The Pirelli Calendar: through the years

Since it’s the Pirelli Calendar’s 50th anniversary this year and we have just featured pictures from the upcoming edition of the coveted annual publication, we decided to do a bit of digging into its history to see more scantily-clad, bosom-baring…er, we mean, to deepen our appreciation of the artistically-shot images and how the calendar came to be half a century ago.

(WARNING – although we chose the less explicit images to show here, they are still probably Not Safe For Work).

So, why would a tyre company produce a calendar that seems more appropriate for the likes of Vogue? It was the Italian company’s UK subsidiary which first produced the calendar as a marketing tool and has done so every since. Despite featuring mostly risqué images, what prevents it from becoming a vulgar publication intended for lewd enjoyment and instead considered an artistic production is that Pirelli has always hired world-renowned and revered photographers; the first edition was undertaken by Robert Freeman (he photographed several Beatles’ album covers) featuring models on location in Cote d’Azur (one of whom he married, who allegedly later had an affair with John Lennon. That’s a bit of tabloid-worthy gossip for you).

1964 – model Sonny Drane, who married Freeman.
In the years that followed, many of the photo-shoots reenacted the beach theme until in 1972, French photographer, Sarah Moon, took a decidedly different approach with a Parisian motif:

None the images featured actual tyres, and in their defense, it is quite difficult to make round hunks of rubber look sexy. But there was quite a lot of latex in the 1973 edition, which we suppose is some sort of nod to Pirelli’s main product:

1973 – it must have been hot in that

Sadly, the calendar was discontinued after 1974 due to the recession and was only resurrected in 1984, and it began to make subtle references to tyres, in very creative ways, we might add:


From the nineties onwards, the calendar was graced by some of the biggest names in the modelling world and later from movieland:

1994 – model Cindy Crawford
1997 – actress Monica Belluci
2001 – model Gisele Bundchen. Couldn’t she at least wait until the maid left the room?

In 1998, they tried a different approach by featuring both genders, but men would not grace the pages of the calendar again until 2011. We’re guessing that gender equality did not help sell tyres:

1998 – actor John Malkovich
1998 – we don’t know who this is, but he’s topless
2011 – another topless man!

One of our favourites is the 2007 publication which featured a 72-year-old Sophia Loren, who showed that women can age and still be sexy and beautiful.

2007 – forever bombshell, Sophia Loren
Another one of Sophia, because she’s just gorgeous
Yet another, because we can’t get enough of Sophia!

The photo-shoot for 2014’s edition took place with the usual slew of popular models, but when the actual calendar came out, it took everyone by surprise. Instead of images of the likes of Miranda Kerr, it featured instead photos captured by Helmut Newton that were originally intended for the 1986 edition. Internal company kerfuffle and also Newton’s health problems saw the commission passed on to his contemporary, but his assistants faithfully completed the work and the negatives must have been gathering dust in some Pirelli archive until then. Newton’s 1986 photos are the only ones which prominently feature Pirelli tyres.

2014, photographed in 1986
2014, photographed in 1986

We take it back…you CAN make tyres look sexy.

Click here to see the images from the 2015 calendar.



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