Column: When Math Should Take the Back Seat | Sometimes You Pick a Wheel Simply Because It Makes You Happy

The wheel seems so simple. It’s round. It rolls places.

Yet it still remains oh so complicated, especially when you bring cars into the mix: materials, sizes, offsets, designs, finishes, colors, load ratings and center bores. 

And we still haven’t mentioned bolt patterns. No, those wheels for an old Alfa Romeo won’t fit on your Miata. I know, it’s just a few millimeters off. No, you shouldn’t open up the lug holes with a die grinder. Please, stop. 

Yet many of us, myself included, are enamored by them. We crave the lightest. We lust after ones not sold stateside. We anguish over colors when given the choice. Anthracite or charcoal? Bronze or dark gold? Matte or brushed? Wait, I can get just the lips polished? 

Back in the day, it was simple: You couldn’t afford anything cool. Or at least I couldn’t. 

A 15x7-inch alloy cost about $250 each. Even with my employee discount, I wasn’t a customer. 

But then I got the call from a dude at another shop. Steve. Mike. Chip? Whatever the name, long lost to the years, he had something for me: Dude, used alloys that will fit your car–and cheap. 

Didn’t matter what they looked like. Didn’t matter if, by today’s standards, they were pretty ugly: six twisted spokes, three polished, three black. Not Momo, not Panasport. Maybe Prime. Or Ultra. 

But I had some aftermarket wheels. And with them, I did the only proper thing at the time: wrapped them with takeoff race tires–Yokohama A008, the go-to tire back then in the early ’90s–and took my Sentra SE-R autocrossing. 

No idea where those wheels are today. I know they made the move with me down to Florida. I think I remember seeing them behind J.G.’s place, but that was like three houses ago. Maybe they’re still there. 

But kinda like my first BMX bike–an all-steel affair with no pedigree–I have no desire to find those wheels. They were merely the gateway drug. 

Today, I admit, I’m into wheels–bikes, too, but that’s another story. (It’s totally normal to have a stash of Tuff Wheels, right?) Every few years I’ll perform a mini purge–maybe let an extra set go here or there. But not the good stuff, of course. Those are up in the attic. 

I admit to owning more than one set for cars I no longer own. In fact, I might have even purchased a set after selling the car they perfectly pair with. (And no, sorry, those Mugens aren’t for sale.)

The past few weeks have involved much wheel and tire research. A healthy chunk of it was for this issue’s wheel story, but then add in all of the other stuff we deal with, like project cars and tire tests–and I’m talking about GRM as well as our sister title, Classic Motorsports.

And sometimes you have to research a potential story only to realize that no, it’s not going to work. Editorial idea scrubbed before it’s even put on the calendar. 

So, what do you want to discuss? The challenges of fitting wheels and tires on a second-gen Toyota MR2? The new max street tires coming from Michelin and Goodyear? Retro rubber like the Yokohama A008P and Michelin SX MXX3? How I (finally) cleaned the whitewalls on my Catalina Safari? 

Poor Woody at Tire Rack, who answers all my questions with enthusiasm and courtesy–even when it gets to the point where my subject line says “I don’t have any tire or wheel questions today,” only to be followed by “Wait, I do have a tire question.”

The culmination of all this might have taken place the other night: a dream involving tires and wheels. And not just about the subject, but a really deep dive–and a dream with a final answer: Yes, I should put slot mags and those reissued Michelin XWX tires on my FIA-bodied Factory Five Cobra.

Such detail, I know. And I admit, although I grew up lusting for a 427 Cobra, I eventually realized that the narrow-bodied car wearing the tacked-on flares was the true jewel. But no, I don’t have one. 

The beautiful thing about all of this is that it doesn’t have to always be logical. As gearheads, most of us realize that the lightest wheel will be the fastest wheel–assuming that the wheel is up for the rigors of competition, of course. We’ve done the test. We have the data. 

I believe that we also need to follow what makes us smile, even if the math takes a back seat. So yes, I might have to order those custom steelies for my M3, even if I haven’t yet installed the new lightweight alloys currently sitting beside it. 

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Comments
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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 11:35 a.m.

Sad PS: I got distracted and never ordered those steelies. (I tend to write my columns late at night.)

I should get them. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 11:38 a.m.

