WHEEL FOLK

Unique Cars - - CLASSIC TYRES -

SO, YOU fancy a new set of wheels? The op­tions are dizzy­ing but here are a cou­ple of tips: First, do your re­search and, sec­ond, buy lo­cally. That’s not just be­cause we want to see you give lo­cal busi­ness a go, but there are real is­sues in buy­ing wheels in com­par­a­tively anony­mous spa­ces such as on­line auc­tion sites.

There are lo­cal stan­dards that are sup­posed to be ad­hered to when it comes to wheels. To put it crudely, we’ve seen some ab­so­lute crap ap­pear from time to time – some­thing that a rep­utable lo­cal op­er­a­tion will not have any­thing to do with, as the le­gal and in­sur­ance im­pli­ca­tions are just too ugly.

Re­strict­ing your­self to a lo­cal busi­ness is no great hard­ship. One of our ad­ver­tis­ers is Wheel Pros, based in Queens­land, al­lied to the large USA firm of the same name. If you go to wheel­prosaus­tralia.com.au, you’ll find a mas­sive range that cov­ers pretty much any­thing from six­ties and seven­ties hero cars through to street ma­chines and con­tem­po­rary rock­ets.

When nar­row­ing down your choice, a bit of ad­vice can be handy. Be­ing armed with ba­sics like your car's year and model is a good start – so long as it’s run­ning stan­dard hubs. Find­ing out the stud pat­tern, pitch cir­cle di­am­e­ter (PCD), cen­tre spigot di­am­e­ter and wheel off­set is a fair bit to get your head around. Then you need to con­sider the ac­tual clear­ance in the wheel well and how dif­fer­ent width and di­am­e­ter com­bi­na­tions might work in that set­ting.

This where on on­line car se­lec­tor can be help­ful, but in the end some on­site ad­vice is prob­a­bly the best op­tion.

For some guid­ance let's turn to Paul Houreh who runs a small op­er­a­tion called Wheel Mods in Mel­bourne’s eastern sub­urbs, where he re­pairs, ma­chines and makes wheels for a num­ber of com­pa­nies.

He came to Aus­tralia in 2008 as a ma­chin­ist, with a skills visa, and ended up in a busi­ness part­ner­ship. Some years down the track, Paul de­cided to branch out on his own. Along the way he de­cided a se­ri­ous equip­ment up­grade was re­quired, so he bought his first Haas CNC ma­chine. If the name sounds fa­mil­iar, it’s be­cause Haas has for years been in­volved in toplevel mo­tor rac­ing.

There are now two ma­chines in the work­shop, which are of­ten set to run overnight for some of the big­ger jobs.

Paul’s bread-and-but­ter work is ma­chin­ing cast wheel blanks for other com­pa­nies. The idea is a wheel dis­trib­u­tor will im­port one blank in quan­tity, then have them ma­chined down for in­vid­ual cars, with dif­fer­ent stud pat­terns and off­sets. For many com­pa­nies, that’s the most eco­nom­i­cal way to go.

He has also re­cently taken up ma­chin­ing forged wheels to his own de­signs, usu­ally for high-end per­for­mance cars. Blank forg­ings are im­ported from the USA and ma­chin­ing them down takes around five to seven hours. Of course there’s no go­ing back once you start, so the specs he di­als in have to be right the first time! Each de­sign has to be tested to pass lo­cal stan­dards.

Ev­i­dently forged wheels have some ad­van­tages; with tighter pro­duc­tion tol­er­ances, are stronger and lighter. Paul quotes the ex­am­ple of a 20-inch cast wheel which might weigh 15-17kg, com­pared to the forged item at 9-10kg – a mas­sive sav­ing in un­sprung weight that he says changes the feel of the car for the bet­ter.

In the last year, Paul has opened up his busi­ness to the pub­lic, now do­ing in­di­vid­ual fit­tings and re­pairs. A lot can be done to fix a wheel, in­clud­ing rolling out dented rims and clean­ing up gravel rash.

When it comes to fit­ting re­place­ment wheels, he warns you need to ei­ther be very aware of the re­quire­ments for that par­tic­u­lar car, and/or get pro­fes­sional ad­vice. Among the ‘traps’ for young play­ers are what’s al­lowed by the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, in ad­di­tion to tech­ni­cal is­sues like what off­sets work best to ‘fill’ a guard without rub­bing and whether your choices are go­ing to clear crit­i­cal com­po­nents such as brake calipers.

You can find him on­line at wheelmods.com.au.

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