The world's first winter tire, and the predecessor of the Hakkapeliitta, was the Kelirengas (the “weather tire”) introduced by Suomen Gummitehdas Osakeyhtiö in 1934. Its special tread pattern provided safety for snowy, unpredictable winter roads. The first Kelirengas tires were designed for trucks, but the selection of sizes soon increased.
In 1936, the Hakkapeliitta, also known as the Lumi-Hakkapeliitta (Snow Hakkapeliitta) was introduced. This tire was designed for passenger cars and it had a sparse transverse tread pattern and gripping edges.
The grooves penetrated even thick snow, eliminating the need for cumbersome snow chains. The entire concept of the tire was based on a good grip surface. The snow road champion was born.
Trucks received their own Hakkapeliittas in 1940. The selection of heavy tires increased rapidly as the Y-Hakkapeliitta, U-Hakkapeliitta, Jyry and other models were introduced. The suction cup like tread pattern of the winter tires remained similar until the 1950s.
New generation of Hakkapeliittas
Winter driving conditions changed, and the Hakkapeliitta changed with them. Roads were already covered by ploughing services in the 1950s, and the road surface in the winter was thus often hard and slippery. The Haka-Hakkapeliitta from 1956 had twice the amount of load-bearing tread compared to its predecessor, which increased its grip on hard surfaces.
The invention of the stud, or metallic skid stopper, was a significant leap ahead in the development of winter tires. The hard alloy studs designed for the Hakkapeliitta tire entered the market in 1957, and in 1961 Hakkapeliittas were available with pre-made stud holes. The first winter tire that was specially designed for studding was the Kometa-Hakkapeliitta in 1961.
The new introduction for 1965 was simply called the Hakkapeliitta. All Hakkapeliittas were now available with stud holes. The tread pattern of the Hakkapeliitta had been modernised by combining the rubber cups with bridges. The many edges of the rubber surface provided grip on snow, while studs excelled on ice.
The mild winters and increased de-icing with salt created demand for an urban winter tire. The tread pattern and rubber compound of the SF-Hakkapeliitta from 1969 were also designed to suit roads with no ice, and it became particularly popular among taxi drivers.
The Hakkapeliitta wears a belt
1970 saw the beginning of the triumphant series of numbered Hakkapeliitta models. The Hakkapeliitta 05 still had a bias-ply structure, but the first radial tires were manufactured the same year. The Hakkapeliitta Radial 06, the first radial winter tire with a textile belt, entered the market in 1971.
The radial tire became a silent, durable performer. International development caused a change in the tire carcass material. The first steel-belted winter tire was the Hakkapeliitta NR 08 in 1977. Its tread pattern had more sections to achieve better wet grip. For lorries, there was already a tubeless alternative, the NR 17 with the familiar Hakkapeliitta tread pattern.
Successful Hakkapeliitta NR 09 and its companions
Changing winter conditions and new types of cars challenged the Hakkapeliitta to take the next leap forward. Even more dry road properties were required, and lower-profile tires affected the car's handling. Development work for a new generation of winter tire started in 1978.
The anticipated Hakkapeliitta NR 09 was introduced in test markets in Sweden and Norway the next year, and in 1980 the new tire was available to everyone. The NR 09 became a success for several consecutive seasons, convincing both consumers and industry magazines. The new Hakkapeliitta also had a new tread, and the traditional suction cup pattern was retired. The new tread had an arrow shape, and the staggered sawtooth patterns effectively carried slush away from between the tire and the road.
The Hakkapeliitta NR 09 was joined by the Hakkapeliitta M+S 111 in 1984. The tires were extensively marketed together. The M+S 111 was profiled as a tire for the ice-free main roads and city traffic, and the NR 09 succeeded with its traditional snow and ice properties. The Hakkapeliitta 10 was introduced in 1989, and it adapted the successful tire especially to the features of new cars.
