De-icing roads with salt changed driving conditions in the winter. Better wet grip and wear durability was now required from the Hakkapeliittas. Drivers valued quietness and lower fuel consumption even more than before.
The development work for a new generation of winter tire started in 1978, and the Hakkapeliitta NR 09 was introduced two years later. The tire introduced a surprise, as the traditional suction cups had been replaced with a streamlined arrow pattern.
This new product became a long-standing success story. The production of the 09 reached five million in 1987. The NR 09 also reached unanticipated success in consumer comparison tests. The tire was number one in Tekniikan Maailma’s winter tire comparison test for four consecutive years.
Other new tire products during the decade included the Hakkapeliitta 10 and the M+S 111. Heavy radial tires were a special focus area: tractor and forestry equipment tires became a growing export to Canada, for example.
In 1986, Nokia Kumiteollisuus signed a far-reaching product development cooperation agreement with SP Tires UK Ltd, part of the Japanese Sumitomo Rubber Industries group. The company also signed large original equipment contracts for Saab passenger cars and Valmet tractors.
Computer-assisted methods were introduced for tire design and testing. Product development for the Hakkapeliittas received new coordinates in 1986, when the company established its own testing centre in Ivalo, north of the Arctic Circle.
From suction cups to arrow patterns
“There are very few Finnish drivers who will not immediately recognise the Hakkapeliitta tyre by its looks,” said Tekniikan Maailma in 1980.
The first Hakkapeliitta in 1936 had a staggered diagonal tread pattern with many gripping edges. The model remained the same until the 1950s. The novelty for 1956, the Haka-Hakkapeliitta, widened the load-bearing tread surface and increased gripping ability, generating a stud-like piece pattern on the tread.
When studs were introduced in the 1960s, the tread quickly faced new challenges. Roughened road surfaces quickly wore out the tread on the tyre. In the Hakkapeliitta for 1965, this was solved by adding more suction cups on the tread. The stud was firmly placed in the middle of the cup on the pattern.
For a long time, the suction cup pattern was a unique identifying feature of the Hakkapeliitta. Nokian Kumiviesti wrote the following in 1966: “A product that becomes a concept on its own will always include something that others were missing. The Hakkapeliitta is worthy of its name: its Finnish craftsmanship is strikingly competent and it also includes a fair amount of design.”
From the 1970s onwards, the trend moved towards lower-profile tyres, which accentuated the sharp steering typical for radial tyres. Thus, a change of the Hakkapeliitta's tread pattern was inevitable; not because of grip, but because of the handling of the tyre. In 1980, a much anticipated new tyre with an entirely new tread pattern was announced: the Hakkapeliitta NR 09. The new tread pattern was arrow-shaped: the staggered sawtooth patterns effectively carried slush out of the way of traction. This new Hakkapeliitta design excelled under varying winter conditions and on different road surfaces.
Image: A man and his studs. Stud inspection in the 1980s.
Tekniikan Maailma is the pioneer for the consumer testing of winter tyres. The magazine published its first story about tyres in 1958 and the tyre tests started soon afterwards. The effect of studs was of particular interest. The first winter tyre test was published in 1960, and Hakkapeliitta was included as a studless comparison tyre.
The 1970s made tyre tests a mainstay on the pages Tekniikan Maailma. Durability tests were performed for radial tyres. TM started using the concept of “safety grip” to refer to reliable and predictable tyre handling.
In 1979, after the winter tyre regulations changed, a comprehensive test was arranged. It was led by rally legend Hannu Mikkola. Since then, Tekniikan Maailma has published a winter tyre test nearly every year.
In the 1980s, Tuulilasi magazine also started regular tyre testing. The results were similar as in Tekniikan Maailma.
The new Hakkapeliitta NR 09 immediately took first place in 1980. TM said: “The NR 09 is by far the best winter tyre that Tekniikan Maailma has ever tested.” During its launch year, the Hakkapeliitta NR 09 also took first place in Tuulilasi’s tyre test.
The popular 09 achieved four consecutive wins in Tekniikan Maailma's winter tyre tests: 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1984. The magazine wrote: “Truly state of the art.”, “On snowy roads, the Nokia is ahead of the pack thanks to the handling and balanced features.”, “A good tyre for real winter. The properties remain good even when worn.”
In 1986, NR 09 once again took the gold medal in TM in the wider 70 series winter tyres, and Hakkapeliitta M+S 111 took bronze. “Nokia is the undisputed winner of this test. Handling and tyre control under varying conditions are nothing short of astonishing.”
The regular and wider NR 09s also took first and second place in the Tuulilasi winter tyre test in 1983. The 09 continued its triumphs by winning Tuulilasi’s test in 1987.
At the end of the 1980s, Tekniikan Maailma compared non-studded and studded winter tyres. The result was as expected: studded tyres are the best choice for winter driving.
Ten out of ten
The legendary war horse, Hakkapeliitta 09, had been galloping on winter roads for nearly ten years when the factory in Nokia gave birth to a new generation of winter tyre. Heavy demands were placed on the Hakkapeliitta 10 to rise to the challenge of its predecessors and continue the 50-year triumph of the Hakkapeliittas. Launching the new tyre in 1989 was a tough spot for product development. After the newcomer started gaining success in terms of tests and sales figures, there was cause to celebrate. After reaching ten, the model numbering of the Hakkapeliittas started again from one.
Testing winter tyres in actual conditions is an essential condition for product development. Throughout its history, Nokian Tyres has taken advantage of the Finnish weather and demanding winter conditions. Starting from the 1930s, the Hakkapeliittas were mainly being tested around Nokia. In the 1970s, the testers and their cars started moving further north. Each winter, suitable test conditions were sought at different locations. This always involved heavy transport and establishing a testing base, and the weather and testing opportunities could change at any time.
The opening of the Ivalo Testing Center in 1986 opened up new possibilities for the long-term study of the winter properties of tyres. Across the 700-hectare area of the world’s northernmost tyre test centre, the Hakkapeliittas are tested by means of acceleration and braking, demanding snow and ice track driving and uphill acceleration. The test season in Finnish Lapland lasts from October to May.
Image: Winter testing on the northern snow. Before a test centre was established, suitable conditions had to be found again, year after year.
The production line for heavy tyres was expanded substantially in the early 1980s. After the renovation, Oy Nokia Ab’s tyre factory had an area of over 7 hectares. The market for Nokian Heavy Tyres has also been growing strongly during the 21st century. The latest introduction to the heavy tyre range is the Nokian Hakkapeliitta TRI, the first winter tyre for tractors that was launched in 2014. It is a true winter specialist for contracting and snowploughing.
Image: The Nokian Hakkapeliitta TRI is the world’s first winter contracting tyre for tractors, and it also holds the world speed record for tractors: 130.165 km/h.