Choosing wheels for your car often takes a lot more than just randomly picking a wheel and hoping it will fit your car. Just like choosing the right cylinder heads, carburetor, or camshaft, you need to choose the right wheel for your car. Wheels are more than just jewelry for your car, they’re a statement and often reflect your style and taste.
As with almost any performance part you install on your car, you get what you pay for. The local chain store parts retailer can hook you up with a cheap wheel that will still look cheap within a couple of months, and you’ll have to live with it every day. But choosing a quality wheel that will serve it’s purpose and still look great years later is going to take a little research – and companies like Weld Racing can put you in a set of wheels that will not only fit your car physically, but they’ll fit your car aesthetically – and you won’t mind seeing them every day.
Many wheel manufacturers already have wheel sizes set in stone: the diameters and available offsets are already configured, and sometimes the wheel you like the most won’t fit your application. Having the right bolt pattern is simple, but the offset is where you run into fitment issues. You can get spacers in increments as small as 1/16-inch up to 2-inches or more, but adding spacers defeats the purpose of getting a proper fitting wheel. The better bet is to step up to a quality wheel that is made to order, so it will fit your car properly – the first time.
Wheel spacers and adapters are not required with Weld Racing’s RT-S line of performance wheels, because you can order a wide variety of offsets and diameters. There are currently a few wheel styles available from Weld in the RT-S series, and there are literally thousands of applications to fit just about any musclecar from the 1950s up to modern cars like the Camaro, Mustang, Z06 Corvette, and Challenger.
A good representative of those applications can be found on the Weld Racing web site, but if your car isn’t listed they invite you to contact them. There are more applications available than listed on their website, and the applications are constantly growing and expanding – including the three new styles available for 2014.
Wheels For Nearly Every Application
Weld Racing offers RT-S wheels in various widths and popular diameters to fit your classic car or musclecar. With the available styles in the RT-S line, you’ll find wheels as narrow as 4.5-inches up to an astonishing 18-inches wide, in 15-, 17-, 18-, and 20-inch diameters.
Having all of these sizes will allow more people to find a set of wheels that will fit their application – regardless of whether the car is modified or left stock in appearance. The five-lug wheels include many popular wheel-bolt patterns; the S71 wheel is also available in a four-lug pattern for Fox-body Mustangs.
With so many applications and sizes available, it would stand to reason that the RT-S wheels are made to order. Weld lists the turnaround time for ordering a set of wheels to be 4-6 weeks, from the day the order is placed. The centers are available polished or black anodized, and the center cap and valve stems are included with the wheels. For lug nuts, it’s best to use tuner style lug nuts with a conical seat that meet SAE J2530 aftermarket wheel (street) standards.
The three-piece design helps to add strength over a two-piece wheel, with cold-forged shells that utilize a unique welded assembly process. The forged billet centers are stylish on almost any vehicle, whether you’re aiming for the drag strip, the autocross, or even that classic musclecar look from the 1970s.
Forming the material over the dies, forging it into shape, also increases the strength of the aluminum, making a stronger. -Nick Rickels
In order to get a better idea of how these wheels are made, we talked with Nick Rickels, Manufacturing Engineer with Weld Racing. One of the first questions we asked was about the difference between the various wheels, and whether they go through different manufacturing processes.
Rickels tells us that the process is exactly the same with all RT-S wheels, meaning they can be used in nearly any application. While the five-spoke design is a classic look that many people associate with drag racing, Rickels said, “Weld offers up three more styles to give customers more options when it comes to their preference and vehicle style.” He adds, “Build-wise, there is no difference in what style of wheel is better for different applications.”
What Rickels was sharing is that while many people associate a multi-spoke wheel with autocross, it’s really just a preference to design or style, and not form and function. Each of the RT-S wheels are made using the same process. Rickels said, “The inner and outer shells are cold forged, while the center is a forged 6061 aluminum that is black anodized, with the design CNC milled for detail.”
Cold forging is a process that allows Weld to start with a flat circle of aluminum and it is pressed over a form to give the exact shape desired. This gives excellent strength using the least amount of material possible. Rickels said, “Forming the material over the dies, forging it into shape, also increases the strength of the aluminum, making a stronger wheel.”
