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The History of American Racing Wheels [and why you should care]

October 2, 2021

 

So many wheel companies like to throw around the word "iconic" when flaunting their wheels and often claim to be innovative creators in the industry, but we all know the truth.

It's just like all the amateur enthusiasts at car meets who claim to be making stupid power with an exhaust and an intake.

 

A bright yellow 2010 Chevy Camaro SS running American Racing Crossfire wheels wrapped in Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires and BMR Lowering springs

2010 Chevy Camaro SS | American Racing Crossfire Front: 20x9 +20 Rear: 20x10.5 +40 | Continental Extreme Contact Dws Front: 255/45 Rear: 275/40

In the case of American Racing Wheels, they truly are pioneers in the aftermarket wheel game who live up to the claims of being the original creator of the dragster and muscle car wheel, otherwise known as the American Racing Torq Thrust.

This very wheel has been mounted on more classic muscle cars and hot rods than any other wheel.

Some even say the development of the Torq Thrust kick-started the custom wheel movement that we're living in today.

 

Quick Links:

- The History of American Racing Wheels 

- Why Magnesium [Wheels ]?

- The Wheel That Started it all

- Are American Racing Wheels made in the US?

- Final Thoughts | Why Should You Care?

 

CHECK OUT AMERICAN RACING WHEELS HERE

 

A vintage 1965 Ford Mustang running American Racing Vintage Classic Torq Thrust II wheels with BFGoodrich G-Force Sport Comp tires and coilovers

1965 Ford Mustang | American Racing Vintage Classic Torq Thrust Ii 16x8 +8 | BFGoodrich G-force Sport Comp 2 245/50

 

 

 

The History of American Racing Wheels 

American Racing Wheels' heritage is woven into nearly every racing discipline there is, from drag racing to street racing, jet car racing, desert racing, and Trans-Am racing—they were around for it all. 

 

 

In sunny California, the company was officially founded in 1956 by drag innovator Romeo Palamides and his right hand, Jim Ellison, but the duo started making wheels two years earlier. 

 

READ THIS BEFORE BUYING WHEELS OR TIRES

 

Romeo Palamides and his right hand Jim Ellison

Photo from Dragzine

Romeo and Jim lived on the drag strip and knew their way around the community better than anyone else.

Just like any true entrepreneurs do, Romeo and Jim recognized a gap that they knew they could fill—and that was a good set of wheels. 

Drag cars were given little aftermarket support for "aftermarket" wheels because no one thought of a viable solution that checked all the boxes, including weight, strength, cost, looks, and availability. They needed lightweight wheels that maintained the structural integrity for racing. They needed "an enviable strength-to-weight ratio." 

 

Mag Wheel ad from Hot Rod Magazine back in the s

Photo from Kustomrama

Initially, it was just Romeo pondering on this notion. After partnering with Jim to build a dedicated drag car, they developed "mag wheels" that captured the perfect strength-to-weight ratio

This is where the Torq Thrust comes into play. 

 

A close up on the Torq Thrust M wheel on an orange 2007 Ford Mustang GT

2007 Ford Mustang GT | 2007 Ford Mustang GT | American Racing Torq Thrust M Front: 18x9 +45 Rear: 18x10 +45 | Maxtrek Maximus M1 Front: 245/50 Rear: 275/45

 

 

 

Why Magnesium [Wheels]?

But first, why Magnesium?

Before Romeo and Jim developed their first mag wheels, drag cars were mainly running steelies, but the only other options at the time were stock OEM wheels or stupid expensive semi-solid wheels.

While steel is a very strong metal, it's also incredibly heavy, which poses a problem for racers since you want to reduce your unsprung weight as much as possible. 

Read more about wheel weight (unsprung weight) in a recent blog here—Does Wheel Weight Matter? 

 

DOES WHEEL WEIGHT MATTER?

 

An old American Racing Wheels magazine ad in Hot Rod Magazine

Photo from Kustomrama

On the other hand, Magnesium is the lightest metallic structural material while also having that ideal strength factor. Combined, Magnesium has a high specific strength, otherwise known as the strength-to-weight ratio. 

