AVON TYRE MUSEUM
The Avon Tyre Museum was formed in 1979 by the Avon Rubber Company as a small but informative record of the development of their business since the days of the Avon India-Rubber Co. almost 100 years ago, and the progress made in tyre manufacturing techniques since that time. The Museum occupies a small part of the Avon office block, facing the 33-acre factory complex, in the old town of Melksham, in Wiltshire.
The Company was founded in 1885 in a derelict cloth-mill at Limpley Stoke, on the river bank that gave the tyres their name. Robber, components for railway use were followed in 1889 by a move up river to new premises in a former cloth factory where the present factory-site is situated, tyres being made there from 1893. The Company traded as Avon India Rubber until 1963, when the name was altered to Avon Rubber Co. Ltd. The Museum, in which Avon’s Service Manager, Mr. G. D. Trigg has played an enthusiastic part, depicts all this. You are “clocked-in” noose of the old facto,-workers’ “clocking on” machines — I did this at precisely 12-noon — and enter a compact but comprehensive collection of tyres and all their appurtences. Tyres of the kind first made in the Pneumatic tyre shop in 1901, and of which 1,000 units 9 week were being produced by March of that year, can be inspected, along with the Martin tyre of 1903. Tubeless tyres may be regarded as a fairly recent innovation but these Martin covers were of that type, held securely by metal flanges bolted to the wooden rims. It is also of significance that although Michelin were the first tYre manufacturer to bring out a steel-braced radial-ply tyre — the famous “X” — At-on was the second company to do so, and by 1979 their
famous Turbosteel range was in its fourth generation. Incidentally, it is interesting that the light grey appearance of the early tyres exhibited is due to the fact that carbon black as a hardener did not come into general use until 1904. Early trade plaques and pictures of the early Avon works are displayed, reminders that after the Martin cover had caused production problems, more conventional Avon tyres were introduced, sales reaching £1,000 per month by May 1905. Solid tyres of various kinds were made
for commercial vehicles, including steam-waggons, as other exhibits remind one, and in 1908 the (first) trade mark, Trilithon, was registered. From about 1908 motorcycle tyres were added to the range and in 1910 the Druid “private brand” tyre was produced for a Motorcycle Factor, an example of which the Avon Museum has secured.
Naturally, the racing side is prominently depicted. There are photographs of several very famous drivers who have won important victories on Avon tyres, and others of great names in the world of motorcycle sport, in this case with sections of the front and back Avon racing tyres used by each rider. (I did not see a picture of Kaye Don and the 11-litre aero-engined Wolseley Viper with which he tested Avon rubber after its racing career was over, but I hope that by now MOTOR SPORT has been able to rectify this. Nor do I remember a photograph of Kaye Don winning the first Ulster TT in the Hyper Lea-Francis in 1928 and the Lea-Francis OC may care to do something about that.) Here are, of course, examples of all the great Avon tyres, past and present, such as the first tubeless cover to be supplied as original equipment, and the “Roadrunner” tyre for the revolutionary Quasar motorcycle. Rolls-Royce and Bentley adopted Avon tyres as original equipment before the war cads specially-finished Avon-shod wheel on show is a reminder of this, and that Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin continue to fit Avon tyres as standard equipment. (Incidentally, I think I may have been partly responsible, because in 1937 I drove a 41/2-litre Derby-Bentley drophead coupe as fast as I could from London to John 0-Greats, starting as Big Ben struck midnight. On arrival, after averaging quite a decent speed, we discovered the India tyres on the car to be worn out. Bentley Motors Ltd. intructed we to try to get India’s Glasgow depot and there have a new set of tyres fitted. They insisted that I brought back the two worst-worn covers, which I had some difficulty in extracting from the India people. Shortly afterwards it was announced that Bentley Motors was fitting Avon tyres exclusively. Was my 50 mph trip the last straw that broke the back of the India contract?) Which reminds me that Avon were present at the release of the new Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, which uses Avon tyres.
The Museum houses too many types of tyres for them all to be listed here. You can see early Primitives, a white-wall cover sent by an American tyre firm, Traction Mileage and Ranger tYres as fitted as original equipment on Land-Rovers, and a recent radial “Extra Tread” 70-series low profile 11/70R22.5 tubeless truck qre, which is an important Avon product. Also shown are examples of modern Avon “solids” for industrial vehicles, such as the Caribu Pneumatic-Profile Solid tyres and Avon Armadillo and Buffalo tyres for fork-lift and other kinds of industrial trucks, a reminder that this iong-lived British Company now exports more than 30% of its output to over 100 ‘different countries.
But it was the older exhibits that fascinated me.
Avon made beaded-edge tyres from 1904 and continued these up to World War Two. Cycle tyres like the Avon Nonslip, Yeoman and Speedster are there, and the Avon Powermaster tyre for autocycles. There are photographs of The Flood, as it is still remembered in the town, when the Area overflowed its banks, and the wash broke the showroom windows, Avon rubber dinghys being suddenly very popular with the work-force, You can see the unique Duo-Tread air-cooled cover and pictures of the one-time skid-pan that was used as a landing-pad for HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s helicoper when he visited the Avon works, HGV tyres, for heavy-duty vehicles of course, and get-you-home devices dating from 1913. Then there are all the auxiliaries, like early tyre-inflaters, jacks, repair sets, puncture outfits and the rest.
This really is a splendid specialist Museum. Avon cannot admit casual visitors who happen to pass by and see the Museum building, but they are are very pleased to “open up” to those who care to make an appointment, and parties are especially welcome, so if you feel like a worthwhile outing, this can be arranged by ringing Gordon Morris on 02216 3911, or Mr. Trigg on 0225-703101, mentioning MOTOR SPORT.
W.13. V-E-V Miscellany.— The Lagonda CC continues to publish its high-class magazine, The Lagonda, in the summer issue of winch was an interesting reference to 1928 2-litre team cars, including a photograph of the late Eddie Hall racing one in the 1928 Ulster TT, a reminder that this remarkable British driver ran in all these TT races, respectively with this Lagonda (retired, big-end failure), an Arrol-Aster (retired after hieing Ards town hall), a 41/2-litre Bentley (2nd in class), an MG Midget (retired, engine failure), an MG Midget again (1st in class and 3rd overall), an MG Magnette (2nd in class and 4th overall), and then the Derby Bentley with which he made fastest time and was 2nd in the races of 1934-1936.