There are few things more important to a project car than the wheels. Whether you’re a fan of the stock, subtle look; a racer in need of a specific wheel for a class; or a show car aficionado looking for that perfect eye-catching rim to set you apart, wheels are essential to every project’s exterior theme and can set the mood or destroy the flow of the car in the blink of an eye. Different personas require different wheels just as different owners require different paintjobs or exterior modifications, but nothing says personal like a well thought out wheel choice combined with a perfect exterior presentation. And whether you’re a faithful reader of Camaro Now or a brand-new owner looking for some options, you probably already know that wheel choices for the fifth-gen Camaro are essentially wide-open. Everywhere you look you can see killer wheels and friendly people willing to sell them to you and ship them to your door. Of course, with so many choices and so many “universal” fitments out on the market, it’s difficult to cut through the clutter and find the right wheel for your Camaro that not only looks good but also fits perfectly. That’s what we’re here for though—to help you figure out what’s what and narrow down your options to finally find the perfect set for your new Camaro.
TSW Nurburgring 20x9 and 20x10
West Coast Camaro 946 20x8, 20x9, and 20x10
Determining wheel diameter is the first part of the equation. We’ve probably all heard of 18s, 19s, and 20s and most likely understand that those numbers refer to the overall diameter of the wheel, measured in inches. Base fifth-gen Camaros ship with 18-inch hoops, while SS Camaros can be optioned with 20- or 21-inch wheels from the factory and the aftermarket can provide any number of options from 16-inch drag wheels all the way up to 26-inch showstoppers. Overall diameter is a function of style, tire sizing, driving preference, and budget, so there really isn’t a right answer when it comes to wheel diameter. If you like it and you can find a good tire in that size, go for it! On the small side, we have found several 16-inch offerings that can be worn on V-6 Camaros or those V-8 rides that have been swapped to run smaller brakes, while on the large side we have seen Camaros tuck 22- and 24-inch wheels quite nicely given that all other aspects of the sizing were correct.
Forgestar CF5 18x8.5, 18x9, 18x10, 18x11, 20x9, 20x9.5, 20x10.5, and 20x11
Once you’ve selected an overall diameter, it is time to figure out what width you would like to run. Base LS and 1LT Camaros ship from the factory with 7.5-inch-wide wheels front and rear, which is fairly narrow but allows for comparatively inexpensive tires (when combined with the 18-inch diameter) and adequate clearance between all of the stock suspension components. Going up from the 1LT, the 2LT, SS, and RS Camaros come with 8-inch-wide front wheels and 9-inch-wide rears, which allows for a much wider rear tire (275 mm compared to 245 found on the LS and 1LT models), although GM retained the same 245mm front width on all models. When buying new wheels you can choose to stay with the factory widths or, like many enthusiasts, you can step up to a wider wheel, which will allow you to run a wider tire and outfit your Camaro with a more aggressive look.
Overall width is dependent on a number of factors, including your brake package, wheel spoke design, diameter, and suspension height. As a general rule of thumb on a near-stock fifth-gen Camaro, it is safe to run a 9.5-inch-wide front wheel on the stock suspension and up to 11-inches wide in the rear. With 9.5 inches of width up front, tire options include 265 and 275 mm front, which will help reduce understeer and increase road feel. Out back, the 11-inch-wide rear can easily accommodate a 315mm tire, including some sticky rubber like the Nitto NT05. If you’re an enthusiast who likes to take things to the extreme, it is possible to fit 10-inch-wide front wheels using certain combinations, and it can be matched with 11.5-inch rears for an extreme look. Use caution if you go this route though, it is possible to run into clearance issues up front (interference with the inner wheel lip and the top of the factory spindle) as well as in the rear (stock lower control arm or the outer fender edge).
Wheel offset refers to the distance from the hub-mounting surface to the centerline of the wheel barrel and is typically measured in millimeters. More importantly, a wheel’s offset is essentially what locates the wheel-and-tire combination in relation to the suspension and the fender lip, which makes getting it right very important. If you had a 10-inch-wide wheel and the hub mounting surface (where the wheel bolts to the hub) sat directly in the center of the wheel’s width (5 inches on both sides), then the wheel would have “zero offset.” Moving the hub flange out toward the fender lip, or away from the center of the car, would create “positive offset” and can be measured in millimeters from the centerline of the wheel. In stock form, an SS Camaro ships from the factory with 20x8 front wheels that were built on a 34mm positive offset, meaning the hub mounting flange sits 34 millimeters away from the centerline, toward the fender lip. Increasing wheel width from 8 inches to 9 inches, it is necessary to adjust the offset of the wheel to keep the barrel of the wheel in a similar place, keeping it away from the suspension and still underneath the fender lip.
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for selecting offset, and different wheel designs, spoke treatments, and overall looks can drastically change what a wheel needs to work on the Camaro. As a rule of thumb, the further negative an offset is from stock, the more lip (or appearance of depth) the wheel can have and the closer it will be toward the fender. Additional positive offset will generally move the wheels inward toward the suspension, decreasing the lip size and suspension clearance. Of course, these numbers are dependent on overall width and design, so it is important to pay attention to the entire package when selecting a wheel. We’ve seen everything from -24 to +44mm offset on fifth-gen Camaros depending on the manufacturer and the wheel design, proving that there is no way to determine offset based on the car alone.
