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Vintage Wheel Tech - Vintage Vault

Posted in Features on November 26, 2014
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Photographers: Bud Lang

Wheel Mods
Last time in Vintage Vault, we showed you some old-school aftermarket off-road tires. Of course, larger and wider tires also require stronger, wider wheels, and that is nothing new. So, when we came across some images of some wheels being widened in TEN’s archives, we thought you might like to see what we found. These images were shot by Bud Lang for Hot Rod in 1967 for an article titled “Wide-Base Wheels.” To shoot the article, Lang went down to Sylmar High School in Sylmar, California, where one cool shop teacher (Ed Harding) was helping students build wide wheels for their cars, dragsters, and dune runners, all for credit. Here we can see a wheel in a large drill press where a fella is drilling out rivets or spot welds holding the centers in place. According to the article, these are Chevy wagon wheels, which are about an inch wider than sedan wheels. The trick is to use the back half of the 15-inch-tall wagon wheel, and with a little work, attach it to the front of a sedan wheel for a 8-inch-wi

Back Half of the Wheel
Sure, the wheel shown being built here may not even have fit a Jeep available at the time. The premise, like with the custom tires last time in Vintage Vault, is that getting the custom parts for your Jeep or hot rod was not always as easy as it is now a days. Aren’t we lucky? Or maybe part of the beauty of messing with Jeeps (or hot rods) is the ingenuity of the enthusiasts. Plus, it’s fun to look back at how our hobby was formed, and allows us to wonder about what might come in the future. Here, the back of the Chevy sedan wheel is chucked up in the lathe to have the original, narrow front cut off.

Front Half of the Wheel
Once the rivets, or spot welds, were cut out of the wagon wheel, it was chucked in the lathe and trimmed down. The old center was cut and knocked out of the wagon wheel. Here, one of the students uses an acetylene torch to weld up the holes in what will become the front of the wheel. The original article points out that these welds have to be cleaned up after the welding and could be a source of a leak if you are not going to use an inner tube. Hah, an inner tube! Oh, how things have changed. This image shot by Bud Lang reminds us that not only about how things could be much harder back in the day, but how welding up a hole like that, with a torch and filler-rod, may also be a lost art one day. Let’s hope not.

Finished Product
In the two images below, we see a mock up of our wider, or reversed, Chevy wheel almost ready to be checked for trueness and fully welded. The other image shows some of the widened wheels that the students built for their projects. We are tossing this last image in just to show what can, or rather what could, be done. Pretty cool, but we are still happy that we can buy pre-built wider-than-factory wheels for our Jeeps! That sure makes life easier.

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