Old-School Tire CombosI have a 1985 Chevy K10 with a 14-bolt rear and eight-lug Dana 44 front axle. It currently has 39.5-inch Boggers with 16.5x14 wide Weld Scorpio wheels. As you know, 16.5-inch wheels are basically done for. I want a wider wheel that resembles the now-defunct Weld wheel HR28 (similar to American Racing Outlaw II), and a company called Real Wheels makes the style I am looking for. I realize they are for tractor pulling and mud bogging and are not street wheels, but I don’t use my truck for daily driving. The other factor is they come in 15- and 16-inch diameters, not 16.5 inches. I would like to stay with the Boggers in the 39.5-inch height, but they are only available in 15- and 16.5-inch sizes. The Real Wheels are custom made to my specs as far as backspacing and stud size go, as well as width, but I am limited to a 15-inch-diameter wheel. Will an aluminum 15-inch wheel fit on my 14-bolt with drum brakes? The axle is a late 1970s or early 1980s. Would a disc brake conversion solve any issues with fitment? Will aluminum wheels fit over the calipers on the 1982 Dana 44 front axle? What backspacing would be best, 3 1/2 or 4 inches? I believe the current Weld wheels are 4 inches of backspacing and it is pretty close on clearances. Basically I want to run a 39.5x18R15 tire on a 15x16 wheel, but the wheels aren't cheap and if they don't fit I’m stuck with them.
You are correct that 16.5-inch wheels and tires are gradually being phased out. Though 16.5-inch tires are still available, sizes are limited and getting more so all the time. Wheel selection is almost nonexistent, especially with modern wheel designs. You mentioned wanting to go with a wider wheel but really didn’t explain why, and honestly we are not sure why you’d want to go through all of that trouble for a marginally wider wheel. If you are really wanting to stay with those Boggers, we’d recommend just living with what you have. While Interco (intercotire.com) has no plans to discontinue its 39.5x18 Boggers in 15- or 16.5-inch wheel sizes, that could change as sales of those tall and wide tires declines. It would be a shame to invest in a set of custom wheels only to have the tires that you built them for disappear.
Real Wheels (realwheels.net) makes quality wheels, but they aren’t DOT certified because they are intended for racing only. This means that the company either hasn’t invested the time and money to go through the certification process, or the wheels aren’t up to DOT standards. Racing wheels are often built with thinner materials than a DOT wheel to reduce weight, and several of the company’s designs are multipiece wheels, which are automatically not DOT compliant. You said your truck is not a daily driver but you didn’t say that you only use it off-road, which suggests that it does spend at least a little time on the street. If you use non-DOT wheels and get into any kind of accident, it could mean big problems for you whether or not wheel failure was the cause.
As for your fitment questions, no, a 15-inch wheel will not fit over the drums on your 14-bolt. We have run 15-inch wheels on a 14-bolt with a disc brake conversion, but we had to grind the heck out of the calipers to make it work and it’s not something we would recommend. The front calipers should fit, but those, too, may require grinding. (By the way, your front axle will most likely be a 10-bolt if it’s from a 1982 truck, not a Dana 44.) For backspacing, there is no way of making a recommendation without knowing what size lift you are running, and the profile of the wheel will also play a factor in clearance.
For the amount of time, energy, and money you would spend to run a very dated tire and wheel combination you would be better off going to a 17-inch wheel. While it wouldn’t be as vintage or retro as your desired combination, we are only talking about half an inch more of wheel diameter. The 17-inch wheels are the 15-inch wheels of the 1980s in terms of popularity, and choices become virtually unlimited for both tires and wheels. Interco offers several large tire options that are almost as wide as your current tires, including the Bogger, Super Swamper, and Irok. Pit Bull (pitbulltires.com) makes a Rocker nearly identical in the height and size to your current tires. The bottom line is that you don’t really have to give up much in the looks or performance department to go with 17s, but your choices are much larger, DOT approved, and often less expensive than sticking with your plan.
Lastly, you should really consider shopping for a bigger front differential. Your front axle is living on borrowed time with nearly 40-inch tires, especially if you have a lot of power under the hood.