While obviously not wheels, tires play a critical role in wheel selection, altering the look and feel of the car greatly. In stock SS form, the Camaro sports a pair of 245/45/20 front tires matched to a pair of 275/40/20 rears. The first number, 275, indicates the width of the tread in millimeters while the 40 represents the aspect ratio of the tire or the percent of height compared to the width. The last two digits are the inner diameter, which corresponds to the wheel’s diameter that you have chosen. Aspect ratio is the golden ticket here, and its role in tire size is important to understand. For example, a 245/45/20 tire works out to be 28.7 inches in overall height, equal to a wider but shorter aspect ratio than 275/40/20, which works out to be 28.7 inches as well. This is especially important to remember in a new Camaro, since the ABS/TCS/Stabilitrak and ECM all rely on receiving equal wheel speed readings from each corner. If you end up with too much stagger in your wheel sizing by using a 26-inch-tall front tire with a 29-inch-tall rear, for instance, the GM ECM will report a malfunction and could shut down the ABS/TCS or Stabilitrak functions until the tire height issue is corrected. Not sure how to check tire height? No problem, most tire manufacturers print them alongside the regular information, so just make sure you confirm that your tires of choice fall within the acceptable height variations.
CCW Classic 17x4.5
Bogart Bolted R/T 16x4.5
Drag racers require maximum traction, increased tire sidewall, and generous tire width for quick e.t.’s and rapid acceleration, which makes running a smaller-diameter wheel with increased width advantageous. Typically, many drag-race wheel choices are based around available tire options or class limitations, with a majority of sticky drag radials and slicks in the 15- to 18-inch diameter range. Unfortunately, offerings in the 15-inch category are practically nonexistent at this time using any stock brake and suspension configuration, which makes 16-inch-diameter offerings the most desirable. If you’re interested in running a 16x10 rear, you will need to install V-6 Camaro rear brakes, ditching the SS Brembo calipers to gain the necessary clearance for the 16-inch-diameter wheel. Stepping up to a 17-inch wheel, both Weld Racing and Bogart offer bolt-on solutions for racers with Brembo rear calipers, although it should be noted that any “late 2010 or 2011” racers with the factory “roller skate” brake pads (noise dampers) will need to remove the offending tabs or install new brake pads sans roller skates. Rear widths can vary based on tire size, but we have seen 10-, 10.5-, and 11-inch offerings work well and fit within the stock wheelwells nicely. It should also be noted that some wheel manufacturers recommend installing aftermarket rear lower control arms with certain 17-inch wheels to gain clearance, so make sure you verify fitment before ordering anything.
Up front, the Camaro lends itself nicely to a 17- or 18-inch front wheel, which can be had in widths ranging from 4.5 inches to 9.5 inches, depending on your desired tire choice. Track-only warriors will prefer a skinny wheel with a matching M/T or M&H frontrunner-style tire to reduce drive friction and wheel weight. Again, running a 17-inch front wheel will require late 2010 and 2011 owners to remove the factory brake-pad noise dampers (the “roller skates”) to install the 17-inch wheels, regardless of width.
BBS CH-R 20x9, 20x10.5
Weld RT-S 17x4.7-10, 18x5-10.5, 20x4.5-10.5
Unlike drag racers, autocross and road-race enthusiasts are usually focused on overall width and spend more time concerned with weight and strength over factors like overall diameter and skinny front wheels. Tire choices are also paramount for corner-carvers, and choices seem to center around sidewall stiffness, aspect ratio, and tread pattern, which can dictate wheel choices in certain situations. We’ve found a plethora of sticky road-race tires in 17- and 18-inch offerings and recommend looking for either a 17- or 18-inch road-race wheel for serious track duty or a 20-inch if you still need a tire for street and track duty. Width is key here to support the tire under lateral loads, so it isn’t uncommon to see 18x9.5 fronts matched with 18x11 rears wearing 315/40/18 tires out back. If you’re looking to run a setup that can be even on all four corners, which allows for rotating of tires and a balanced feel, look into running a set of 18x9.5 wheels front and rear with an appropriate backspacing to allow for front and rear fitment.
Foose Design Speed 20x8.5, 20x10, 22x9, 22x10.5
On the street, style is king and beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Wheel diameter and width can range from the stock 18s all the way up to 24- or 26-inch offerings, and the sky is the limit when it comes to fitment and style. For budget-conscious enthusiasts, several manufacturers offer wheels that will work with the stock GM tire combinations, which allows owners to buy only the wheels and transfer the stock rubber over for a quick and easy upgrade. With 245s up front and 275s in the rear from the factory, it is easy to upgrade to different-style 20x8 and 20x9 hoops or owners can opt to go a little wider in the rear for a more aggressive look. Not interested in keeping the stock tires? No problem, the aftermarket is full of excellent wheel-and-tire combos to get you rolling, including wheels for every budget and taste imaginable. Just like the race stuff, stock suspended and bodied Camaros can run up to 9.5-inch-wide front wheels wrapped in up to 275mm-wide tires, while they can accommodate much wider 10.5- or 11-inch rears wrapped in 315 or 325mm rear tires. Luckily, several high-quality vendors such as discounttire.com and bestwheeldeals.com offer a ton of selection and great online shopping sites, which can make finding a wheel and ordering it a breeze. No matter what your style, make sure you check out some of our favorites, which are shown throughout this article and then give you favorite manufacturer or dealer a call to see what they can do for your fifth-gen.