Modified Mustangs & FordsProject Vehicles
1966 Ford Mustang Project Colt of Personality - Custom Wheel
As the Wheel Turns - Taking a look at how custom wheels are made, and measuring for a perfect fit
When it comes to changing the exterior appearance of your vehicle, wheels and paint easily have the biggest outcome on the look of a car. Paint can make things shiny and bright, and racing stripes or some other graphic can generate some interest, and we would argue that wheels can give a vehicle a completely different attitude. Take your average classic Mustang factory wheell; sure, it may be stylish, but it's nothing more than nice dress-up clothes. Give a Mustang a set of aftermarket wheels and suddenly it becomes an athlete with purpose, and going with a custom wheel can create that effect on any ride.
Auto enthusiasts looking to personalize their rides and give them an attitude adjustment have benefitted from a pretty good amount of aftermarket wheel options to choose from. However, there haven't been any new developments in the cast aluminum market for some time, and the billet wheel movement that began in the '80s seemed to more or less focus on the street rod segment as it aged with designs that are not so athletic or purposeful.
Not only have many of the designs become commonplace, but quite often you'll pick out a wheel only to find that the company offers it in just a few sizes and with a limited number of backspacing options. With that, custom forged wheels have become the popular choice for dreamers and builders alike who strive for something more.
It's not only the lack of new styles that has created the growing market of custom wheel manufacturers, but also the proliferation of modern tire sizes as well as more accessible milling equipment. Many people desire the low-profile-tire look that we see on modern cars, but oftentimes there isn't a wheel option to support it. Add in all of the aftermarket suspension developments, track width changes, usage in high-performance driving environments, and custom body modifications, and you can see the need is there.
With all of the changes from the suspension to the body that we are making to our Pro Touring Colt of Personality project, we knew that a custom wheel would be needed and that the design would complement the aggressive nature of the car. We turned to Boze Forged in Laguna Hills, California, to find just the right set of rims.
Boze was started in 2001 by Larry Kingsland, a 30-year veteran of the aftermarket wheel industry, who along with his wife, Bonnie; son, Zak; and daughter, Erica; created a family business that catered to enthusiasts looking for two-piece, high-end billet custom wheels.
The company has grown beyond that, now offering two- and three-piece wheels with just about any finish or enhancement that you can think of. When it comes to fitment, Boze has a vast database on vehicle and brake fitment that is sure to get you the right wheel. Customers are asked a series of questions that, along with measurements you provide based off of Boze's template, is sure to get your car fitted properly.
As previously mentioned, Boze offers two- and three-piece wheels, and here's a little information about those two choices. Two-piece wheels, despite what the nomenclature might imply, are indeed made from two separate pieces of metal—a hoop or barrel and a center—that are welded together to form a single unit.
Three-piece wheels, however, are made from a center and two separate pieces that form the hoop/barrel. Rather than being welded together, these are usually bolted to form the wheel, and can be unbolted for repair. For those looking for a chrome finish, the three-piece option is for you, as the individual pieces are chrome plated before the wheel is assembled. This ensures a long-lasting, sealed finish.
Getting the correct measurements for your custom wheels may seem like a difficult task, but there's not a lot of mystery to it. You can use some of the mechanical tools that are out there or you can simply get out a tape measure and straight edge and fill out the wheel manufacturer's form. Take a look at the captions to see how we did it.
01. The center of the wheels starts out as a forged aluminum billet disc that is fitted to a lathe. After about 30 minutes of machining, it has been turned down to define the basic contour or profile. All centers come with a long mounting pad, which is the part houses the lug nuts and secured the wheel to the car. Generally, a long, tall, or high pad, as they are sometimes called, are preferred for cars with big brake kits. If brake clearance is not an issue, or if you’re going for a deeper dish on the rim, then the pad will be turned down on the lathe to the required height.
02. Its time on the lathe complete, the center is then fitted to a milling machine where the wheel design is whittled out. Depending on the design, this process generally takes anywhere from 45-60 minutes, though intricate 3D designs have been known to take up to 3 more hours.
03. In addition to revealing the design of the center, the mill also machines the bolt pattern. If desired by the customer, lightening reliefs in the mounting pad (as shown here) can be machined to reduce the weight of the wheel and thusly, unsprung weight is shed.
04. With the final shape of the center established, runout is checked with a dial indicator to ensure trueness.
05. Here, the center of this particular wheel order is being polished to a high luster. Many custom wheel makers offer numerous finishes and Boze is no exception. The company can put just about any finish or “enhancement” on the wheels. Brushed, powdercoat, clearcoat, brushed satin (currently the most popular) and more finishes are available, as are personalized center caps and engraving.
06. The finished centers await their new homes. These particular pieces have been machined into the Performance wheel design. Boze offers three lines of wheels with dozens of designs among them; from traditional five-spoke designs to mesh wheels like these and everything in between.
07. The next step in the build process is to insert the center into the barrel or hoop, as it is generally referred to. Boze wheels are made in America, and the barrels are sourced from a manufacturer in Indiana. Mounted to a rotating fixture, the barrel is then heated up to expand it enough to press the center into place.
08. Once cool, wheel runout is verified before the wheel is sent for welding. It receives an additional runout check after welding to further ensure that the wheel is true.
09. If the runout checks out, a wire-fed MIG welder lays a 360-degree bead to marry the two pieces.
10. The finished product is ready to be shipped to the customer and fitted to his or her high-performance vehicle.
11. We began our wheel measurement exercise using the Wheel Fit tool from Wheel Works, Inc. It’s the best mechanical tool that we have seen on the market, with superior construction and better size coverage than the others. While you can often provide the measurements from such a tool to an aftermarket wheel manufacturer and have your new wheels made, some companies will prefer that you fill out their form or template.
12. With the big 315 stuffed under the back, it’s a tight fit between the edge of the fender and the lower control arm, the latter of which proved to be more of a fitment issue than the inner wheel house. Measuring from the hub face to the inner wheelhouse netted 81⁄8 inches, while measuring from the hub face to the control arm only gave us 611⁄16 inches or room.