Race car wheels are both a fashion statement and a functional part of the vehicle they’re attached to. Most people really don’t think about what goes into making a modern wheel used in drag racing, but it’s more than most realize. We got to check out how RC Components makes its wheels during a cool behind-the-scenes tour of the company’s headquarters in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
RC Components actually started as a paint company known as RC Acrylics and was founded back in 1989 by owner Rick Ball. Ball later ordered a set of wheels for a motorcycle drag racing application, but when the wheels arrived they weren’t correct. After doing some research, Ball figured out how to cut his own set of wheels to replace the incorrect set the manufacturer sent. Soon, Ball’s friends were wanting the motorcycle drag racing wheels that he made, and a new business was born. A similar thing happened years later when he made a lone racecar wheel that immediately drew the attention of locals who saw the design — before long, he was producing products en masse for the drag racing market.
Eventually, Ball moved his company to Bowling Green, where it continues to produce motorcycle wheels, exhaust systems, and racecar wheels. The company currently calls a 60,000 square foot building home, where it machines, anodizes, and assembles all its wheels in-house after receiving forged blanks from California. That’s right, RC Components wheels are made in the USA from start to finish.
RC wheels begin their journey at the welding station. This is where the inner wheel and outer wheel are welded together. There are seven different inner sizes and nine different outer sizes that RC Components can use to create different widths for the backspacing of the wheels.
RJ Clutter from RC Components provides some additional details about the first step in the wheel creation process.
“It’s really important to make sure the right inners and outers are matched up before the wheel goes to its first round of machining. The centers are cut out during the machining process because when the wheel halves are welded together they’re solid. These first few processes are very important when the wheels are being made, since they define its shape.”
We added more crush to our beadlock rings over the years so they can account for different tire thicknesses. -RJ Clutter
When the wheels are done with the machining process, it’s time for them to get spruced up a bit in the polishing room. RC Components uses proprietary robotic technology to polish most of its wheels, so we can’t show you that part of the process, but the goal is still to remove any imperfection on the wheel. Smaller parts and wheels that need a little more attention will go to the hand polishing station to get cleaned up.
Once the barrels are polished, they will go to the welding station to get beadlock rings welded on, if they are a beadlocked wheel. Those wheels will go to anodizing after that, or they will stay polished and continue through the production process. RC Components also chromes its own wheels in-house, too, based on what customers have ordered.
Speaking of beadlocks — RC Components has put some extra time and effort into this portion of its wheel manufacturing process. The best part is, you don’t even have to have a set of RC Components wheels to enjoy the benefits of its beadlock rings.
“We added more crush to our beadlock rings over the years so they can account for different tire thicknesses. This helps to deal with bead seats that are different from tire to tire. That extra crush really helps to seal a wheel and tire together. We beadlock anyone’s wheels here, it’s a service we offer. If you want something single or double beadlocked, we can do that in-house here,” Clutter explains.
RC Components inspects each wheel as it moves from process to process to make sure they are perfect. The wheels that make it this far are nearly ready to be shipped to the customer, but they still have to go through final assembly to make sure they are complete. Part of this process is getting the right wheel center added to the wheel based on what the customer needs.
With our wheels, the wheel centers lock to the barrels and then are bolted together. – RJ Clutter
“We offer several different wheel centers for offsets of wheels. We have a straight flush, 1/2-inch, 1-inch, and 2-inch offset, known as the Deuce. With all the inner and outer sizes in our catalog, we can offer nearly any backspacing you can think of. The Deuce center is what allows up to 1-inch backspace on a 15×10 wheel. This wheel lets big tire cars go radial racing without big changes to the rearend. Wheels can be created from the nine different width outer, seven different inners, four unique wheel centers, plus our four, five, and six lug options we have,” Clutter says.
One of the unique things about RC Components’ wheels is how the center is attached to the wheel barrel. If you think about it, this is a critical part of a wheel’s design since it’s how the driveline is attached to the wheel, and that’s how power is transferred to the surface of the track.
“RC Components uses a cutout in the wheel barrel to attach the center of the wheel to the barrel itself. There’s a lot of wheels where the torque and inertia of the axle go through just the bolts. With our wheels, the wheel centers lock to the barrels and then are bolted together. This method ensures the torque and inertia is on the material of the wheel versus just the bolts that are holding the center to the barrel,” Clutter says.
It usually takes about two to three weeks for wheels to be finished at RC Components from the time they’re ordered to the day they’re shipped out the door. There is one exception to that timeframe: the Street King wheels that RC Components typically keeps on the shelf.
“The Street King wheel is a little different because it’s made using flow-forged technology. These wheels are an affordable SFI-certified street wheel that we offer for modern muscle cars like the Camaro, Mustang, Challenger, and Charger. It’s easier for us to stock these wheels since they’re made a little differently than the rest of our lineup,” Clutter explains.
It’s interesting to see how different high-performance parts are made since they’re designed to deal with such extreme conditions. RC Components takes a lot of pride in not only how it designs each product it produces, but also the fact the parts are all made right here in the United States.