil and William Fouse launched General Tire and Rubber Company on September 29, 1915. It was due to Continental AG’s acquisition of General Tire and Rubber Company that they became the fourth largest tire manufacturer worldwide.
The external accessory, continental tire was frequently seen on cars throughout the 30s and 40s. Some think the practice began in Europe with auto racecars, as they had no room in the trunk for spare tires, therefore mounted them on the back of the vehicle. Continental tires are often mounted directly on the trunk in a vertical position, but there are times when they are placed atop of the trunk and look as if they are part of the vehicle’s design. Typically resting above the bumper with the license plate in full display, continental tires give a vehicle a unique and distinctive look. It should be noted that some refer to the impression of a tire that is crafted into a trunk’s vehicle as a continental tire, even though there is no tire present. There is no question that the continental design was a matter of practicality and not one of aesthetics. People chose to purchase vehicles with continental tires so they would have more trunk space in order to pack other important items. Those that drove frequently or made regular road trips would often prefer to have a continental tire so they could place suitcases in the back of the vehicle. It is interesting to note that Henry Ford’s son, Edsel Bryant Ford, created the concept of continental tires after traveling to Europe and seeing similar vehicles. After his trip, he designed a car that he stated would have a continental appearance. Edsel Ford got to work and the new Lincoln Continental equipped with exterior, mounted spare tire hit markets nationwide.
The Lincoln Continental, with added continental tire was produced from 1939 until 1948. After taking an eight-year break, production resumed from 1956 until 2002. Not only did the Lincoln Continental feature the spare tire, but also it has been a model that was associated with luxury and class. The Lincoln Continental was phased out and replaced by the Lincoln Town car and the Lincoln MKS. Because the exterior, spare tire was added to the luxurious Lincoln Continental, it became known as a continental tire. In addition to the Lincoln Continental, other vehicles used the exterior spare tire design. Some of these include the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, Nash Metropolitan and the Jeepster Commando.