Ever since enthusiasts started bolting chrome reverse wheels on old jalopies and '50s hot rods, custom wheels have been mainstays on performance cars and street machines. Few modifications tell the cruise night crowd that your car is a hot rod as quickly as updated rolling stock, and no modification is more universal. Whether you drive a '69 Camaro, '65 Nova, '57 Bel Air or '00 Camaro, a set of custom wheels and performance tires are destined to make it stand out.
These days the custom tire and wheel market is larger than ever, which means enthusiasts have a lot more research to do when choosing the right rollers for their rides. With wheels, you have to consider diameter, width, backspacing, and offset, all of which will affect fit and performance. And then there's the ever-important style factor. Do you want the factory-performance look of a rally wheel, the racing influence of lightweight aluminum or the contemporary look of billet?
In a similar vein, today's performance tires come in a wider variety than ever before. While many still offer a balance of everyday comfort and handling performance, several new offerings are designed for all-out cornering control, handling performance, run-flat ability, or straight-line traction. There are also some visual considerations to think about. Do you want a tall or short sidewall? Raised white letters or black sidewalls? Rim protectors or no rim protectors?
Regardless of the look and performance you're after, it's probably available from one or more of today's tire and wheel manufacturers. To keep you abreast of some of the latest creations in this realm, we've put together a guide to some of the standout offerings in the top wheel and tire lines. Take a peek and see if you can find the combination of performance and appearance you've been looking for.
American Racing's Torq-Thrust D wheel is one of the all-time classic wheel designs, and the two-piece, fully polished Torq Thrust II has picked up where the original version left off. A variety of sizes ranging from 14- to 20-inch diameters are available between the two Torq-Thrust styles. Another American classic that has recently been revived is the 200S, also known as the "daisy" to many enthusiasts. It's available in sizes from 15- to 17-inch diameters. American Racing: 19067 S. Reyes Ave., Dept. SC, Rancho Dominguez, CA 90221; (310) 635-7806; www.americanracing.com.
Nearly every hot rodder associates the name Boyd Coddington with cutting-edge street rods, so it should come as no surprise that B. Coddington wheels are top-quality rollers. The Signature Series billet wheel line, which includes the Evolution design shown, continues the Coddington tradition of quality and style. The wheels are built using state-of-the-art CNC machines before being polished to a high-luster finish. They come in sizes ranging from 14x6 to 20x9.5 inches. B. Coddington: Anaheim, CA, Dept. SC; (888) 254-3400; www.boydcoddington.com.
When your company is named Billet Specialties, custom-whittled aluminum wheels come with the territory. The wheel designers at Billet Specialties have a knack for creating contemporary designs that don't look "trendy," as evidenced by the clean Octane and Talladega designs shown. The Octane is an exposed-lug, five-spoke design that just looks like a hot rod wheel. The Talladega is similar in theme, but more ornate with its ribbed spokes split by raised ribs. Both come highly polished and are available in 15-, 17-, 18- and 20-inch sizes with your choice of backspacing. Billet Specialties: 340 Shore Dr., Dept. SC, Burr Ridge, IL 60521; (800) 245-5382; www.billetspecialties.com.
Another top name in the billet wheel world is Budnik. The company is celebrating 10 years in the business with its X Series line of wheels, which includes a variety of modern, exposed-lug designs. The X Series includes several styles that Chevy enthusiasts can get excited about, like the Tiller five-spoke and Grid designs shown. Both offer a style that would look good on either classic or modern street machines, and are available in 15- to 20-inch sizes. Budnik Wheels: 15251 Pipeline Ln., Dept. SC, Huntington Beach, CA 92649; (714) 848-1996; www.budnik.com.
Center Line wheels have been a top choice with racers (and race-oriented street guys) for decades with strong wheels like the Convo-Pro and Auto Drag (shown). But there's also a stylish street side to Center Line, which is shown off in the Billet wheel line. This line includes a wide variety of polished, contemporary styles like the Aztec shown here. As you would expect from Center Line, the wheels are high quality and offer plenty of strength for street machines. Most are available in 14- through 18-inch diameters. Center Line Wheels: 13521 Freeway Dr., Dept. SC, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; (562) 921-9637; www.centerlinewheels.com.
Another top name in the world of high-end, top-quality billet wheels is Colorado Custom. Well known in the street rod world, Colorado Custom wheels offer high quality and great style. The company has a wide variety of designs, but we think you might like the traditional-yet-modern Leadville, or the clean and contemporary Paradox that we've shown here. Colorado Custom wheels are available in 14- through 20-inch diameters. Colorado Custom: 363 Jefferson St., Dept. SC, Fort Collins, CO 80524; (970) 224-5750; www.coloradocustom.com.
