Our latest instalment focuses on a long-running ‘five-leaf’ design sitting in the 911’s arches
Apart from the 911’s basic outline there’s surely no other component that so instantly defines our favourite sports car. It’s fair to say that few wheel designs have reached iconic status – the ‘Minilite’ being one, perhaps – but the Fuchs alloy rim thoroughly deserves such consideration and, like many things emanating from Zuffenhausen, it was all about improving performance of the Porsche 911.
A sure-fire way to better handling is reducing unsprung weight, and that’s where lighter wheels come in. Porsche knew this of course, spending considerable time and money on developing a cast magnesium rim with specialist, VDM. It didn’t work, so next stop was the company of otto Fuchs, who were already supplying wheels for military vehicles.
heinrich Klie and his team are credited with the initial design, one refined before entering production. Featuring a forged aluminium centre and rolled aluminium rim, the classic ‘five-leaf’ design made its debut on the 1966 911s. while it was notably more expensive than the steel wheels employed up to then (and complex to make, with a reputed 58-step production process) it saved a couple of kilos at each corner, and that was all that mattered. That original wheel was just 4.5-inches wide, but as sizes grew – they’d measure around twice that by the time production ended – the relative weight saving increased, bringing ever greater benefits.
never one to stand still, Porsche pressed on with development of other designs, including the ATS ‘cookie-cutter’ and the ‘telephone dial’ rim that became standard fitment for the 964s. however, the Fuchs remained an option, and it was the one that everyone wanted. In fact, such was the demand that by 1988 it had once again become the standard wheel for the 3.2 carrera – offered in 15- and 16-inch sizes – and would remain that way until production ended in 1989. It would surely have been a natural progression to refine the design and retain it for the succeeding 964 – only there was a problem. The Fuchs rim wasn’t suitable for a car that was launched with driven front wheels and anti-lock brakes, the offset of the legendary design at odds with the geometry required for the new model. The resulting effect on stability would have affected the ABS operation, so a new design was needed, but it looked like time had been called after more than twenty years of adorning the neunelfer. Fans were in luck, though, as it was reinterpreted for both the 997 sport classic and 991 50 Jähre edition. like we said, an icon.
“The classic ‘five-leaf’ design made its debut on the 1966 911S”