But if anyone wants to talk wheels some more, LMK. laugh

The last two weeks, we have been cleaning up/cleaning out the garage. Some wheels went up into the attic while some came down so they can go back into service. Yes, the TE37s are legit. Old but real. 

 

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
12/3/20 12:12 p.m.

What are those to the left of the TE37s? They're all sorts of neogothic steampunk in the best sort of way. 

Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
12/3/20 12:16 p.m.
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:

What are those to the left of the TE37s? They're all sorts of neogothic steampunk in the best sort of way. 

Mugen. You usually find them in 1G CRXs.

Probably worth a pretty penny too. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 12:16 p.m.
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) said:

What are those to the left of the TE37s? They're all sorts of neogothic steampunk in the best sort of way. 

Mugen CF48, at one time the go-to wheel for torsion bar Honda Civics and CRXs. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/3/20 12:23 p.m.

The first gen CRX guys will only accept the CF48. It's like a religion. And yes, they're worth quite a bit to those guys.

And I have a set of Alfa wheels and the wobble bolts to make them fit a Miata ;)

Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
12/3/20 12:30 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

The first gen CRX guys will only accept the CF48. It's like a religion. And yes, they're worth quite a bit to those guys.

And I have a set of Alfa wheels and the wobble bolts to make them fit a Miata ;)

All you need now is to buy those Mugen wheels from David and sell the Ronals to a VW guy! :p

bluej (Forum Supporter)
bluej (Forum Supporter) UberDork
12/3/20 12:35 p.m.

Tell me more about the steelies you're still going to get for the e46 devil

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
12/3/20 12:41 p.m.

In this 1987 video of Autocrossing with Dick Turner you can see a Mugen Integra and a Mugen CRX starting at about the 30 second mark.  

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/3/20 12:50 p.m.
Slippery (Forum Supporter) said:
Keith Tanner said:

The first gen CRX guys will only accept the CF48. It's like a religion. And yes, they're worth quite a bit to those guys.

And I have a set of Alfa wheels and the wobble bolts to make them fit a Miata ;)

All you need now is to buy those Mugen wheels from David and sell the Ronals to a VW guy! :p

That's why my Ronals stand out so much! VW people never think about the Mugens, and CRX guys would never think of a German Ronal. It's funny, there's just no room for cross-pollination. The fashions are set.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 1:31 p.m.

In reply to bluej (Forum Supporter) :

Corsa steelies. 

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) UberDork
12/3/20 2:03 p.m.

I was surprised not to see Apex wheels on the M3. :)

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/3/20 2:06 p.m.

You want steelies on your BMW? Here are steelies.

Owner of this also owns an FM-built CA legal LS3 Miata that's just peeking in front of the clownshoe.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 2:44 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Are those Corsa Steelies? Maybe? I'm still thinking about it. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/3/20 3:11 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Are those Corsa Steelies? Maybe? I'm still thinking about it. 

They are not. They're OEM winter steelies that have been re-barreled by Stockton Wheel.

They were originally 17x7s, now 17x9 ET31F/ET0R

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 3:13 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Are those Corsa Steelies? Maybe? I'm still thinking about it. 

They are not. They're OEM winter steelies that have been re-barreled by Stockton Wheel.

They were originally 17x7s, now 17x9 ET31F/ET0R

Hmmm. Any idea what that costs? (Guess I could just look it up, right?) Cool look. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/3/20 3:57 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
Keith Tanner said:
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Are those Corsa Steelies? Maybe? I'm still thinking about it. 

They are not. They're OEM winter steelies that have been re-barreled by Stockton Wheel.

They were originally 17x7s, now 17x9 ET31F/ET0R

Hmmm. Any idea what that costs? (Guess I could just look it up, right?) Cool look. 

He bought them already modified IIRC. But Stockton Wheel would be the place to ask for sure.

Once you start considering re-barreling wheels, options get really interesting.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 4:18 p.m.

I see they have a request form for custom work. Sounds reasonable. I just dig the look of steelies. Will they make the car faster? Nope. But they look cool. 

(Also, do we mention that Keith and I have been chatting all day via e-mail, too? laugh)

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/3/20 4:20 p.m.