For some enthusiasts, a cool-looking OEM-style wheel is just as desirable as an aftermarket billet piece. Others just want to upgrade from base-model steel wheels to factory sport wheels. For those people, Capital Original Wheels offers a selection of Camaro- and Corvette-style wheels in several 16- and 17-inch sizes. The wheels are available in a polished, chrome or gray finish, with prices that are considerably less than what you pay at a dealership. Capital Original Wheels: 15326 S. Figueroa St., Dept. SC, Gardena, CA 90248; (800) 463-RIMS; www.capitalwheels.com
The chrome-plated Cragar S/S five spoke was the wheel to have on a street machine in the '60s and '70s. Three decades later, the popular design is still available and is now being offered in 16- and 17-inch diameters in addition to more traditional sizes. Beyond that, Cragar is also offering a new take on the design-the S/S 980. This wheel retains the character of the old S/S, while updating its looks for more modern rides. It's the first S/S built for cars requiring a lot of positive offset, such as late-model Camaros and Corvettes. Cragar Industries: 4636 N. 43rd Ave., Dept. SC, Phoenix, AZ 85031; (602) 247-1300; www.cragar.com.
The folks at D&B Wheels have always dealt in used factory wheels, and the past few years they've been offering chrome-plated versions of the popular IROC wheels. And now D&B is upping the ante by offering aftermarket versions of IROC wheels, which means they are now available not only in stock 16-inch diameters, but also in 18- and 20-inch diameters. Other D&B offerings include Camaro SS wheels and several Corvette wheel offerings. D&B Wheels: 4409 Mission Blvd., Dept. SC, Pomona, CA 91766; (800) 590-1702.
Looking for a unique wheel design to set your late-model Camaro apart from the crowd? Then you might want to check out the selection of quality ROH wheels available from Group A/Autotrend. The ZS design shown is a five-spoke wheel that comes with a satin silver metallic finish or a striking black-and-blue metallic finish. It's available in a variety of 16- and 17-inch sizes. Several other contemporary ROH wheel designs are also available. Group A/Autotrend: 251 E. Chilton Dr., Dept. SC, Chandler, AZ 85225; (602) 813-4776.
In recent years Chevrolet has come up with some pretty attractive wheel designs of its own, many of which would look right at home on your performance car. That's why O.E. Concepts is offering a trio of OEM-style wheels. Included in the lineup are a 16x8-inch IROC-style wheel, a ZR1 Corvette-style wheel (17x9.5- or 17x11-inch) and a '00 Corvette-style wheel (17x8.5- and 18x9.5-inch). All are available with either a chrome or silver paint finish. O.E. Concepts: (877) 525-5697.
Performance Wheel Outlet
If you need to replace a damaged wheel on your late-model Camaro or Corvette, or just want to upgrade to polished or chrome-plated versions of it, Performance Wheel Outlet can help. Performance Wheel offers three styles of Corvette wheels (ZR1, C5, and Y2K) with fitments that will work on late-model Camaros. The company also offers IROC Camaro-style wheels in 16x8-, 17x8-, and 18x8-inch sizes. The IROC wheels are available with a polished or chrome-plated finish, while the 'Vette wheels come polished, plated or with a silver paint finish. Performance Wheel Outlet: 195 E. Redlands Blvd., Dept. SC, San Bernardino, CA 92408; (909) 825-5242.
The goal at RK Sport is to make your late-model Chevy (Camaro, Corvette, Cavalier, Monte Carlo) more unique and a better performer. So it's natural that the company is offering a selection of custom wheels, including chrome OEM wheels. One of its more popular offerings for F-bodies is the 17-inch Winsome design. This strong, lightweight two-piece wheel offers style, performance, and quality for your Camaro. RK Sport: 214 Via El Centro, Dept. SC, Oceanside, CA 92054; (760) 433-1663; www.rksport.com.
Stockton Wheel Service
The folks at Stockton Wheel specialize in steel wheels and old-school designs, so you know they can help you out with rally wheels, factory sport wheels, and vintage looking Smoothies like the one shown. Stockton can build you a set of custom steel wheels in a wide range of diameters, widths, and backspacing. A selection of late-model IROC and Corvette wheels is also offered. In addition, Stockton can repair your bent or tweaked wheels at its California facility. Stockton Wheel Service: 648 W. Fremont St., Dept. SC, Stockton, CA 95203; (800) 395-WHEEL; www.stocktonwheel.com.
