Without a doubt one of the coolest and easiest ways to customize the interior of your ride is to swap out the factory steering wheel for a totally custom, and usually more attractive, aftermarket wheel. The fact that a smaller diameter wheel with a fatter grip is far more comfortable and easier to handle is also of utmost importance. Besides, most modern street rods have such updated suspensions and drivetrains that using a steering wheel that complements the tremendous change in handling is a must. In these days we have a rich selection of styles and options thanks to companies like Lecarra.
We spent some time touring Lecarra's facility to get a better understanding of how these overlooked, but always in demand, pieces of our street rods are put together. After the tour we got a chance to sit down with Lecarra's owner, Chuck Losey, to learn more about the interesting history behind his business.
In 1976, the originators of the Lecarra steering wheel company, brothers Dick and Roy Ostein from San Diego, California, joined the military, and, like some living the military life, ended up stationed in France. Being car types at heart and having a plethora of sporty European cars around, the brothers decided to start a steering wheel business. The name "Lecarra" actually came from the brothers' mom's maiden name, Carra. It didn't take long for Lecarra to grow into an international name amongst sports car enthusiasts and musclecar freaks alike.
Soon, the company entered the whole new market of street rodding, which embraced the stylish and comfortable steering wheels they produced. After twelve years of building the France-based business, the two brothers sold it to American Ross Adams, who also took a 12-year stint working the steering wheel market. It wasn't until 2000 that Lecarra's current owner, Chuck Losey, transformed the 90 percent French manufactured business, into a 100 percent U.S. business.
According to Chuck, this was a long, tedious, and oftentimes expensive investment that he wouldn't trade for anything. Chuck's original idea was to always keep the good name of Lecarra, but to utilize American-made products and labor. Now the entire operation is done in-house with the help of 12 skilled and dedicated employees.
All this work behind the scenes, however, hasn't kept Chuck from focusing on where the steering wheel market is going today. In fact, Lecarra is about to introduce a new wheel to the lineup. In addition to its line of more than 37 different wheel configurations offered in dozens of finishes, grip materials, and colors, Lecarra has come up with a version of Ford's '40 Ford wheel in a 15-inch diameter with either a gloss black or a ready-to-paint finish. The wheel is designed to pop right onto an original '40 steering column or, with its newly designed adapter, can be mounted on just about any aftermarket street rod column out there. Once you see this wheel close-up, you will understand how much time and energy went into designing it; the quality manufacturing Lecarra is so well known for is evident. Chuck knows firsthand what an impact the retro-style of late has had on the aftermarket business simply because he is a hot rodder as well. We definitely feel this will only bring Lecarra and the street rod industry closer than ever before. Look to Lecarra for a few more retro surprises in the near future, but for now we'll take a closer look into how some of Lecarra's manufacturing processes are performed.