Even compared to aluminum, which most wheels are made of today, Magnesium is about 1.5 times less dense thus much lighter. That's nutz. 

Like aluminum, you can have cast or forged magnesium wheels, but they were mainly cast during the 50s and 60s when American Racing Wheels started. 

 

A close up on the Torq Thrust M wheels on an orange 2007 Ford Mustang GT

2007 Ford Mustang GT | 2007 Ford Mustang GT | American Racing Torq Thrust M Front: 18x9 +45 Rear: 18x10 +45 | Maxtrek Maximus M1 Front: 245/50 Rear: 275/45

Now, there are some downsides to using Magnesium.

Mag wheels are very prone to corrosion which would slowly eat away at the surfaces of the wheels. However, over time, the industry developed better chemical treatments to help prevent this from occurring. 

 

The Torq Thrust displayed in a vintage American Racing Wheels ad

Photo from Kustomrama

The only other con with Magnesium is sorta kinda a misconception. Magnesium is highly flammable, but this is only true in its pure form as a powder or small shavings. Now, everyone likes fire, but I'm going to take a wild guess and say that no one wants their wheels on fire. 

Well, don't panic because, as I said, it's not a real issue when we're talking about a magnesium wheel. Trying to ignite a mag wheel is nothing like lighting a piece of paper on fire—it's quite the opposite. 

Plus, modern technology has solved this problem through a series of manufacturing processes when the metal is heated and formed into the wheel. 

 

CHECK OUT THESE 4 DIFFERENT STYLES OF FITMENT

 

A close up on the Torq Thrust II mounted to a 1965 Buick Riviera

1965 Buick Riviera | American Racing Torq Thrust Ii Front: 18x8 0 Rear: 20x10 +6 | Nitto Nt555 Front: 225/45 Rear: 275/35

 

 

 

The Wheel That Started it all

The first magnesium wheel that started it all for American Racing Wheels is known as the famous Torq Thurst.

This wheel is seen on more muscle cars and hot rods than any other wheel on the market and is the most replicated wheel out there. 

 

CHECK OUT OUR AVAILABLE TORQ THRUST WHEELS HERE!

 

A hot red and rare 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 running American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels wrapped i BFGoodrich Comp 2 tires and Eibach lowering springs

2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 | American Racing Torq Thrust II Front: 17x9 0 Rear: 17x10 0 | BFGoodrich Comp 2 Front: 275/40 Rear: 315/40

The American Racing Torque Thrust is the classic 5-spoke wheel with tapered, parabolic contour spokes.

These parabolic contour spokes not only fit the style of the classic muscle cars but also served a functional purpose for drag cars specifically.

This spoke design shaves unnecessary weight off the back of the spoke while the contoured edges increase airflow to maximize brake cooling. 

 

A close up on the Torq Thrust M wheel mounted on a 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1

2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 | American Racing Torq Thrust II Front: 17x9 0 Rear: 17x10 0 | BFGoodrich Comp 2 Front: 275/40 Rear: 315/40

The Torq Thurst gained a crazy amount of popularity and publicity in 1956. It was featured in Hot Rod Magazine and in popular movies that you've probably never heard of, like Dukes of Hazzard, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Bullitt. Okay, you've probably heard of Dukes of Hazzard, but have you ever watched the movie?!

Comment down below if you have watched any of these for a cookie! 

 

A modified 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 running American Racing Wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich tires

2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 | American Racing Torq Thrust II Front: 17x9 0 Rear: 17x10 0 | BFGoodrich Comp 2 Front: 275/40 Rear: 315/40

Since 1956, the Torq Thurst has gone through several design updates to accommodate modern disc brakes and calipers and common fitment specs in the modern era of cars, but it remains the most highly recognized and famous wheel of all time. Bet. 

Hot Rod Magazine even named the Torq Thrust one of the top 20 speed parts that changed the world.

 

CHECK OUT THE TORQ THRUST II

 

A deep red modified 2002 Chevy Camaro running American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels wrapped in Firestone all-season tires

2002 Chevy Camaro | American Racing Torq Thrust II 17x9 0 | Firestone All-Season 245/40

The updated Torq Thrust 2 was released in 1967 as a 2-piece wheel with a cast face welded to a forged aluminum barrel. They also have a 1-piece option for convenience, released in 2009. This is a fully cast wheel, but it cuts the cost down in half. 

