Yep, its a big-ass tire folks…


I went with my friend Paul to pick up his sister Sara(h?) from Metro airport tonight. And because this whole metro-blogging thing is in my head something fierce I have been noticing more of the idiosynchratic parts of the city; and alas, port-side I see before me the strange you-are-three-quarters-of-the-way-to-the-airport tire on the horizons. I have to blog about this, I thought.

The rumor I heard, (perhaps a resident Detroitophile could corroborate or denounce…) is that this huge tire was actually a ferris wheel at one time, that Uniroyal fashioned into a massive “billboard” for their brand. I really like the thing; its feels like home to me. Everytime I pass it on the way to Ann Arbor, or to the airport, I feel like a Lilliputian staring up at evidence that Gulliver hit a cavernous Detroit pot-hole.

Sara(h?) had a good time at the wedding she attended in some ‘fly-over’ state – on the way home the three of us ended up discussing really horrible cliches like:
– To be honest…
– Seriously;
– You know what I mean?
– I know how it goes…
– Can I just say?…
– Good times…(said wistfully)

And kicked the “Crash” album by DMB. Yeah, so to recap: passed big-ass tire, picked up Sara(h?), lamented cliche abuse, and listened to “Crash”…Good times…(said wistfully).

10 Comments so far

  1. Andrew (unregistered) on July 26th, 2005 @ 6:56 am

    Yup… The tire was a ferris wheel at the 1964 World’s Fair.

  2. MGal (unregistered) on July 26th, 2005 @ 7:51 am

    Uniroyal has a site with info on the “Giant Tire”

  3. MGal (unregistered) on July 26th, 2005 @ 7:52 am

    Uniroyal has a site with info on the Giant tire – “Giant”>“>”Giant Tire

  4. Abbas Halai (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 8:19 am

    I’ve got a long history with the Uniroyal tire. Close to 10 years ago I started going down to Ann Arbor quite often from Toronto because my cousin had just moved there and I would visit him. The Uniroyal tire would show up just about the time I’d be panicking that I was almost lost and had no clue where I was going and it never failed to remind me that I’m on the 94 going in the right direction. Thanks Uniroyal!

  5. jeremy (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 12:42 pm

    I remember a time, back in the day, when the tire was located downtown at what once was the Uniroyal Tire plant (it was leveled quite a long time ago).

    I remember staring in awe, because really – have you ever seen a tire that big?

    Also, I remember when they ran a story on the removal of the “nail” (as pictured above). Do you know how much it cost them to remove that thing? Oh, just around $1M.

    This is, and hopefully always will be, a quinsessential Detroit landmark.

  6. mark (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

    If it cost $1M to take the nail out, then how much did it cost to put the nail into the tire to begin with?

  7. jeremy (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 10:12 am
  8. Graham (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 7:42 pm

    That tire was originally at the New York 1964 Worlds Fair as a Ferris Wheel.

    See Here

  9. ralph r roberts (unregistered) on February 4th, 2006 @ 11:20 am


    What happens to an 11-foot high, 250-pound cultural icon when it retires? If that icon is the one and only Big Nail that once punctured an eight-story Uniroyal® tire off of Interstate 94 outside of Detroit, you start a new career.

    Since retiring from her perch high atop the Giant Tire, the Big Nail has kept a busy schedule. Like any retired cultural icon, the Big Nail makes guest appearances at charity fundraisers, community parades, and other events. In addition, a Hummer escort affectionately known as the Nail Mobile always accompanies the Big Nail to appearances. The Big Nail has become so popular that she has her own assistant just to keep up with bookings and appearance coordination.

    And that’s just the point. Big nails build big results. The Big Nail has helped raise millions of dollars for charity since her retirement. She has generated excitement and drawn the attention of thousands to events. Being a nail, she skillfully joins special events together with people just as easily as a nail would join two pieces of wood.

    The Big Nail’s owner, Ralph Roberts, is continually amazed by the Big Nail’s new life. “It really took me by surprise, her being invited to so many events,” said Roberts. He says that the Big Nail is “making such an impact, I wake up every day and am glad we have her.” On his desk, Roberts even keeps a miniature replica of the Big Nail and its Nail Mobile crafted and given to him by his brother, Jeff Roberts. It serves as a constant reminder of the abundant goodwill in people’s hearts.

