How to choose the best aftermarket alloy wheels for your car

Advances in design software, manufacturing techniques and materials are keeping the aftermarket alloy wheel manufacturers in the game.

The major car makers have a pretty good strike rate in styling alloy wheels for the cars that matter. Think air-cooled Porsche 911s, many a Ferrari, fast BMWsgalore, RS Audis, Ford Escort XR3 and Puma, Lancia Delta Integrale, Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9 – and others you’re already shouting about.

That might have made things difficult for aftermarket alloy wheels makers, but when a wheel becomes ubiquitous, there are always those who want to stand out from the crowd, even if that crowd congregated to celebrate good taste.

It’s slightly different today. Car makers have cottoned on to the financial potential of offering a choice of alloys, in a variety of sizes, and many of those wheels are good lookers. Why trawl the aftermarket when it’s so easy to just tick another box on the options sheet?

Huge wheels may grab eyes and headlines, but the aftermarket still develops new products around the ethos of ‘lighter, faster, stronger’. Ever-more sophisticated CAD programs have helped enormously in pursuing that goal, identifying areas of the wheel where it’s possible to remove metal – and thus save weight – without affecting its structural integrity. Look closely at modern wheels and you may see evidence of this in the slenderness of the spokes and thinness of the wheel rim; you might notice grooves channelled into the sides of the spokes and, on the rear, spot where large amounts of metal have been removed from, say, the wheel’s hub where it mates to the car’s hub. And this more intimate knowledge of structural influences has allowed wheel designers to exercise more creative flourish.

Traditionally, forged alloy wheels, fashioned from a single extruded aluminium billet using intense pressure and heat, which creates a product that’s very light and supremely strong, have represented the pinnacle of aftermarket desirability. But they come with a steep price tag. ‘It’s an expensive and very small, specialised segment,’ reveals McNey. But a process called flow-forming – claimed by Speedline to be its own, yet now practised by most big players and several smaller ones – provides the lightness and strength benefits of forging at a more reasonable price.



Categories: Opinion


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