If you have a newer Mustang, Camaro, or even a Firebird, the Torq Thrust M was designed with a more modern appeal—hence the "M." Designed in larger diameters and higher offsets, the Torq Thrust M is a blast from the past with the sophistication that you'd want on your modern Mustang. 

 

CHECK OUT THE TORQ THRUST M

 

A close up of the bumper on a bright yellow 2010 Chevy Camaro SS running American Racing Crossfire wheels wrapped in Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires and BMR Lowering springs

2010 Chevy Camaro SS | American Racing Crossfire Front: 20x9 +20 Rear: 20x10.5 +40 | Continental Extreme Contact Dws Front: 255/45 Rear: 275/40

 

 

 

Are American Racing Wheels made in the US?

One of the most asked questions on the internet regarding American Racing Wheels is whether or not their wheels are, in fact, made in the US like their company name leads you to believe.

 

CHECK OUT THE FORGED COLLECTION FROM ARW

 

A bright yellow modified 2010 Chevy Camaro SS running American Racing Crossfire wheels wrapped in Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires and BMR Lowering springs

2010 Chevy Camaro SS | American Racing Crossfire Front: 20x9 +20 Rear: 20x10.5 +40 | Continental Extreme Contact Dws Front: 255/45 Rear: 275/40

Well, it is confirmed that their new, modern forged wheel line is 100% American-made.

As far as their other classic wheels, it's unclear whether or not they are made here in the US anymore.

With the amount of outsourcing in the automotive aftermarket industry, it's possible they're made outside of the US, but it's unclear. 

 

A hot red Chevy Camaro SS running American Racing Wheels

2014 Chevy Camaro SS } American Racing VF 501 20x10 +20 | Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G2 285/35

 

 

 

Final Thoughts | Why Should You Care?

American Racing Wheels, now known as American Racing Equipment, is one of the oldest wheel manufacturers to date, but that doesn't mean they're outdated. So, why should you care about this wheel brand and the Torq Thrust anyways? 

The Torq Thrust was the first real innovation that started the custom aftermarket wheel industry.

It sparked the creation of lightweight wheels that still have the structural integrity and rigidity to handle intense track days and other high-performance racing.

 

CHECK OUT OUR NEW GIVEAWAY!

 

A bright orange 2007 Ford Mustang GT running American Racing Torq Thrust M wheels with Maxtrek Maximus M1 tires and Eibach lowering springs

2007 Ford Mustang GT | 2007 Ford Mustang GT | American Racing Torq Thrust M Front: 18x9 +45 Rear: 18x10 +45 | Maxtrek Maximus M1 Front: 245/50 Rear: 275/45

It was the first example of true engineering in wheels that optimized brake clearance and cooling, stress and heat dispersion, weight reduction, and material strength, all while looking badass on the platforms it was designed for. 

American Racing Wheels provided an opportunity for other wheel brands to complete as well. This led to continued growth in the aftermarket wheel industry, which has bred the wheel companies we know and love today. 

So, while the company is probably older than your grandma (nothing against your grandma), they started a wheel revolution that very well may have influenced the wheel brand you're currently running on your muscle car! 

 

BUILD YOUR WHEEL AND TIRE PACKAGE HERE

 

A red 2014 Camaro SS racing around a road course running American Racing Wheels

2014 Chevy Camaro SS } American Racing VF 501 20x10 +20 | Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G2 285/35

If you're looking to set up your classic or modern muscle car with some period-correct wheels, American Racing Wheels has a pretty solid resume.

Luckily, we carry tons of their wheels from the notorious Torq Thrust to their new fully forged lineup

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT FINANCING OPTIONS HERE

 

You can pick up a set with free shipping, mounting, and balancing in as little as 10 days when you package them with some new tires.

Plus, we have finance options with as low as 0% APR interest and low monthly payments. Build your muscle and/or drag car and still have plenty of cash left to pay for the speeding tickets you know you'll be getting at your next big car meet. 

 

 

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