by Jon Mikelonis and Tom Zuloaga
They're not as common as Torque Thrust D's but custom steel
wheels are making a run for "most popular wheel"
among enthusiasts lately. It's no wonder, they look great
and if you don't mind the weight they are much more affordable
than equally wide alloy counterparts.
Did we just say affordable? At least in concept, steel wheels
should be more affordable considering they're made up from
the same material and subcomponents of the throw away stock
wheels that are adorning your storage shed or side yard. The
fact is however, custom steel wheels are not relatively cheap
when compared to 100% new American Racing standard Torque
Thrust style wheels and they are much more expensive than
Bart D-slot steel wheels of similar dimension.
FordMuscle put a call into the custom wheel manufacturer
We requested pricing on a set of powder coated 15x8 steel
wheels with a 5 on 4-1/2" bolt pattern and 3.5"
backspacing. As of February 15, 2006 those wheels are running
$157 each. We agree the style of a widened stock steel wheel
with a factory cap is worth some coin, but what makes a 15x8
steel wheel worth $157 when an American Racing Torque Thrust
D of the same size retails at Summit for $195? Better yet,
why pay $157 for nostalgic steel when you can get a Bart IMCA
wheel for only $42? Is the ability to get a Ford center cap
on your wheel worth the difference of $110? The marketplace
seems to being saying so.
As we eluded to above, steel wheels are usually fabbed up
from the throw-aways you see at wrecking yards. The process
is simple, a specialty custom wheel house gathers a bunch
of factory steel wheels, separates the centers (the part that
contains the bolt pattern) from the rim and keeps hundreds
of these valuable, but used, components in an efficient
staging area waiting for an order to come in. Once a customer
calls specifying diameter, width, bolt pattern, center cap
size, and backspacing, the raw materials are pulled and combined
by splitting rims to make wider wheels and positioning the
centers to create the requested backspace. The assembly or
assemblies are trued on a jig, welded together, sandblasted,
painted, or powder coated for an additional fee. A lucrative
business based almost entirely on recycled materials! While
there is quite a bit of hands-on work that goes into fabricating
these wheels, something just doesn't seem right about paying
$157 each for a wheel that FordMuscle member Tom Zuloaga makes
in his spare time. Let's take a look at how he does it on
Ford never made
a steel wheel wider than 6 inches that would accept
this center cap.
15x8 Custom Offset Ford Steel Wheels
Tom went into action upon discovering that Ford never
produced an 8" wide steel wheel that would accept the
common 10-1/2" Ford center cap. By removing a 5 on 4-1/2"
center from a 15x6 Ford steel wheel, Tom figured he could
find a readily available rim from a wider steel wheel to accommodate
the center. Once Tom removed his first center he was able
to identify the OD as 13-1/4". At that point the issue
was to find rim whose inner diameter matched the outer diameter
of the removed center. After some measuring Tom found that
mid 70's to mid 80's 15x8 Chevy truck wheels have a 13 1/4"
I.D. By using the two wheels Tom can make up a 15x8 nostalgic
Steel wheels were once a nice outlet for budget racers.
Trends and the recent upswing in retro styling have indirectly
affected the market price for "cheap" width. Tom
Zuloaga's motivation to build what he can on his own represents
a hot rodding mentality that is still alive today. In order
to make sure this hobby remains one that is something for
all of us to be proud of, FordMuscle urges you to continually
challenge the marketplace by fabricating whatever you can
with your own devices. If you have any questions about the
steps Tom Zuloaga performed in this article please feel free
to contact him directly by email.