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The Truth About Cragar Wheels

Fitment Industries Author | | July 19th, 2018 |

  • - [Narrator] Busch, Busch, Busch Busch, Busch, Busch, Busch.
    - I need more Busch Light, more Copenhagen, more walls next to other countries, more V8s, more not paying our taxes, more American guns to talk about this next company.
    Welcome to Cragar. The man, the myth, the legend of Cragar wheels. Did any of you guys actually ask for this? No, then why are we doing it? Well because Klassen actually won't respond to our emails. So we though we'd talk about the brand that our mechanic wanted us to talk about. So that makes about two people that have ever asked for Cragar wheel history. Founded in 1930 by Crane Gartz, Cragar wheels was founded with wild, bald eagle juice and American facial hair. This company was pretty much breed and born at the difficult times of the recession. Cragar wheels was a company, that actually wasn't even involved in making wheels until the late '50s. Cragar was ultimately making Ford Model A manifolds and anything that had to do with airplanes because back in the day, they just really didn't know what else to do. Crane teamed up with Harlan Fengler, to actually partner the company to get involved in the after market automotive scene. But because of how everything worked out, Crane really just wanted to get involved in whatever they could. What does Cragar stand for?

    Well that's pretty simple if you break down the first three letters of both his first and last name. You get Cragar. Because Cragar had a small fortune behind him, which if you didn't know, was founded on a publishing company. Cragar was able to buy the tools, patterns, and machinery that they needed to get involved in making any sort of, well technical, automotive, or aerospace products you can possibly imagine. Cragar was doing well but they weren't doing that well. They actually weren't doing well enough to survive The Great Depression. And in 1932, the Cragar name ultimately collapsed and there was no light in sight for the company. But it didn't take long because in 1933, George Wight from Bell Auto Parts decided to purchase the Cragar name. Wight was a grizzly, little man that made parts and flipped parts out of junk yards to sell them to fuel his racing pedigree and--
    (clears through) I got beer stuck in my throat.

    There's just nothing quite like 12 flowing ounces of America in every sip or it's my acid reflux. I can't decide what it is. Might be both. Now this was all happening in Southern California which is where a lot of the original racing pedigree was founded on. But George Wight had something that Cragar didn't. Finding absolutely amazing talent. You see because Cragar just tried to make products, Wight went out there and tried to find people that could explode this brand into something completely different. And before you knew it, they were the hot new kids on the block. They had famous actors, famous musicians, favorite fabricators and mechanics, and race car drivers, all coming to Bell Auto Parts because of the talent that Wight was finding to produce all of these high end parts. And the Bell Auto Parts name began to grow. Because of how everything worked back in the day, it was all word of mouth. If you have all the famous people and all the rich people and all the people that know how to drive, in one place, you're gonna do pretty good for yourself. And for the most part, the Cragar name sat on the sidelines. They continued to be influenced by Bell Auto Parts but for the most part, the purchase was originally for the patterns and machinery. It really had nothing to do with the name or why, you know, they were doing anything. Just like anything else, you don't know that you need something until you don't have it anymore. And until George Wight ultimately passed away in 1943, the Cragar name didn't see a whole lot of light. In fact, it wasn't until 1945, that the Cragar name really started to get back involved with a man named Roy Richter. Now Roy was, when he was young, a scrawny redhead that just wanted to get involved in everything racing oriented. But this was something that Roy was very good at. He was good at being a perfectionist.