SLP Performance Parts
Another late-model F-body wheel offering comes from SLP Performance Parts, the company that basically re-introduced SS Camaros to the performance world. SLP sells the five-spoke, '96-97-style SS wheel. These wheels are available in 16x8- and 17x9-inch sizes with either a painted or chrome finish. The wheels are available in sets of four, with or without new tires. SLP Performance Parts: 1501 Industrial Way North, Dept. SC, Toms River, NJ 08755; (732) 349-2109; www.slponline.com.
If you're looking for something completely different for your Chevy, follow the lead of the sport truck crowd and check out the offerings from Ultra Wheels. Ultra specializes in unique, flashy designs like the Ballistic (Type 127). This distinctive five-spoke design is sure to garner attention when its brightly plated spokes shoot facets of light everywhere as you roll down the road. Ultra Wheels: 6300 Valley View Ave., Dept. SC, Buena Park, CA 90620; (888) 321-4456; www.ultrawheel.com.
Weld's forged Draglite and Pro Star wheels have been standards on the strip and street for years, but a lot of folks don't realize that Weld has a much wider variety of wheels available. For example, Weld's VR- and ZR- lines of billet wheels offer contemporary designs while retaining the strength of forged aluminum centers and heat treating. We used the VR-16 Split-Six design on our Silver Streak Camaro, but we also like the VR-24 Twister and ZR-140 EuroSpoke. Weld Wheel Industries: 933 Mulberry St., Dept. SC, Kansas City, MO 64101; (816) 421-8040; www.weldracing.com.
The good ol' Chevrolet rally wheel will never go out of style, but Wheel Vintiques has taken the liberty of making it available in 16- and 17-inch diameters so you can give your car a traditional look with modern low-profile rubber. Wheel Vintiques also offers a variety of other factory-style wheels (like the SS-style five spokes) as well as the California Smoothie, which is a unique, vintage-looking hot rod wheel available in 14- and 15-inch sizes. Wheel Vintiques: 5468 Lamona Ave., Dept. SC, Fresno, CA 93727; (559) 251-6957.
The BFGoodrich Radial T/A set the standard for street machine radials and spawned a long line of performance offspring. The current flagship ultra-high-performance version is the g-Force T/A KDW, which uses technology from BFG's Trans-Am racing tires. The silica-reinforced tread compound grips in wet or dry conditions, while sidewall inserts provide lateral firmness. In addition, BFG's "ETEC" system maximizes tread contact while providing a smooth ride. The g-Force is available in a variety of 17- and 18-inch sizes. And for the straight-line crowd, BFG still offers its popular street-legal Comp T/A Drag Radial. BFGoodrich: One Parkway South, Dept. SC, Greenville, SC 29602; (877) BFG-TIRE; www.bfgoodrichtires.com.
Coker Tire is well known for its wide selection of tires for vintage classics and musclecars, and the Coker Classic redline radial continues the tradition. It combines the classic performance look of redline tires with the superior handling and driveability of radial construction. Redline radials are available in 14- and 15-inch sizes. And for you fat-tire fans, Coker now carries three tire designs in the Pro-Trac tire line, with cross-sectional widths ranging from 9.7- to 20.7-inches. Of course, Coker still carries a full line of vintage bias-ply tires, too. Coker Tire Company: 1317 Chestnut St., Dept. SC, Chattanooga, TN 37402; (800) 251-6336; www.coker.com.
Dunlop is one of many long-standing names in the tire industry, and the company is keeping up with current high-performance trends with the SP Sport 9000 radial. This tire's traction system features a silica-reinforced tread compound to enhance wet traction and braking grip, and internal Jointless Nylon Band overlays to provide even distribution of contact pressures and reduced growth at high speeds. All this, plus tread patterns designed to reduce noise, and a wide range of 15- to 20-inch sizes. Dunlop Tire: 200 Audubon Pkwy., Dept. SC, Amherst, NY 14228; (716) 639-5307; www.dunloptire.com.
The company goal at Falken Tire is to help you get a performance grip at an affordable price. This is done with tires like the FK-06M radial, an all-season tire featuring a performance-minded uni-directional tread design and a long-lasting, multipurpose grip compound. It's available in 14- through 16-inch sizes. For more intense applications there's the GRB II, with a more aggressive tread pattern and a new "silica" tread compound offering extreme road handling ability in wet and dry conditions. It's available in 17- and 18-inch sizes. Falken Tire Corporation: 10404 Sixth St., Dept. SC, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730; (909) 466-1116; www.falkentire.com.
