Fitting a set of wheels isn’t exactly a technical exercise, but in Johnny Tipler’s case, think again, as he sets out to install a set of Group 4Wheels’ Fuchs reps on his 986 S
Icouldn’t make my mind up at first. Did I like them, or maybe not so much? It’s one thing to backdate a 3.2 Carrera to look like a 2.7RS, but it’s always going to be tricky to get a Boxster to look like a 550 Spyder or 718RSK. With the current 986 S, I’d already equalled the spec of the 986 Boxster 550 Spyder 50th Anniversary model that Mrs T ran a couple of years ago. Done a colour change, too. Where to go next with it? “Get a set of Fuchs replicas,” declared The Dear Leader (AKA editor Bennett in another life). OK, that certainly says retro. But I liked the existing five-spoke 18in Carrera wheels that were refugees from my 996, which I’d had powder-coated grey to set off the Aetna Blue, a classic Porsche hue applied by John Isolda’s wonderful Spray-and-peel bodyshop (“Looks like a new car, mate” is not an uncommon compliment). Anyway, I’m usually game for a spot of shapeshifting and game changing, so I got on to Jonathan Sage at Group 4 Wheels and he sent me a pair of his 18in Fuchs replicas (front and rear), while I collected a second pair to go on the other side from Paul Stephens where they’d been used for a photoshoot. I specified the Anthracite grey spokes, which I thought would tone in nicely with the blue body colour, and weren’t so far off the grey of the Carrera wheels. The set of four were united at Kingsway Tyres, Norwich, where a quartet of Continental Contisportcontacts (225/40ZR18 N2 and 265/35ZR18 N2) awaited them.
What could be simpler? Why the dramas? Let’s start with those 996 Carrera wheels. Boxsters could be specified with them, though an inch narrower at the rear, and because these haled from the 996 the rears were a bit too wide for the 986, and would only work with 20mm spacers to clear the dampers. There were also 5mm spacers on the front to help match the expanded rear track. So, when the longsuffering staff at Kingsway Tyres came to fit the Fuchs reps from Group 4 Wheels it was obvious that the rim offsets were completely different – the Carrera’s being on the inside, and the Fuchs on the outside. However, it appeared that we would still need another set of spacers at the back to clear the dampers and handbrake cable. After much back-sliding underneath the rear of the Boxster, the manager refused to let me out with the Fuchs on. So, I duly ordered up a set of 3mm spacers from Porscheshop, plus new bolts to replace the old longer ones, which had previously had the ends sawn off
to avoid clipping the discs. We had another go. This time there was a decent gap between inner wheel-rim and damper as well as handbrake cable, but now, the rear tyres were just proud of the wheelarches and risked chafing on the steel of the arches. “You can have the arches rolled quite cheaply,” one of the guys told me. I contacted Jonathan at Group 4 Wheels who expressed surprise that there were any issues at all, and also my illustrious colleague, Brett “no coffee” Fraser, to see if he had similar issues with his yellow 986 S and its shameless-red Fuchs reps. “Nope,” he said; “Just drove mine to Chantilly and back, two up with luggage, and nary a squeak nor a grind did the tyres or wheels make, even on some rough French back roads.” And that’s with no spacers. OK, then, I decided that’s how it’s going to be. My Kingsway benefactors heave a sigh of relief and, once again, get their jacks out. The Boxster is lowered by 10mm on its M30 springs but they have a new easy-under jack that doesn’t need the plank of wood to elevate the car to allow the jack under. All spacers now out of the picture, the new Fuchs reps went straight on, no problem.
And, having had them on the car for a few days, they have grown on me. As I drive around, I’m feeling self-conscious in this fresh “look at me” manifestation, and I wonder if their trad metal-petal centres seem to be revolving backwards in the characteristic trompe l’oeil way that oldtimer five-spoke Fuchs do. Those lovely concave wide-rim offsets – everything that this teenage boy racer loved and aspired to – makes them seem bigger on the car than the 18in Carrera set. And yet the new Contisports are actually a tad smaller on the back than the Vredestein Ultrac Vortis on the Carrera wheels. From certain angles they seem to emphasise the length of the car. But, more importantly, how do they affect the driving experience? There is a discernible difference in the feel of the car on the road; it feels lighter on its feet, slightly more relaxed and, by that, I mean less taut, though that’s not meant to be a detractor, rather the opposite. But why? Does it feel better because the axles no longer have spacers to take into account? Is it because it’s got a set of brand-new tyres on now? The main thing is that there’s no evidence of the rims catching on the dampers or fouling the handbrake cable, so it’s all good in that department.
Come January, though, there’ll be another swap-over when I get the original Boxster S ten-spokes (or are they double fives?) fitted, shod with their brilliant Vredestein winter rubber ahead of another bash at the Monte Carlo Historique. Next year (Jan/feb) they’ve got Matthias Waldegård (son of Bjorn) and veteran Hans Sylvan starring in a 911, commemorating Bjorn’s and Lars Helmer’s 1969 victory aboard a similar 911. There’s always snow in the Ardéche and Alps, and special stages are accessible with winter tyres unless studs are called for. I’ve used Nokian Hakkapelittas in the past, and last year the Vredestein Giugiaros worked a treat, so it’ll be running those till spring comes around and then, come Tour Auto in April, we’ll have the Fuchs on again. Got to keep up with the retro boys! PW
A different view and different car. These are the same wheels as fitted to Group 4 wheel designer, Chris Johnson’s own Boxster 986