"Lots of fire involved in all of our processes." — Scott Cobett, American Racing
American Racing begins its forged-wheel manufacturing process in Ventura County, California. Round bars of 6061 aluminum are cut into 10-inch sections using an industrial bandsaw.
The aluminum comes into the facility with zero temper (it’s soft) and the slugs are heated in an oven to more than 700 degrees F to anneal them and soften them further. The slugs are then pressed into disks on this rotary forge that flattens them using 250 tons of pressure.
The flattened forged discs are then installed on a spin-forging machine—basically, an enormous horizontal pottery wheel—that squeezes the aluminum wheel into shape.
Here you can see the spin-forging process forming the drop-center of the wheel. You can also see the form of the wheel’s inner bead seat, where the tire will sit.
Once off the spin forge, the wheels are heated again to more than 800 degrees for six hours. The process helps to relieve stress in the material and gives it a T3 temper.
Multi-piece forged wheels are made by forming the rim shell separately from the wheel face. The rim shell is forged like a one-piece wheel—it’s just missing the center. The two-piece wheel’s center is either a casting or a forging made like this one that gets cut to shape in a CNC mill.
In this case, American Racing’s VF489 wheel center is machined into a five-spoke pattern in Orange County, California. The bolt pattern is also machined in at this point. Depending on the wheel finish, wheels are either shipped to a polisher or head to American Racing’s Corona, California, facility, where the wheel centers are merged with rim shells.
Here a technician inspects and deburs the edges of the wheel faces.
A polished rim shell is then punched with a 7/16-inch hole for a valve stem.
The wheel face is set on one of these proprietary stands and the wheel backspacing is set with steel washers that have been ground flat and true on both sides.
Once again, heat is used to expand the forged rim’s shell as it rotates on this fixture.
The heated rim shell is then dropped over the wheel face until it sits flush and square. When the rim shell cools, it literally clenches the wheel face.
A machine is now used to rotate and concentrically position the wheel face to the rim shell and verify that the two are square.
A robotic MIG welder stitches the aluminum center to the aluminum rim shell with 4043 wire. The technician initiates the arc and the wheel spins while the MIG gun stays stationary.
After the two pieces are joined, the wheel is either sent out for an additional polishing or brought back to be inspected one more time for lateral and radial rim runout.
The finished wheels are boxed up and shipped around the world.