As you might expect from one of the oldest names in tires, Firestone has an extensive line of performance tires. The Firehawk series consists of everything from ultra-high-performance offerings to general performance radials to touring tires. The SZ50 EP is the ultra-high-performance model and features a dual-layer tread pattern developed from Firestone's Indy rain tire. Four high-performance Firehawk models are also available, along with two performance models, including the SS20, which would be a natural choice for a variety of musclecars. Firestone: One Bridgestone Park, Dept. SC, Nashville, TN 37214; (800) 807-9555; www.firestone.com.
The Goodyear Eagle series of tires is one of the longest-running names in the world of performance radials. Eagles have found plenty of success on race tracks, and have been original equipment on a host of performance cars over the past two decades. The Eagle F1 Steel is still at the top of Goodyear's ultra-performance line, and features exclusive tread compounds and steel ply designs that offer precise handling, excellent treadwear, and low noise. It's available in 15- through 18-inch sizes. Goodyear Tire: 1144 E. Market St., Dept. SC, Akron, OH 44316; (800) GOODYEAR; www.goodyear.com.
The Michelin Man may be pudgy, but he knows how to handle the curves. For that task he uses the Pilot line of radial tires, which includes performance offerings like the XGT Z4. This is an all-weather high-performance tire designed to offer a comfortable ride and plenty of grip. It does this with an aggressive tread pattern, advanced-technology compounds and an undertread structure that provides plenty of stability. Pilot XGT Z4s are available in a variety of 16- to 20-inch sizes. Michelin: P.O. Box 19001, Dept. SC, Greenville, SC 29602; (800) 847-3435; www.michelin.com.
If you're into drag racing at all, the name Mickey Thompson is sure to be familiar to you. ET Drag slicks are staples on the strip, and the DOT-approved ET Street is really gaining popularity with the street-legal racing crowd. The ET Streets feature nylon carcass plies with a racing tread compound, and are available in sizes to fit 15- and 16-inch diameter wheels. MT still has an assortment of fat street meats as well, including the ever-popular Sportsman and Sportsman Pros. Mickey Thompson: 4670 Allen Rd., Dept. SC, Stow, OH 44224; (330) 928-9092; www.mickeythompsontires.com.
Pirelli calls its top offering of performance tires the P Zero line because, as they say, it has "zero limits." The latest segment of that line is the P Zero Rosso (or "red"), which is available with either an asymmetrical tread pattern (for all-out dry track performance) or a directional one (for better wet grip). Both Rossos use new-generation silica compounds for maximum grip and feature a tread block design engineered to reduce noise and provide comfort. Pirelli Tire North America: 500 Sargent Dr., Dept. SC, New Haven, CT 06536; (800) 822-8686; www.us.pirelli.com.
Though the name may not be very familiar with Chevy enthusiasts, Nitto tires are common on a lot of performance import cars, so there's no reason they can't work well on domestic machines. Nitto's "ultra-high-performance" offering includes the NT-555 Extreme ZR, which is designed to provide superior, reliable traction in wet or dry conditions. It also offers high-speed stability, a quiet ride and a variety of sizes. Nitto Tires: 1055 W. Seventh St., Floor 32, Dept. SC, Los Angeles, CA 90017; (800) 581-2985; www.nittotire.com.
While many may turn up their nose at the thought of buying a Japanese-made tire, Toyo is quickly gaining a reputation for turning out top-notch performance rubber. The Proxes line features ultra-high-performance, high-performance, and high-performance touring offerings for passenger cars and trucks. Top-of-the-line Proxes offerings, such as the T1-S shown, feature DSOC technology, which uses a supercomputer to simulate tire behavior under a variety of running conditions. More sedate Proxes models like the FZ4 offer great all-around, all-season performance and would probably work great on older musclecars. Toyo Tire: 6415 Katella Ave., Ste. 200, Dept. SC, Cypress, CA 90630; (800) 678-3250; www.toyo.com.
A lot of folks associate Yokohama with import cars, but the company makes a wide range of radials that are appropriate for all sorts of performance cars. For instance, the AVID S/T is a traditional-looking radial that would look right at home on an older musclecar while providing it with a performance grip, long treadwear, and impressive bad-weather traction. It's available in 14- and 15-inch sizes with 50-, 60-, 65- and 70-series sidewalls. On the other hand, the aggressive A520 is an ultra-high-performance radial featuring race-proven technology. In addition to providing excellent cornering ability and response, it's also ZR speed rated. Yokohama: 601 S. Acacia Ave., Dept. SC, Fullerton, CA 92831; (800) 423-4544; www.yokohamatire.com