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Wheels Aplenty: A Buyers’ Guide to Aftermarket Mustang Wheels
Wheel Buyer’s Guide
When it comes to modifying our Mustangs, there is a phenomenon known as “Day One” and “Day Two” builds. The first day or two when you get a car, there are several things most people do first to personalize it. Almost always, a Day One or Day Two build includes wheels and tires as the starting point, since larger or just different wheels are the easiest and fastest ways to radically change a car’s appearance overnight.
But choosing exactly the right wheels is a personal thing and one that some people get overly obsessive about. Usually, the best way to decide what you like best is to look in magazines, online, or by walking around car shows to check out cars similar to yours, and note which wheel design and sizes trip your trigger. To help speed up that decision-making ability, we put together this Buyer’s Guide of aftermarket wheels for early Mustangs, ranging from stock-style performance wheels with modern build quality to pure race wheels and several in-between those styles. So check out these wheels, and see if one jumps off the page, grabs you by the neck, and screams, “Buy me!”
THE MATH OF PLUS 1-2-3
Larger-diameter wheels are an easy way to change the overall look of your car, even if you stay with the exact same style of wheel. We had our friends at Scott Drake illustrate this fact with a 1965 Mustang convertible wearing its Legendary Styled Steel Wheel in 15-, 16-, and 17-inch sizes to show the difference larger wheels make.
American Racing Wheels
What began as early drag-racing innovator Romeo Palamides’ cool custom magnesium wheels that he made for his dragster in the early ’50s became American Racing Equipment in 1956, resulting in near-total domination of the aftermarket performance-wheel scene for decades. ARE is still going strong today, with everything from ’60s designs made to today’s specifications to radical billet wheels for high-end show cars, and everything between those ends of the spectrum.
The most popular wheel in the Mustang universe is easily the American Torq Thrust 5-spoke design. It just looks right on any Mustang that’s not a restoration, and even some restos look good with them. So we’re starting with ARE’s newest edition to this line with this modern take on the Torq Thrust, the VN409, a two-piece wheel with a cast-aluminum center and forged-aluminum barrel (rim). It is available in a fully polished finish and in custom offsets for those applications where an off-the-shelf just won’t do.
American Racing has taken their popular two-piece VN427 wheel and made a cast one-piece version. The VN527 is available in 15- and 17-inch diameters with a Mag Gray center with machined lip. It is available in widths and offsets designed specifically for classic Ford applications.
The VN501 is a new one-piece version of the popular American Racing two-piece VN500 wheel. The VN501 is available in 15- and 17-inch in widths and offsets designed for classic Mustang applications. It comes in a gloss black and machined finish, or the new stealthy satin-black finish.
Less popular than the Torq Thrust but running in the top 10 wheels for Mustangs and other muscle cars, the classic 200-S, also known as the “Daisy,” has likewise been around for decades. ARE’s VN504 is a one-piece version of this classic design that has roots back to the ’60s. It comes in either fully polished or with a Mag Gray center and machined lip in common 15- 1nd 17-inch sizes.
The Torq Thrust has been hugely popular with the Mustang set, and the Torq Thrust II is similar to the regular Torq Thrust, but has curved spokes for a slightly different look. The new II is a one-piece design called the VN615 that comes polished, chromed (shown), or with a Torq Thrust Gray center.
It can be a challenge finding good-looking four-lug wheels for those early Mustang owners who do not want to convert their cars over to five-lugs. Luckily, American Racing makes the VN401 Silverstone in 14- and 15-inch diameters in either four- or five-lug. This is a custom-built two-piece aluminum wheel with a cast-aluminum center welded to a forged-aluminum barrel. Since it is a two-piece design, it can be built in custom offsets to ensure a perfect fit. The standard finish is full polish.
Drake Automotive Group
When it comes to restoration parts for a Mustang, Scott Drake has been one of the top players for many years. A few years ago, they started Legendary Wheels to bring quality reproduction and custom wheels to market specifically for early Fords, particularly Mustangs. We perused Drake’s Legendary Wheel catalog and brought you what we thought were the coolest wheels for early Mustangs.
A cross between the vintage A/C Cobra and the modern “Eleanor” wheel, this wheel with an optional screw-on spinner makes it a timeless classic. Both four- and five-lug versions are available in Gold or Charcoal and in sizes 15x7, 17x7, and 17x8.
