Fit Late-Model Wheels on a Vintage Mustang
An easy-to-install adapter kit allows you to fit 17-inch or larger late-model Mustang wheels on a '65-'73 Mustang
In our July '05 issue (click here to see the article), we showed various 16- and 17-inch wheel sizes that will fit on a vintage Mustang. Regular readers will recall that a number of 16- and 17-inch sizes will fit on most early Mustangs, including 16x8-, 17x8-, and 17x9-inch wheels with 4.5 inches of backspacing.
This time we're exploring a similar idea but with a late-model variation because it is possible to fit '94-'04 Mustang wheels on vintage cars.
The straightforward solution is a late-model wheel-adapter kit that's available from National Parts Depot (NPD). If late-model wheels on an early car is a look that interests you, or if you're on the fence as to whether you like it or not, the following photos may help you make a decision.
NPD's adapter kit allows you to fit late-model wheels on a vintage Mustang. The most representative application will be the 17x8-inch wheel used on '94-'04 Mustang GTs, Cobras, and Mach 1s. Shown on our '69 fastback project car is the popular Premium Package wheel available on '01-'04 GTs. Popularly known as the "Bullitt" wheel, it also came on the '01 Bullitt with 245/45ZR17 tires, usually Goodyear Eagle ZR45.
While the adapter kit is marketed with these wheels in mind, can be used with any 17x8-inch wheel that came on a '94-'04 GT, '94-'01 Cobra, or '03-'04 Mach 1. This includes more than a half-dozen styles, which are all 17x8-inch with a 4.5-inch bolt circle and 5.72-inch backspacing. Examples include the unique designs on '94-'95 5.0s and Cobras, '96-'97 Cobras, '96-'98 GTs, '98 Cobras,
'99-'01 Cobras, '99-'04 GTs (three styles were used, including the '99-'01 Cobra wheel on '03-'04 GTs), and '03-'04 Mach 1s.
All these wheels look different, but they have the measurements mentioned above and all came with 245/45ZR17 tires, either Goodyear or BFGoodrich (Cobras). Furthermore, these wheels are an easy fit on '67-'73 Mustangs and will also fit on '65-'66s if you're careful with front fender clearances, ride height, and suspension mods.
In addition to showing the adapters with the 17x8-inch wheels they're intended to work with, we also bolted on a set of 18-inch wheels to the same car. Although our '69 fastback project car is too low in the front to run the 18s or fairly large 265/35ZR18 tires, it's possible to have them on a car with a closer-to-stock ride height. For both the front and rear, it might be necessary to roll (or radius) the fenders for added clearance depending on tire size.
Besides the usual 17x8-inch late-model wheel, there are other options, such as these 18x9-inch 180 Bullet wheels offered by OE Performance Wheel. As long as a wheel has a standard 41/2-inch bolt circle, an 18-inch fit is possible. Although our car's lower ride height in front would require considerable fender clearancing in the front fenders (or returning the ride-height to near-stock), we put these wheels and tires on the car to show you how they look. Although maybe a little too "blingy" for some, an 18-inch wheel is still a viable option and certainly something to make a car stand out from the crowd. The tires are Nitto NT555s; 265/35ZR18s on the front and 285/35ZR18s on the back. Also note this combination is mainly for '67-'73 Mustangs and is really too big for the smaller fenders on '65s and '66s. Wheels from the '95 Cobra R and '03-'04 Cobra, both of which measure 17x9, are also viable.