We’re firm believers in the ability of wheels to either make or break a project car, something which applies to automotive builds of all types, scales and budgets. The correct set of carefully selected wheels can either be the cherry atop a long time, all-or-nothing project…or can effectively be the automotive equivalent of ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.’
The above means that we take wheel choice very seriously indeed, so much that it’s invariably one of the areas we cover in depth with the individual commissioning the build early on in our relationship with them. We’ll go into great length discussing the wheels the owner has always lusted after, the alloys used on those variants of their particular model raced or rallied in period (if applicable), and then consider how much scope there is to put our own, personal stamp upon them.
The reasons for taking wheel choice so seriously are more than just aesthetic: the bespoke nature of our work means that getting the ‘right’ wheels on the completed car requires some key decision making to be made early on, as getting them mounted and sitting correctly also often entails far reaching body and chassis fabrication.
Form & Function
Case in point, Project Kaiser, the LS3 powered, air-ride equipped W108 Mercedes. While there’s no doubting this will be a potent car when completed (the small matter of a 430bhp V8 rather sees to that), it has been primarily built to make a statement and to cart anyone fortunate enough to be inside around in opulent, cosseted luxury, all while looking as cool as James Hunt lost in Iceland.
Striking the correct balance between form and function was key therefore, and you need only look at the car’s front arches to see evidence of this. Ensuring we got the most from said air-ride setup saw us carrying out some fairly in-depth custom work to the front wings, with both subtly pulled and flared. This means that the W108 can still steer at full lock even with the front air bags completely empty and the car ‘on the floor.’
A corresponding amount of fab work went into Project Kaiser’s rear arch tubs, this time to help us strike the best balance between wheel width and ride height (a tricky variable given the opportunities afforded by the air-suspension), and complicated by the immovable nature of the trailing edges of the door shuts.
Sometimes we attempt to pay homage to wheels most closely associated with the car when new, and the best examples of this are once again the pair of ‘stack light’ Mercs, Kaiser I & II. Both will sit atop custom sets of steels designed to homage those fitted by Mercedes in period, wheels that have since become redolent of big Benzes at their classiest.
There was no way that the 13in diameter originals were going to work, much less look ‘right,’ and as such we’ve turned to 17in versions from US Wheel. These have since been drilled to suit our required PCD, then fitted with mounting rings designed to accommodate the essential Mercedes wheel trims. Creating these also required us to create a special, dedicated wheel jig, a means of correctly locating and securing the rings themselves. We will of course be able to re-use the jig when the time comes to shod Project Kaiser II with its own steels.
Our dedication to getting the best wheels to fit the best car naturally goes well beyond Kaisers I and II, it can also be seen on some of our more performance focussed builds. Case in point, the Chevrolet Camaro, a car we’re drawing inspiration on US ‘Pro Touring’ in order to create and therefore one destined to live and die on its wheel choice.
The wheels were made to our specification by Rotiform, so the LHRs have an offset and PCD ideal for the Camaro…but we still needed to carry out some fairly involved tub-work to actually accommodate them. The tubs themselves aren’t exactly the most capacious, true, but we’ve reposition them to sit further inboard and therefore provide more clearance for the 9x18in wheels.