Similar to the eight-spoke “Minilite” wheels used on a lot of Trans Am racers of the ’60s and ’70s, the Legendary LW80 wheels come in 15x7, 17x7, and 17x8 either satin finish, as shown, or with Charcoal-colored spokes and machined lip.
The LW60 wheel is a beautiful recreation of Ford’s 10-slot rims that were used on almost every model in the late ’60s, including Mach 1s, California Specials, Sport Sprints, and GT Mustangs and Fairlanes. They are available in four- or five-lug in Black, Charcoal, or Silver, but the sizes are limited to just one—15x7 only.
This wheel was inspired by the original Shelby wheel used on the infamous 1969-1970 G.T. 350 and G.T 500. It was, and still is, a sexy combination of the original Torq Thrust and the iconic Magnum 500. It is available with Charcoal and Black Spokes in 15x7, 17x7, and 17x8.
Legendary Magnum 400
Factory Magnum 500 wheels are hugely popular on early Mustangs, but they are all five-lug mounting styles. Legendary Wheels finally addressed the four-lug crowd with the same style wheel in a four-lug pattern. This new 14x6 Magnum 400 allows owners of these four-lug classics to add cool custom alloy wheels without having to do a five-lug conversion or buy larger tires. The size and backspacing of the Magnum 400 are ideal for these classic cars, providing ample clearance and more tire options. Crisp CNC-machined details, slot windows, and contrasting accent panels complete the look of this instant classic design. You can get them in Gloss Black or Charcoal finish.
Bet you didn’t know U.S. Mags was started by the legendary Parnelli Jones and his childhood friend Art Hale, Sr. Parnelli was affiliated with Firestone Tire and Rubber (he did testing and was a distributor for Firestone) in the ’60s. He needed wider wheels than were being made at the time to fit the tires he wanted to run, so he made his own. After the purchase of several smaller wheel companies, including American Racing, the company became American Racing. In 2010, Art Hale, Jr., resurrected the U.S. Mags name and logo, and they’re making wheels again.
The Rambler is a 10-spoke wheel with one-piece cast construction that would look right at home on an early Mustang, though the sizes start at 17x7 and go up to 20x9.5. There are several finishes available. The Gloss Black with a diamond-cut lip, shown, and also you can get an optional spinner center cap, not shown.
The wheel shown here is the US204, which has a matte gunmetal texture. The company’s two-piece cast 200-series wheels are all this style (202, 203, 204, and 205), but with different finishes that include Chrome Center With Polished Rim, polished, Matte Silver, Matte Black, Matte Gunmetal, and Brushed With Gloss Clear.
These wheels feature 6061 T-6 Forged Aluminum, CNC-machined centers welded to 6061 T-6 spun-forged aluminum rims. The standard finish is polished, but you can do custom finishes, too. Bolted two- or three-piece construction is also available, and the sizes range from 17x7 to a ridiculous 26x10!
Established in 1986, Wheel Vintiques started small with just a handful of OE wheel designs. As the demand for new, restoration-quality steel wheels grew, Wheel Vintiques increased its product line and added custom sizes for enthusiasts who wanted the classic looks with a little more rubber on the road. Now, more than 30 years later, Wheel Vintiques is the leading supplier of OE reproduction and custom steel wheels, offering more than 50 styles of wheels in a variety of sizes and finishes. Wheel Vintiques handles all of its manufacturing in City of Industry, California, and keeps thousands of wheels in stock, while also offering special order options for custom backspacing and in-house powdercoating. Wheel Vintiques is the steel-wheel headquarters.
53 Series GT Rallye
The GT Rallye just screams 1968 and 1969 Mustang (Fairlane, too, if you’re into those). The GT Rallye has a show chrome finish and is available in four- or five-lug bolt patterns, so it’ll fit any pre-Fox Mustang. It comes in custom or OE sizing (ranging from 14x6 to 15x10), and in Black powdercoated rim in the 14x6 size for use with a trim ring. The wheel uses a 1968-1969 OE Ford center cap or a Wheel Vintiques reproduction.
54 Series Magnum 500
Ah, the Magnum 500. This is the wheel that comes to most people’s minds when you say Mustang (and many other muscle cars, too), and Wheel Vintiques has their own version of it with a brilliant show Chrome finish and Semi-Gloss Black windows. It’s only available in a 5x4.5-inch bolt pattern in sizes 14x6 through 15x10, and there are a lot of center cap options.