    In fact, he was considered one of the best fabricators at the time. When Bell Auto Parts picked him up for fabricating parts and machinery from the Cragar partnership, Roy just began to take off and he was synonymous with some of the best work you could possibly get in Southern California. And to a lot of people, Roy is the reason that Bell and Cragar continued to be a name throughout the difficult times of the '40s and into the '50s. It wasn't until, ultimately passing of Wight, that Roy decided that he wanted to take on a lease of the Cragar name and the Bell Auto Parts name, which had gone through ups and downs and everything in between. And then something interesting happened in 1945. We won the war which is weird. You didn't know winning the war would create some sort of internal growth of business and prideful nationwide excitement, and being American, and drinking Busch Light. Talking about V8s and racing cars in circles and not stopping and (mumbles) Talking about other things, like having fast cars and pretty women because America.
    (metal banging) Who's even hitting out there if it's not you?
    (metal banging)
    - [Man] Really inconsistent.
    Oh, god.
    So you see, the automotive community had grown exponentially after the World War II. Americans wanted something to do with all of their pastime and being freedom.
    - Yeah.
    - Being freedom and Americanized and all that sort of good stuff, and they thought, what else to do besides make fast cars that go in a straight line. You had infamous names like Vic Edelbrock, Sr. Phil Weiand, Ed Iskenderian, Stu Hilborn, Phil Remington come out of the social work and start pushing everything that had to do with after market, well, car stuff. You see, back in the day, when you wanted after market wheels, there was like two options and both of them really weren't that fun or good at the time. A lot of people preferred to just cut their steel wheels, flip the face, and then weld them back together before putting them back on the car so you can get a deep lip. But then these people would paint them, they'd pinstripe them, they'd plate them in chrome and that's how you got a lot of after market wheels back in the day. Back in the time, Roy wanted to have something cooler and they thought, "Well if anybody can do it, it's them." and they decided involved using the Cragar wheel name. I hate to say it but sorry tuner guys.

    Muscle car guys came out with chrome lips before you did. In fact, they liked lipped wheels before, pretty much, any tuner even thought of it. In 1964, the most infamous wheels to ever hit the domestic market officially came out, the S/S. Now if you didn't know what the S/S is, or you've been living under a rock. The S/S is realistically, probably the most infamous wheel ever, like ever. Like domestic, internationally, everything in between whether you live in Europe, whether you live in America, whether you live in Australia, or Canada which is like 90% of our viewers, it was the most popular thing you could buy for wheels. In fact, going under the Cragar name, Roy Richter, all he wanted to do was to make good wheels that were affordable and looked nice. Because of the market that they were hitting in the price point, they were hitting at the same time, they hit a goldmine. They continued to be, probably, the most successful wheel to date. The S/S is considered one of the most duplicated wheels of all time. It's been considered one of the most successful wheels of all time and probably, the single, biggest reason that anybody knows of domestic wheels back in the '60s, '70s, and '80s of the United States of America. Back in the day, if you didn't have Cragars, you were just lame. Now what made this wheel different from other people making after market wheels was the fact that they lasted a long time. The five spokes, were actually, clipped together to the barrel in a different way then anybody else had ever done. You see, back in the day, they used screws and bolts and things like that, that were heavy and completely inconsistent with keeping strength rigidity in an after market wheel. What the Cragar S/S managed to do was to make the clip-based system, essentially, a really easy way to shave a lot of weight, maintain rotational mass, and to be a safe wheel. There were times where the first set of wheels that went out, had very small imperfections that he wanted to take back from his friends so that he could fix it, so it was a perfect wheel. We're talking about aesthetic scratches that this guy didn't wanna have. That's how particular Roy was with the Cragar S/S wheel. In fact, he got mad at his own team for using them for high speed drag racing because, ultimately, what Roy says, that was not their intended purpose.

    For a long time, Roy continued to battle and fight and essentially, continue to be successful but push away from what the wheels weren't meant to do for a long time. It became clear that Cragar needed to come out with a wheel that was meant for high speed racing. It wasn't until they got into the Mag division of their U.S. wheels, that they really started to do that. But Cragar wheels is pretty much known, for the one and only, infamous S/S. From there, Cragar develops the wheels that would go on one of the fastest vehicles to hit almost 666 miles an hour, the Blue Thunderbolt, the Blue Flame. Who comes up with these names? Cragar founded the Five-Second club and created a second Five-Second club because Cragar decided that if there's gonna be anybody at the forefront of making fast cars, they wanted their wheels to be on it. In 1971, Cragar was purchased by Wynn Oil Company.

    By 1972, they were already being awarded one of the manufacturer award of the year for making some of the best products you could