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

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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

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