55 Series Ford Styled Steel
Like the Magnum 500, the Styled Steel Wheel that Ford put on a ton of early Mustangs is also popular among aftermarket wheel makers. Wheel Vintique’s 55 Series wheel duplicates the Ford factory option in a wheel that’s available in OE and custom sized from 14x5 to 15x8 (14x5 and 5.5 available with black powdercoated rim for use with a trim ring).
Greg Weld was a successful Sprint Car driver in Kansas City in the mid-’60s that made his own wheels to deal with the insane demands of those open-wheel monsters of the dirt quarter- and half-mile. The company began life in Greg’s garage in 1967 and has blossomed into one of the pre-eminent wheel companies in the racing world. They also make some bitchin’ street wheels for early Mustangs. Not resto-oriented stuff, we’re talking more drag-race attitude here.
WELD Racing brings its application flexible racing technology to the street with a budget friendly 3-piece modular wheel using a unique welded assembly process. This wheel has the classic Weld Racing look using a forged billet center and cold-forged rims, and offers three mounting pad heights to clear specific drum and multi-piston opposed calipers. The center is black anodized and widths range from 4.5 inches to 18 inches.
The S77 is a spin on the S76 with a slightly different spoke design. Otherwise, the construction, finish, and size range are the same as the S76. Both wheels are also available in a bead-lock design if you’re a hard core drag racer running radials or slicks.
If there is a classic design for street and strip cars, it is the Weld Draglite. This design is perhaps one of the most well known and established with a timeless look that has no shortage of style. It is a two-piece wheel that uses a revolutionary cold-forged rim and welded construction for a lighter and stronger wheel, when compared to cast construction. A push-thru center cap is included with every wheel and sizes are limited to 14- and 15-inch.
The Pro Star is one of the longest produced five-star style drag racing wheel for a reason: its storied past makes it one of the more iconic wheels on the marketplace. These wheels used to be the norm in NHRA Pro Stock and eventually made its way down to the streets on muscle cars and late-model vehicles. The two-piece cold forged and welded construction allows the wheel to be lightweight but hold up to the rigors of daily drivers. Alas, sizes are limited to 14s and 15s.
Weld Racing brings its application flexible racing technology to the street with a budget friendly three-piece modular wheel using a unique welded assembly process. This wheel has the classic Weld Racing look and uses a forged billet center and cold forged rims. The wheel also offers three mounting pad heights to clear specific drum and multi-piston opposed calipers and comes in a bunch of sizes ranging from 15- to 20-inch diameters.
Inspired by the past but designed for the future, Rocket Racing Wheels’ line of wheels provides the perfect look for everything from aggressive Pro Touring muscle cars to hardcore hot-rods. Located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rocket is committed to producing high-quality wheels at an affordable price, and every wheel is precision crafted and tested to meet or exceed rigorous standards.
Rocket Racing Wheels recently announced a “breakthrough in wheel technology” with the launch of its new Track & Touring Series Attack wheel. Rocket’s new dual-direction, flow-form, semi-forged wheel production method offers near infinite flexibility. The cast center can be moved within a wide range of offsets inside the spun-forged outer rim, providing options that until now were available only from expensive multi-piece wheels. This breakthrough technology delivers weight and metal strength characteristics similar to traditional high-dollar forged wheels at a fraction of the price. The Rocket Attack wheels feature generous caliper clearances for performance brake systems, multiple offsets, and premium low-maintenance finishes. Custom options and two center cap selections are also available.
In the early ’60s, the Halibrand Sunburst pin-drive wheel made its debut on the Shelby Cobra—one of the most iconic performance cars of the 20th Century. The original Sunburst classic turbine-style wheels were in production for only a brief time, but Rocket’s Sunburst has the same classic style updated with modern fitment and has been re-engineered to provide the safety and security of a five-lug bolt-on application without sacrificing the classic appearance of a pin-drive-style wheel. They are available with fitments for classic Cobras and muscle cars.
If you followed our Week To Wicked 1966 hardtop build, you’ll remember the Rocket Racing Booster wheels we used on the car. The Booster delivers style and performance for street machines at an affordable price and is precision crafted from A356 aluminum with a vintage-style aluminum O-ring center cap. The Booster is available in 17-, 18-, and 20-inch sizes and multiple offsets and wheel finishes include full chrome, gray, Hyper Shot, and Hyper Silver. The wheel also features a reverse-mount soft outer lip that provides a longer spoke appearance and maximizes the wheel window to better display performance brakes.