All of the cold forging is done in-house at Weld, which allows them the flexability to build wheels to customers’ expectations. Once the shells are forged into shape, Weld has a semi-automated MIG process where the shells are clamped into a custom-built rotary welding fixture that turns the wheels during the MIG weld, producting a precise, consistent weld. The center is placed into the shells and they are shrunk onto the center and welded into place. From there, the wheels are given a final color buff to bring out the shine that Weld Racing wheels are known for.
Weld Racing’s Pad Height
Another feature of the RT-S line is the pad height for the wheel centers. Some wheels are available with varying offsets, but if you’ve installed big brakes on your car, often times the spokes won’t clear the bigger calipers. The only way around it is to install one of those spacers we mentioned earlier, and wheel spacers will change your offset – putting you back to square one.
Weld saw a need for allowing you to choose the proper wheel offset for your car and give you the option of changing the pad height instead of the wheel offset.
Their solution will keep you in the same style and offset, but still allow you to clear big brakes. Weld’s pad height for the wheel centers are available in low, medium, and high to clear just about any braking system you have on your vehicle. Instead of calculating wheel spacers and backspacing changes, the pad height is built into the wheel centers by adding an arch to the spokes to clear 4- and 6-piston calipers.
The larger the caliper, the higher the pad height should be. If you’re running a factory style disc brake up front and drums in the rear, you might be able to fit a low pad height, and Weld can assist you with that. A general rule of thumb is that a single piston, factory slider caliper or drum brakes usually works with a low pad height; with a small multi-piston caliper you would consider the medium pad height; for larger multi-piston calipers, consider the high pad height.
Of course, with the larger brakes you want to be sure that your wheels are going to clear big diameter brake rotors, as well, but the higher pad height will maintain the backspacing you planned for and still clear the brakes. Again, contact Weld Racing for assistance with pad heights, they can help get you in the correct wheel with the proper pad height.
Wheels For Street, Strip, Track and Show
Many cars that you see on the dragstrip will have a five-spoke wheel, and the RT-S line includes the S71 with either a polished or anodized black center. The RT-S S71 wheels can be ordered in 17- or 18-inch sizes to clear big brakes up front, and 15-inch sizes to fit drag radials out back. They can also be ordered as a staggered set with wider wheels in the back, all the way up to an astonishing 18-inches wide.
Although we often see these wheels on cars that hit the 1320, that doesn’t meant they aren’t equally home on a street cruiser or classic musclecar. Our Mustang sports a set of S71 wheels and it sees a lot of track time, with drag radials on the rear and skinnies up front, but it’s not strictly a drag car. The Mickey Thompson tires give it the right look, with tire sizes that fit the recommended wheel width. Mickey Thompson has several styles of drag racing tires, some of which are street legal, and sizes from 15-inch diameters up through 20-inches.
Going from the drag strip to the street – and into road racing, Weld’s S75, S76, and S77 wheels will look great on the street as well as on the big road course or autocross track. Also a three-piece wheel, the RT-S pro-touring wheels are made with the same qualities as the S71, but the available three styles will give you more choices when it comes to your classic or modern musclecar.
The S75 is a retro-look five spoke design that captures the heritage of most classic musclecars with it’s broad spokes and fine lines. The S76 and S77 wheels are multi-spoke wheels that are more often found on cars that hit the curves either on the autocross or in road racing, although each RT-S wheel would be right at home no matter where you drive. The myth that multi-spoke wheels are for pro-touring and five-spoke wheels are for drag racing will likely be around for a long time, but the truth is that Weld puts each of their RT-S wheels through the same stringent tests to make sure they’re strong enough to put up with the abuse we put our wheels through at the track – and still come out looking great when we clean them up.
Weld Racing’s Application Guide
We race our 1965 Plymouth Belvedere at Willow Springs, and plan to hit a couple of autocross events this year, and we needed a wheel that would fit the classic Mopar without a bunch of problems. It’s pretty common to find a wheel that will fit a modern musclecar like the Mustang, but what happens when you have a car like ours: over 45 years old and sporting a set of factory 15-inch wheels for decades?