Grip with or without studs
Even in the Nordic countries, non-studded winter driving was on the rise in the 1990s. The winter tire family of 1996 had Hakkapeliittas for every occasion: the studded Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 1 and the Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta NRW 1 as a non-studded option. The Hakkapeliitta Q complemented the non-studded series in 1998. The Swedish magazine Teknikens Värld called the new introduction “the best non-studded winter tire of all time”.
The Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 2, the new introduction for 2000, combined the properties of studded and non-studded winter tires. The combination of new stud technology and an efficient friction rubber compound created unique grip.
In the autumn of 2002, a special winter tire for Central Europe was introduced: the Nokian Tyres WR intended for high-speed driving under varying winter conditions. The new introduction was the fastest winter tire in the world.
The Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 4 from 2003 was equipped with new stud technology. The patented square stud innovation and the Eco Stud System offered even better grip on ice, while reducing wear on the road surface. The rubber compound included an eco-friendly natural product, canola oil, to maximise grip.
In non-studded tires, the Hakkapeliitta Q was replaced by the Hakkapeliitta RSi in 2004. Special attention was paid to grip during braking and acceleration. The tooth-like sipes known as Brake Boosters formed a dense grid, adding approximately 40 per cent more grip surface compared to the previous non-studded tire.
Modern stud technology, lighter rolling
The Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 5 introduced in 2006 received additional grip from its Bear Claw, which supported and boosted the operation of the square stud under all conditions. The same year, Nokian Tyres introduced the world's largest winter tire for passenger cars. The Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta Sport Utility 5, tailored for SUVs, had a rim diameter of 22 inches.
The Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta Truck E for trucks and buses saw the light of day in 2008. This special tire for rough roads had a precisely shaped traction surface and wear resistance that could handle extreme conditions. In 2014, the anniversary of the Kelirengas, the series was completed by the Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta Truck E for demanding main road use. The benefits of this truck and bus tire include, for example, the patented dual block pattern in the traction surface and the Winter Safety Indicator for heavy winter tires that indicates when the tire’s winter grip properties are at their best.
The Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 7 and the studless option Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta R were introduced to the winter roads in 2009. The Hakkapeliitta 7’s driving comfort was ensured by Air Claw Technology that uses small air pockets on the tire to soften the stud impact. The Hakkapeliitta R, on the other hand, offered the lowest rolling resistance on the market and the best safety features.
The product development of the Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 8 started already in 2009 and the latest flagship product of the winter tire family was launched in 2013. The following year saw the introduction of more reliable movers: the lightly rolling Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta R2 non-studded winter tire with excellent grip, the sturdy and extremely durable Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 8 SUV studded tire for SUVs and the non-studded Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta R2 SUV that offers supreme driving comfort.The world’s first winter tire for tractors, the Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta TRI, was introduced in 2014.
The world's first winter tyre was the Kelirengas, the predecessor to the Hakkapeliitta. It was developed to be used on trucks in the Northern conditions and poorly ploughed winter roads of the 1930s. The grooved tread pattern of the tyre worked on snowy roads, making snow chains obsolete. The strong but spacious transverse grooves cleaned off snow while driving, which ensured excellent grip. The winter tyre tread pattern that was introduced with the Kelirengas remained similar in the Hakkapeliittas all the way to the 1950s.
Snow Hakkapeliitta poster 1936.
The Haka-Hakkapeliitta was the best-selling winter tyre of the 1950s and 1960s. The range of Haka-Hakkapeliittas that was launched in 1956 and grew to a full size selection two years later was the answer to the new winter driving conditions and even larger cars. The tread had a dense pattern of cups that proved effective on icy roads with packed snow, since braking caused a small air pocket to form between the cup and the road surface, resulting in suction cup-like grip. The longitudinal grooves on both sides of the centre area were also a new feature of the Haka-Hakkapeliitta. They ensured good directional stability.
Image: The Haka-Hakkapeliitta, a new product launched in 1956, beat all previous sales records.