This is a type of post I've been wanting to make for a while. In my opinion wheels are the most important part of a car's style and my favorite car accessory. Between spec, style, color, and rarity, a set of wheels can completely alter the look of a car and be the elevating factor that advances a car beyond it's contemporaries.
An event like Japanese Classics Car Show is the perfect event to make a wheel centric post like this. The types of people exhibiting are meticulous with parts selection and the wide variety of styling leads to wide variety of wheels. Plus, the sheer amount of rare and exciting wheels was a highlight of the show.
Any quality Japanese classic event is going to have some Racing Service (RS) Watanabes. Japanese classics and Wats are like chicken fingers and fries - they're just made for each other. Racing Service Watanabe even had a booth at the event! There are more variants from this wheel manufacturer than you may think but the most classic of all is the Eight Spoke R Type that first comes to mind when you think about Watanabes.
An R Type variation I've never seen in person was a large PCD variant! It's a shame more trucks don't run these.
Team Wildcards' Hakosuka sedan chose to stand out with his R Types by copper plating them. The brilliant copper finish was a perfect contrast to the midnight purple exterior.
The most exciting Watanabe model to see at this event was the Gotti model; a four spoke version of their classic, deep dish R Type.
RS Watanabe even sold a 3 piece version dubbed the "RS8" and a later 2 piece version under the same name.
The set I was most excited to see of the entire event were these Walter Wolf Racing RA-2s modeled on an EF Civic hatch. Walter Wolf's history is a whole long story that some day I may do a write up on because it is both exciting and all over the place. Wolf was the first Canadian Formula 1 team owner, employing Frank Williams (of Williams fame) as a driver, and James Hunt in his last years of competition. He was also responsible for the Lamborghini Countach becoming the car we know today and was wanted by Interpol for arms brokering and bribery. He's had many things attached to his name including men's fashion, cigarettes, champagne, a special edition Suzuki RG500, and these wheels produced by Bridgestone Japan. They were rare when they were made in the 80's and today are nearly nonexistent. If memory serves correct, they were only available in 4x114.3 and 4x100 no wider than a 6.5j and from 13" up to either a 15" or a 16" intended for Civics, S30s, AE86s, and other cars of that nature. Without a doubt a dream wheel I hope to see in my collection some day!
Without a doubt, Ray's TE37 is the most iconic wheel in their storied history. This model is actually the predecessor to the TE37; the Touring Evolution. Rays later revised the model using a 60º angled bend between spokes designed to disperse load as efficiently as possible. The name "TE37" is broken down into Touring Evolution and 37 is in reference to the 3.7kg target weight of their entry 15x6j model.
BattleCraft is responsible for one of the latest iterations of the Touring Evolution lineage - the TE37 Club Edition. Using the TE37SL as the base, the Club Editions were only offered in Honda friendly 15x8 et35 4x100 and in two colors; Titanium Silver (pictured) and Titanium Gunmetal inspired by the TE37 Forged Mag run by a majority of JGTC competitors in a golden era of top level Japanese motorsport. The TE37 Super Lap variant features a slight weight reduction over the OG TE37 it shares a mould with. This year saw the last run of those OG moulds.
Those OG TE37s in the original bronze finish is the quintessential Volk wheel for any Japanese car. From Hondas to Ferraris, I've never seen a chassis they couldn't suit.
The other end Volk's early 00's product line up are the Volk GT-Cs. Construction of these two piece wheels comprised of a forged outer lip/barrel and a cast face.
This was a set of wheels I was particularly interested in. These are CST Precedeo Demon Cambers, a common and inexpensive wheel from Japan that tons of people have owned over there for years and treated as throw aways. Even today, it's not uncommon to see small-wheeled Japanese imports running them or people importing them off Yahoo Auctions. What excited me about this particular set was just how nice they were! Because of how cheap they'd been for so long, every set I've seen has been hammered. This is the first pristine set I've ever seen.
A classic in the Honda tuning circles is the Sprint Hart CPR; a forged 2 piece welded wheel that came in a spec to suit every 80's-early 00's Honda.
The Honda guys came with a wide variety of exciting wheels. This 4th generation Civic wagon came wearing a classic set of Work Ewing II Fins. Work's Ewing line of the 80's came in 3 different styles and a ton of sizes. The lugs are hidden behind the center-lock looking cap and trim ring setup that was popular in this era emulating the style of Japan's race cars.
There used to be a time where it felt like every car was running Work XD9s and we complained about it. Oh how I miss those days. I always keep my eyes peeled for a set for sale. A full polish is a killer look on them!
A 1984 release saw one of the first asymmetrical directional wheels to hit the market; the Heroes Racing iSpeed DD. "DD" stands for "Dual Direction" referencing their directional fan design. This set even featured the optional aero ring.
Carving Lover Souls is a wheel you rarely hear about and carries a very interesting look.
A true kyusha classic - the SSR Star Sharks! This is an 80's manufactured wheel popular amongst a wide variety of disciplines due to being both light weight for racing purposes and available in a wide variety of widths and offsets deep into the negatives.
Popularized by it's appearance on Nissan's Super Silhouette entries of the era, the Hoshino Impul D-01 is a well loved and once popular wheel amongst classic Japanese car enthusiasts. This is the second iteration of this model - the Silhouette. The biggest differentiating factor between early and late models are 3 mounting holes between sections versus only one in. the early models. Impul D-01s are designed with a striking sort of "negative" spoke with an otherwise completely flat face.
One of the greatest flexes of the entire event! Can't decide which wheel to run on your Hakosuka? Bring the whole collection!
SSR Formula Mesh is a truly quintessential Japanese classic wheel - especially set into a deep lip.
There have been attempts in the past to recapture a modern idea of a 4 spoke wheel, but the classic look of something like these SSR MK2s just can't be replicated for a modern platform.
Mugen being a brand dedicated to Honda is very particular about sizing and application. Their MR-5 wheels are a two piece construction with a cast outer and forged face offered only in 15x6 and 15x6.5 specifically for cars like the DA Integra and EF Civic.
Definitely a rare find! These are Hiro V-2 Libras, a 3 piece wheel built by SSR for Hiro Engineering. The first iteration of these wheels was a directional tri-spoke,
Popular in it's day, the now relatively rare SSR EX-C NEO still holds a timeless look on older Hondas and other 80s/90s classics. Like all of SSR's EX-C line, they featured a 2 piece design with a one piece barrel/lip combination and removable face.
I was so happy to see these wheels I forgot to take a picture of the R32 they were attached to! Panasport's G7-C5C2 is an all time favorite wheel of mine. I have a weird obsession with R32 GTR wheels and these look like a 3 piece version. Panasport offered these up to 15" wide making them a go-to for a lot of the era's crazy wide fendered creations from companies like Abflug and RE Amemiya.
Remember when Nismo wheels were cheap? Nismo LMGT2s especially cost a college tuition these days. Manufactured by Rays with GTRs specifically in mind, these wheels and GTRs go hand in hand and the image of the two combined is one that lives in everyone's mind when they think of the BNR32/33/34. Naturally, when those cars shot up in value, all things tied to them would as well but seeing original sets sell for over $10,000 was unexpected!
Hopefully this article has either taught you something new, or allowed you to indulge in my personal favorite modification to a car. Wheels can make or break a car - or sometimes the car can serves as little more than a way to present the wheel itself. I'd definitely like to do more of these posts in the future to help shine light on some obscure wheels and parts while giving context to why others are so popular. Jump over onto instagram and tag me in your favorite wheels and why you love them!