I agree about wheels sometimes being a "heart of head" issue sometimes.  My R53 has RPF1s's on it, but it's definitely not a design I'm in love with - but holy hell they're light.  But they came with the car (along with a set of OEM alloy wheels for winter use).  But if I ever decide to ignore how light they are and just go for looks, I'll order a set of 16" Panasports.  Which may happen if I decide to get a set of dedicated full-on STX wheels for the car, which would be 17x9  949 wheels and 245 tires - that would work for autocross but would be totally impractical on the street.

I kind of like the idea of re-barreling wheels for the Triumphs.  What would be awesome would be to make them 14" as well... Hmm... 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 4:25 p.m.

Another side conversation that I have had with myself: not all "banana-spoke" wheels (Panasport, Watanabe, Rota RB, Black Racing, Minilite, etc.) are created equal. Some look better than others. Sometimes it's a matter of brand, size, offset, color, etc. When done right, though, it's perfection. 

m4ff3w
m4ff3w UberDork
12/3/20 4:28 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

The first gen CRX guys will only accept the CF48. It's like a religion. And yes, they're worth quite a bit to those guys.

And I have a set of Alfa wheels and the wobble bolts to make them fit a Miata ;)

I was just going to mention wobble bolts.

frenchyd
frenchyd PowerDork
12/3/20 4:43 p.m.

In reply to m4ff3w :

I e got to decide tonight what wheels to put on my MGUAR.  It's going to be built according to challenge rules. ( modified ). I'm taking all the junk I've accumulated over decades of racing and restoration and going to add up to $2000 to it to see what I arrive at. 
Back to wheels.  I've got sets of Jaguar wire wheels here. I'm sure 4 will clean up enough to look respectable.  They are 15x6 I've also got a chance to acquire a set of 16-7 or 8 Dayton wires if I do a tune up on a V12 ( we both agree that's worth $200 which is what he'll give me the wheels for). 
Finally I've got a set of Halibrand' s cast for the Chapparel mk1  

My concern is what tires can I get  for those three sizes that will be at least a little race worthy. 

Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
12/3/20 4:47 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

(Also, do we mention that Keith and I have been chatting all day via e-mail, too? laugh)

I am glad he is getting the Mugen wheels and is going to right his wrong devil

Mike (Forum Supporter)
Mike (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
12/3/20 5:09 p.m.

Rotiform Aerodisc

This came up while Googling the Mugen CF48. I don't own anything that should have wheels like this, and I don't have plans to, I even think it's probably too loud in reality, but I totally want this.

 

Rotiform Gloss White Thread-On Aerodisc | 32170-AC-W

 

 

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/3/20 5:15 p.m.
m4ff3w said:
Keith Tanner said:

The first gen CRX guys will only accept the CF48. It's like a religion. And yes, they're worth quite a bit to those guys.

And I have a set of Alfa wheels and the wobble bolts to make them fit a Miata ;)

I was just going to mention wobble bolts.

If only because it's really fun to say wobble bolts.

C'mon everyone, say it. Wobble bolts. Wobble bolts. Wobble bolts.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 5:16 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Okay, yeah, that is pretty fun to say. 

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
12/3/20 6:01 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

C'mon everyone, say it. Wobble bolts. Wobble bolts. Wobble bolts.

This belongs on a T-shirt.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
12/3/20 6:01 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I’m pretty sure that my first issue of Auto-X magazine had a set of those Mugen wheels on the cover. I can’t find a photo, but I know that I still have the magazine. 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
12/3/20 6:04 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

Another side conversation that I have had with myself: not all "banana-spoke" wheels (Panasport, Watanabe, Rota RB, Black Racing, Minilite, etc.) are created equal. Some look better than others. Sometimes it's a matter of brand, size, offset, color, etc. When done right, though, it's perfection. 

I agree. Good Minilites are really good, but bad Minilites are really bad. 

Sorry Daises...

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
12/3/20 6:09 p.m.

Found it!

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/3/20 6:24 p.m.

In reply to Woody (Forum Supportum) :

Ta da. A classic. 

kb58
kb58 SuperDork
12/3/20 7:42 p.m.

Regarding the title of this thread, I pretty much did that.

