In the world of aftermarket wheels, an enthusiast writes a “three bears” type of story in their search for the ultimate wheel with the right look, the right price, and the right quality. Prices can range from just under $200 all the way up to over $1,500 per wheel. As you can guess, along with the increase in price comes an increase in quality, finishes, and available sizes.
The lower-priced wheels will fit anyone’s budget, but what you see is typically what you get. The higher-priced wheels will have a myriad of finish options, but can quickly run past your budget in a hurry. In our search for the right wheel for Project Track Attack’s street prowling, we walked away from the limited ‘too cold’ selection and the pricey ‘too hot’ offerings to find something that’s ‘just right’ for our Plymouth, and that brings us to our review of Weld Racing’s RT-S series wheels and Nitto’s NT555 G2 tires for the street.
RT-S Series Is Just Right For Our Needs
Weld Racing has been our preferred choice for this project car, for both street and track performance. When we wanted to go racing with wider tires, the RT-S series came through for us the right size and offset to fit our much wider 315/40R18 race tires. The S76, found in Weld’s Street Performance line of wheels, gives the same choices in size and offset, but allows us options to get the right muscle car stance, keeping with the 1960s-1970s theme of wide rear wheels and narrow front wheels.
Starting at prices just over $300 and up to just over $1,300 per wheel, you can’t deny the quality that Weld puts into its wheels. The billet centers of the three-piece RT-S wheels are mated to a forged two-piece shell that we found out has zero runouts, meaning a smooth ride to match the great looks. With in-house testing processes that keep quality under the same roof that manufactures the wheels, Weld controls what gets through inspection with its own higher standards.
The RT-S Series includes several models, with sizes ranging from 15×3.5 inches up to a massive 20×17 inches for those steamroller applications. Staying within the moderate range of sizes, our 18×7-inch wheels and 18×9.5-inch rear wheels retail at about $700 each. While many of the ‘too hot’ wheels are amazing wheels in their own right, we’ve found that they start at over $1,500 per wheel, making the RT-S a much better fit for our budget: quality, looks, and price.
Testing Beyond Acceptable Standards
However, wheels manufactured at Weld don’t meet just the standard testing procedures. Instead of settling on acceptable results, Weld goes above and beyond to be sure that its wheels are better than acceptable. Each wheel designed starts with a virtual reality testing process called FEA (Finite Element Analysis), which is a series of virtual testing processes that allows Weld to test and refine the wheel prior to any forging or cutting into a block of billet aluminum.
Once the wheel passes FEA tests, it can be built and tested in the real world, enduring procedures that would have many cast wheels breaking apart at either the hub or the spokes. The three physical tests each wheel goes through include: the Rotary test, which places a side load on the center of the wheel; the Radial test, which places a physical load on the wheel and tire combination that exceeds the load rating; and the Drop test, which simulates the dreaded curb check.
Each of these tests would have those ‘too cold’ wheels crying for mercy, and while it’s hard to watch the abuse on such beautiful wheels, Weld runs these tests to make sure that your wheels don’t meet the same results as cast wheels when accidents occur in the real world – either on the street, or at the track.
Wrapping Up Our Wheels With Nitto’s NT 555 G2
Now that we’ve found that ‘just right’ wheel for Project Track Attack, we were tasked with finding that ‘just right’ tire for the thousands of miles our Plymouth sees on the street. That wasn’t going to be an easy task, as we’ve found that our desire to get the classic muscle car look of wide rear tires and narrow front tires – while clearing our Master Power disc brakes – left us rather limited on tire choices.
We could find the right wide tire for our 9.5-inch rear wheel, but couldn’t find the same tire in narrow width’s to fit our 7-inch front wheel. When we found a tire to fit the front wheel, we were limited on rear width. Then we noticed a new ad showing up on our pages and it had us checking out the Nitto Tire website, specifically the NT555 G2, listed as a Summer Ultra High-Performance Tire.
The size chart for the NT555 G2 showed us sizes to fit from 17 to 20-inch wheels, with a suggested width of 6.5 to 12.5 inches, depending on the tire size, and side profile ratios from a low 30 series up to a muscle car-era 50 series. This gave us a few choices to consider, and for ride comfort and looks we chose the 235/50R18 for the front and a wide 295/45R18 tire in the rear.
These choices give us a similar overall diameter to match what we had with our 15-inch Cop Car Rallye wheels back when we first started modifying the Plymouth. While we enjoy the low profile tires we use for racing at the track, it’s nice to put a little more air between wheel and pavement for those longer drives on the freeway. The taller rear tire helps with fuel mileage, as well as giving us a classic look with more sidewall showing.
Improvements Over The NT555 Ultra Performance Tire
The NT555 G2 replaces many of the NT555 sizes, Nitto’s previous version of this tire. Coming in at a treadwear rating of 320 versus the NT555’s rating of 300, the tires are virtually identical on paper, and that led us to investigate what’s new with the NT555G2.
The NT555 G2 is a solid street tire with track tire characteristics. Though it’s listed as a Summer tire, it’s a perfect combination of looks and performance for our normally dry Southern California weather with improved wet and dry ratings on the chart. After driving a couple hundred miles on the tires, we found the road noise to be minimal and the comfort to be above average. After driving on low profile tires for the past couple of years, the higher profile tires are a welcome change.
The tires have increased outer and inner blocks for better traction on dry days, with four circumferential grooves and twin center ribs to aid in evacuating water on wet days. The wider shoulder blocks improve handling on both wet and dry cornering over the NT555 tire.
For the musclecar look and feel, Nitto provides larger tread blocks for the 275 and wider series tires, perfect for traction on cars with staggered fitments and higher horsepower. While we found that we were constantly chirping our tires under heavy acceleration with lesser tires, the wide 295-wide rear tire is harder to break loose, giving us more control when we lay the hammer down.
Sidewall stiffness is firm on the NT555 G2, even though we’re running higher profile tires. The cornering is still quite controlled and with our full coilover setup we still possess great handling despite stepping away from a lower profile tire with a stickier compound. This provides confidence on the street and we have to admit it does encourage spirited driving – after all, the car is set up to road race. While many see the cloverleaf as a freeway ramp, we still see it as a sweeper coming out of turn nine at Willow Springs.
While we do keep the speeds reasonable on the streets, it is difficult at times. But when you have a set of wheels that look this great, and a true performance tire mounted to it, you don’t have anything to prove and sometimes it’s nice to show off a little and let people take a gander at your car.