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Posts filed under ‘Wheels’

I Hate Black Wheels on Cars

October 10, 2016 by Matt


It’s over. Done. Played. The party’s over. The fad has reached its tipping point, its 15 minute of fame are up, etc etc.

Black wheels, I mean. Cannot stand them. I maintain that they were never attractive to begin with, but even allowing for the ebb and flow of popular taste, the trend is decidedly far past its expiration date.

Why the hate? Simple: When the wheels are painted black, the wheel design does not stand out and does not complement the car’s lines. Might as well be running steelies with no hubcaps. Especially complicated wheel shapes, which otherwise would harmonize with the styling of the vehicle to which they’re fitted simply disappear in a mass of black nothingness.


This epidemic is present everywhere, from expected places like wheel-and-tire ads in magazines to muscle cars even to factory fitment on $100K luxury SUVs like Jaguar’s new F-Pace (above). Visually, it does not work and has never worked. The design intent may be to make the car seem more badass and muscular, but the effect is to erase any visual gains by making the car seem like it has an egregious brake dust problem on all 4 wheels.

It’s time for a de-escalation of the wheel size arms race anyway, and a side effect of black wheels is to camouflage its true diameter. Perhaps if a car’s wheels flaunted a brighter finish, people would recoil in horror at their vehicle’s stonking rollers and demand a bit more tire sidewall. One can only hope…

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A Gallery of Attractive Factory Wheels

June 28, 2013 by Matt

Just leave ’em alone.

Many (most?) efforts by a car’s owner to “improve” its styling end in (visual) disaster. Giving credence to the notion that yes, the car’s designers knew what they were doing, here’s an assortment of cars that came from the factory with wheels especially well-designed and matched to the lines of the cars’ sheetmetal.

BMW Style 42 Wheels Rims

E39 BMW 530i Sport. Many bodystyles of BMW of have been fitted with a variety of gorgeous wheels, but the Style 42s (the automaker’s internal designation) that came with the later E39 530i Sport take the top prize. Delicate, detailed, stunning, perfect.

Audi C5 RS6

C5 Audi RS6. Audi gave its range-topping early-2000s siege weapon these lovely shoes. Simple but imposing, the lack of a lip lightens the visual weight of the wheels’ design at the same time the turbine-inspired shape, together with the flared fenders, creates the impression of relentless thrust.

1996 Nissan Maxima

1995-1999 Nissan Maxima. I really like what Nissan did here. The spokes are thick and strong, but angled to reflect rotational movement, and they’re finished in natural brushed aluminum, always a good choice.

Porsche 911 993 Silver

Porsche 993. Porsche equipped its last great air-cooled machine with these steamrollers. They’re awesomely wide, and the twisted-spoke design makes it look like the engine’s torque is about to wrench the hub clean off the rim. Love.

Jaguar Series 1 E-Type Drophead Blue

1961-1974 Jaguar E-Type. And since no list of hot factory wheels is complete without including classic British sports cars’ cleaning nightmares, here’s the most iconic car to wear them. No E-Type, Triumph, Austin-Healey or MG (among others) looks quite right without a set of wire wheels. Don’t touch.

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A Paean to Taller Sidewalls

June 28, 2011 by Matt

Wheels 1

How I miss thee, once mighty 16″, when you roamed the sports car savannah unchallenged, peerless as the wheel diameter of choice for any respectable performance car.

Then, one day, the 3000GT VR-4 and the JZA80 Supra Turbo arrived on the scene, with their exotic new 17″ wheels. Suddenly, the floodgates were open, and wheel diameters have been increasing at a rapid pace ever since. These days, 19″ wheels are virtually de rigeur if a manufacturer wants a sports car to be taken seriously.

The reasons for the increase are understandable: The evolution of tire technology has permitted shorter sidewalls for a given width at a somewhat economical price, and the neverending perception that more = better. But to these eyes, we’ve lost a couple of things as automotive fashion has tilted toward larger diameter wheels:

  1. The price. Tire prices seem to go up exponentially for each inch increase in diameter, and the difference in price between a set of 18″ tires versus, some quality 15″ pieces is outrageous. Don’t doubt me; check Tire Rack for confirmation.
  2. The look. This is more arguable, but larger wheels make cars look smaller and more toy-like. Combine the wheel size with the lack of surface artifacts currently in vogue, and you have a crop of new cars that ends up looking distressingly like Hot Wheels™. And while that may be appreciated by some, I like my cars to look a bit more, well, adult, thankyouverymuch.
  3. Suspension life. Taller sidewalls absorb road imperfections much more readily than shorter ones. With every increase in wheel size, for a given road, we’re asking more of our suspension bushings, shocks and body structure. Granted, the advances in CAD-optimized body stiffness and suspension component material somewhat mitigate this downside, but why not have the best of both worlds? Control arm bushings that could last 150K miles or more? With taller sidewalls, it’s definitely within the realm of possibility.

Maybe I’m just a cheapskate. Or maybe I’m just an old fogie trapped in the ’80s, when cars were made with wheel arches proportioned to accommodate smaller wheels, and that look profoundly silly when some enterprising teenager decides to slap on a set of wagon wheel 19s (with the wrong offset as well, natch). Perhaps. But come what may, I’ll always be a fan of cars that just look right with a set of good-looking basketweave 15s or 16s. Maybe 17s. But not an inch bigger.

6 Comments on A Paean to Taller Sidewalls