    The Big Nail garners the same type of attention as other celebrities at events, especially photos with fans. She routinely wins awards in parades and often dresses up for special events, having worn outfits ranging from a Detroit Pistons jersey to a tuxedo. For one of her first post-retirement events, she dressed up as the Detroit Pistons’ Ben Wallace. No one really knows what to expect at a Big Nail appearance and that’s what makes it so fun.

    The Big Nail continues to add to its wardrobe and can be dressed up or down for any appearance. She has hats and scarves that add to the spirit of the events she attends. In fact, she can often be seen on the front lawn of Ralph Roberts Realty modeling different outfits.

    One of the Big Nail’s most memorable retirement appearances was in a parade celebrating the Detroit Pistons winning the 2004 NBA championship. Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, another Detroit icon, rode with the Big Nail along side of “the Nail Man” Ralph Roberts.

    It has been said that the Big Nail is to metro Detroit what the Stanley Cup is to hockey. That notoriety is what keeps so many organizations coming back and requesting repeat appearances. Groups from college students to elementary schools and charities all love the Big Nail for the way it brings attention in a fun way to important causes and events.

    The Big Nail has helped raise funds by donating “nail gate” parties for raffle or auction. These parties typically raise several thousand dollars for charity. Winners of private nail gate parties get a personal visit from the Big Nail for themselves, friends, and families as well as a lot of fun and memories. Restaurants and chefs typically round off the parties by donating the meal.

    Fans of the Big Nail, known as Nail Heads, can be found wearing Big Nail hats, manufactured by the creator of the now infamous Green Bay cheesehead hats. Other Nail Heads wear Big Nail t-shirts that say “Just Nail It,” “Nail It,” and “Nail Gear.” In addition, a series of cards featuring the Big Nail are also available to get fans through the holidays in a year. There are also Big Nail pens and other memorabilia to remind fans to help ‘nail’ cancer, drunk driving, homelessness, racism or any other cause she is supporting.

    Roberts adopted the Big Nail in 2003 as the result of an eBay auction where his donation to the Allen Park Historical Society benefited its programs and facilities. Roberts wanted to ensure that the icon remained in the Detroit metro area. The fact that it benefited a local charity began what has become the nail’s mission of joining people together and bringing awareness to causes. Roberts also realized how fun the Big Nail could be and began to work with her to not only bring awareness to very serious causes, but to add a touch of fun and even silliness.

    Roberts also uses the Big Nail to recognize exceptional achievements by ordinary citizens through the Tough as Nails Award and the Nail It Award. The Tough as Nails Award is given to those who persevere through difficulties and prove their ability to remain strong. The first Tough as Nails Award was given to Ralph and Jeff’s father, “The Boss,” who fought cancer for seven years and was there when Roberts received of the nail.

    The Nailed It Award is given to those who follow their dreams and go above-and-beyond expectations in their pursuit. The first Nailed It Award was given to a fourth-grade student for initiating the “Quarters for Christmas” fundraiser to raise money for his city’s Christmas lights, which had been cut due to a budget deficit.

    The Big Nail has also had her own share of hardships and mishaps to overcome. On the way to an appearance at a nail gate party for a Detroit Lions game, she was involved in a freeway accident. She hit the overpass. Roberts notes that just as quickly as authorities were notified of the accident, so was his office and the media. Jeff worked around the clock to repair and restore the Big Nail so she could quickly resume her appearance schedule. The Detroit area’s overwhelming response to and concern for the Big Nail illustrates just how treasured she is by the community.

    In keeping with the times, the Big Nail also maintains its own web log, or blog. Here she keeps everyone up to date on her travels, charitable activities, thoughts, and items of interest.

    Roberts loves to see the enthusiasm the Big Nail generates at events. Even outside of events, the Big Nail generates attention. Whether filling the Nail Mobile with gas or traveling to and from events, fans can be found taking advantage of photo opportunities.

    While pleased with the success of the Big Nail so far, Roberts would like to see the Big Nail spread her reach outside of the Detroit area to make an even larger impact. She has appeared at her first international event in Ontario, Canada for the Carla Can Sing project benefiting children with cancer. Roberts believes the Big Nail’s reach will continue to grow and that she will continue to expand her service to those in need, wherever they may be.

    The Big Nail hasn’t let success distract her. There will always be a need for her services and she will stand ready to nail whatever cause comes her way. Roberts’ hope is that the Big Nail continues to remind people everywhere that “anyone of us can make a difference. If a nail can, so can you.”

  10. alex (unregistered) on February 16th, 2006 @ 7:14 am


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