On the first car, I did the math to get the best sprung-to-unsprung weight ration possible, ending up with spun aluminum wheels. They were great, right up 'til potholes - and Discount Tire - bent all of them. Next car, picked off-the-shelf wheels that looked nice, and ignored the weight. They work just fine and none are bent.

bluej (Forum Supporter)
bluej (Forum Supporter) UberDork
12/3/20 7:53 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to bluej (Forum Supporter) :

Corsa steelies. 

oooooo. I had forgotten about those. they'd look pretty slick on my e46 touring. 

bluej (Forum Supporter)
bluej (Forum Supporter) UberDork
12/3/20 7:55 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

weeble bolts wobble, but they don't fall off!

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
12/3/20 8:43 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to Woody (Forum Supportum) :

Ta da. A classic. 

I had never actually heard of the magazine before that issue.

I knew a guy who was racing a really fast 1978 Civic 1200, and I bought a 1979 for myself. I saw an ad for King Motorsports somewhere and I wrote to them for more information. Scott Zellner sent me a big envelope full of stuff, and that issue was in there. Fortunately, there was one of those annoying blown-in subscription cards in the magazine, so I sent it in and I was hooked!

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/3/20 9:58 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

Another side conversation that I have had with myself: not all "banana-spoke" wheels (Panasport, Watanabe, Rota RB, Black Racing, Minilite, etc.) are created equal. Some look better than others. Sometimes it's a matter of brand, size, offset, color, etc. When done right, though, it's perfection. 

Quite true. Which is why I said Panasports. Other brands don't look as good to me, including Minilites or the Rota RB.  I like the Watanabe style on some cars, but not everything.  For better or worse, I know exactly what 16" Panasports look like on a MINI (my ex's car I've known since she bought it new in 2003; pic from 2018 after a long refresh session):

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/4/20 12:02 a.m.

I knew a guy who was racing a really fast 1978 Civic 1200, and I bought a 1979 for myself. I saw an ad for King Motorsports somewhere and I wrote to them for more information. Scott Zellner sent me a big envelope full of stuff, and that issue was in there. Fortunately, there was one of those annoying blown-in subscription cards in the magazine, so I sent it in and I was hooked!

This post gave me a pang of nostalgia. I rarely ever want to go back in time, but something in there made me think that discovering things used to feel a lot more special before the internet. 

 

Anyway, im all for going with heavy silly steelies for 'the look', but since noone else has said it, i'll just go ahead and say that if you sell steelies and your website advertises them as 'two piece wheels', that's.. kinda silly. Not wrong exactly, just.. silly. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/4/20 12:05 a.m.

In reply to Ian F (Forum Supporter) :

Those do look good. 

CJ (FS)
CJ (FS) HalfDork
12/4/20 12:22 a.m.

Really wish I could find a set of these for reasonable.

'73 Volvo 1800ES.  5x108mm (4.25"). 

Also like the look of Halibrand kidney slots with knockoffs, but that's never going to happen on that car - even if I could pay for them.

Edit: So I look at the They still make these wheels I hated in the 70's... thread this morning and there is the exact picture I posted...

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
12/4/20 5:58 a.m.
CJ (FS) said:

Really wish I could find a set of these for reasonable.

'73 Volvo 1800ES.  5x108mm (4.25"). 

Also like the look of Halibrand kidney slots with knockoffs, but that's never going to happen on that car - even if I could pay for them.

Vp auto parts.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/4/20 2:46 p.m.

We haven't mentioned this one yet, but Woody at Tire Rack knows that I have a thing for the Kosei K1. I've had them back in the day but am currently K1-less. 

docwyte
docwyte UberDork
12/4/20 4:29 p.m.

I'm getting the BBS RS-GT wheels on my 996 Turbo refinished as I type.  It wasn't cheap and I struggled with it but it was cheaper than buying BBS E88 wheels and I'll end up with a wheel that nobody else has.  I'll post pics in a week when I get them back...

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/4/20 10:16 p.m.

Found myself looking at wheels again tonight. It's a sickness, I tell ya. 

mw
mw Dork
12/6/20 6:26 a.m.

In the 90's, my high school job was working at an aftermarket wheel and tire place. The owner was very eclectic and would buy leftovers stock of wheels from all over the world. It wasn't uncommon for him to buy a container of wheels from a company and my job was to make sets (re drilling and machining back spaces) it was really fun and I fell in love with certain wheels. We would get so many cool and rare wheels that I lusted after. I still have a few onsies that were so cool, but never had a match. 