We checked to see if Weld’s application guide would provide us with the part numbers to fit our application. We began by measuring our wheel wells, the distance from the leaf spring to the fender for the rear, and taking measurements for the front as well. When we figured out what offset we needed for our wide wheels, we hit the application guide on Weld’s web site and looked up the part numbers they had listed for our car.
We ordered the wheels that their guide calls for, and it was a perfect fit – setting the wheel between the leaf spring and the inner fender well perfectly. While that might be an easy task for fifth gen Mustang or Camaro, or a popular classic musclecar from Ford or Chevrolet, we were looking for a set of Pro-Touring wheels for our 1965 Plymouth. Our wheels needed to be wide enough for the Mickey Thompson Street Comp tires, with a 275/40R18 in the rear and a 245/40R18 in the front.
Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to finding out that very few vendors list parts for our Mopar, so we were pretty sure that we’d have to come up with our own part number. But not with Weld Racing’s RT-S wheels – the application guide listed a set of part numbers for 1965-70 B-body Mopars. Our wheels didn’t require a spacer as they were a direct fit, first time out of the box, with no rubbing anywhere due to the extra wide widths. Keep in mind, this isn’t a typical plus 1, 2, or 3 application – our factory stock wheels were a puny 14×6-inches. The new Weld Racing wheels come in at 18×8.5-inches in the front, and 18×9.5-inches in the rear.
Overview of RT-S Wheels
The one thing that we sometimes notice with aftermarket wheels, especially the low-priced wheels from the chain stores, is that the wheels lose their luster after a couple of weeks in the elements. Spinning some of these less expensive wheels will show you high and low spots, or runout – where the wheel can wobble from side to side. But watching the RT-S wheels spin, it’s clear that they are made to exacting specifications – there is virtually no runout and each wheel must past very strict tests for fit and finish.
Weld has taken their racing wheel technology to the street with affordable wheels that will withstand what you put them through, and still look great with simple, easy to follow care instructions. While some wheels are clear coated for limited protection, they can often turn yellowish and lose the shine after a few months.
Weld doesn’t recommend using so-called “all wheel” cleaners that you can get from the auto parts store to care for your wheels. Many wheel cleaners have chemicals that can dull the finish or leave spots that are difficult to remove, therefore, Weld recommends a soft, lint-free cloth and mild soap. A regular routine for cleaning your wheels will keep the finish lasting longer. Read the warnings on many wheel cleaners and they’ll tell you to spray an inconspicuous area first to make sure the cleaner doesn’t stain the wheel. If you’re like us, there isn’t any part of the wheel that we don’t notice.
We have had our RT-S wheels on the Belvedere for a few months, and regular maintenance is required to keep the polished surface looking great. That regular maintenance requires only a soft cloth and mild soap and water to clean them up and bring back the highly polished finish.
You can easily ruin a set of wheels by using chemicals designed to etch into the metal, leaving you a dull, abrasive finish. But we’ve followed the very simple rules for cleaning our RT-S wheels and we’re glad to report that several months later they still look as great as they did the first day.
We were able to order our RT-S wheels directly from Weld using their online application guide. The guides do take into account that your vehicle has the stock brakes and are tailored for a stock vehicle. However, Rickels told us that they have other solutions for those who have installed aftermarket brakes on their cars. He recommends that you contact Weld directly and give the salesperson the details about your car and the part numbers for your brake kits. He said, “Currently, we have about 250 brake kits already on file,” which allows their salesperson to cross reference their database and find out what fits your car, and what pad height you should order to clear those calipers.
With a few styles to choose from, and so many applications to fit, the RT-S line from Weld Racing has proven to be extremely versatile with regards to style, fitment, and sizes. This makes it easier for someone to find a quality wheel that will fit their car and continue to look great for years to come. You can find out more about the RT-S wheel at the Weld Racing web site, and talk to one of their salespeople to get the proper wheel for your car. Try out their new wheel configurator and see if what some of their wheels will look like on many popular cars. Or, you can go back to that chain store and the “wall of wheels” and take your chances – don’t forget to order wheels spacers while you’re at it.