ZOO (Forum Supporter)
ZOO (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
12/6/20 7:38 a.m.

I love the classic BMW Steelies.  I think an E46 M3 on something similar but wider would indeed be pretty slick.  Maybe they would look cool on my M2 . . .

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
12/6/20 8:15 a.m.
mw said:

In the 90's, my high school job was working at an aftermarket wheel and tire place. The owner was very eclectic and would buy leftovers stock of wheels from all over the world. It wasn't uncommon for him to buy a container of wheels from a company and my job was to make sets (re drilling and machining back spaces) it was really fun and I fell in love with certain wheels. We would get so many cool and rare wheels that I lusted after. I still have a few onsies that were so cool, but never had a match. 

You need to share pics !

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
12/6/20 8:20 a.m.

I must be in good company around here...I own a set of Kosei K1s, a set of Rota RBs and a set of Panasports (sized to fit nothing I own).

 

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
12/6/20 8:22 a.m.

In reply to mw :

That wouldn't happen to have been at a place on Martin St. in Milton, would it?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/6/20 10:56 a.m.
chandler said:
mw said:

In the 90's, my high school job was working at an aftermarket wheel and tire place. The owner was very eclectic and would buy leftovers stock of wheels from all over the world. It wasn't uncommon for him to buy a container of wheels from a company and my job was to make sets (re drilling and machining back spaces) it was really fun and I fell in love with certain wheels. We would get so many cool and rare wheels that I lusted after. I still have a few onsies that were so cool, but never had a match. 

You need to share pics !

Remember that in the 90's, bringing a camera to work would have been a little unusual and require extra planning. I don't know may people who carried a camera with them everywhere they went at the time, and pictures cost money so you actually thought about shooting them :)

Unless we're talking about the leftover onesies, in which case I concur!

wspohn
wspohn Dork
12/6/20 11:20 a.m.
ZOO (Forum Supporter) said:

I love the classic BMW Steelies.  I think an E46 M3 on something similar but wider would indeed be pretty slick.  Maybe they would look cool on my M2 . . .

 

Best to avoid steel wheels whenever possible.  I tested steel vs. alloy on one of my race cars. The steels flexed enough that you had to keep a tight grip on the wheel under very hard braking.  The same tires on alloy wheels allowed you to go straight in under full braking with your hands slightly off the steering wheel without any judder. And yes, I did check run out etc. on the steel wheels to be sure that wasn't an issue.

I ran magnesium alloy wheels on my race cars (I switched after ripping the centre right out of a steel wheel, leaving the wheel centre still tightly bolted to the hub) until I switched to exclusively vintage racing. Unfortunately the race car I was running had peg drive steel wheels so there was no alloy equivalent. Fortunately those particular steel wheels were much more stable in hard use than the bolt on ones that had folded up on me.

Besides, the original BMW wheels mostly look very good. I like the stock ones on my E86 more than I do any of the after market options I've seen (well, if a set of CSL wheels at a good price crossed my path I guess I'd be tempted....)

ZOO (Forum Supporter)
ZOO (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
12/6/20 1:46 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

If I used them on the M2 it would only be for street use.  Maybe with a narrower tire and a taller sidewall.  It would be an aesthetic mod only :)

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/6/20 2:40 p.m.

I don't think steel vs alloy wheels are inherently any different in terms of stiffness. It's all about the design. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/6/20 9:38 p.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk (Warren) :

I admit, huge K1 fan here. Woody at Tire Rack knows all too well. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/6/20 9:39 p.m.

Speaking of steelies, Forgeline offers a forged aluminum wheel that doesn't look like one. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
12/6/20 10:33 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Ouch, I knew Forgelines were pricey, but still.

~$6500 for a set of wheels. I'm trying to imagine how much money I'd need to have the type of car that I'd spend that much on wheels for!

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
12/7/20 1:09 p.m.

I tend to be a function over form guy when it comes to wheels. I had a set of these. Not a particularly pretty wheel, but they are Center Line forged 15x7s. I've since traded them for some Challenge friendly tires and wheels for the drag portion of the competition, but I originally picked them up off FB Marketplace for $80 and they only weighed 11 lb. each ! They  would have gone nicely on my supercharged NB, but you know.....Challenge!

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