Wheel Centre Co. and E-T Wheels
In 1960 schoolteacher Dick Beith started making wheels in his shop class. In 1962 he founded Wheel Centre Co. Though his first production wheel resembles the American Racing Torq-Thrust, Beith was a true pioneer. For one, he produced his E-T Mag in aluminum four years before American did (yes, we recognize the irony of calling an aluminum wheel a mag). But probably his single greatest contribution was one of the most significant for its time: rather than drill each wheel with a specific pattern the company cast five slots and employed offset washers to adapt it to vehicles with 4.5-, 4.75-, and 5-inch wheel-mounting patterns. Though looked down upon by purists, Beith's Uni-Lug pattern revolutionized the aftermarket-wheel industry by reducing retailers' inventory and making wheels more available for less cost.

Typical for manufacturers riding the "big wheel" trend of the 1960s, Beith's company expanded to create several varieties. It also regularly improved the design, adopted die-casting, and employed higher-tech alloys among other things. In 1967 it introduced the E-T II, a most curious wheel that paired the outer half of a cast five-spoke wheel with the inner half of a steel rim.

Scott Russell at Team III Wheels still produces Beith's most enduring wheels. Like Beith, Russell casts the wheels in permanent molds for increased strength, detail, and shine retention. He also forewent the Uni-Lug mounting drills each wheel for a specific pattern.

Ansen Automotive Engineering
Upon returning from the service after World War II, Navy machinist Lou Senter went to work for speed merchant and mechanic Eddie Meyer. In 1947 he partnered with his brother Sol to open Senter Engineering. In 1948 the Senter brothers and Jack Andrews combined their efforts and their names to form Ansen Automotive Engineering.

According to Lou Senter, by the mid '50s Ansen offered 1,000 part numbers. More incredibly, Ansen made most of those parts. The shifters, pedal assemblies, and engine-mounting kits alone turned garden-variety mechanics into hot rod legends across the country.

Ansen produced several wheels. The Top Eliminator capitalized upon the Torq-Thrust design but featured rounded spokes. The seldom-seen Arrow resembled the Top Eliminator but had an oversized snout. The novel Apollo capitalized upon the Arrow's larger hub by using a wing nut to fasten the wheels to steel hubs that bolted to the car. It was a true knock-off design, something that appealed to his Sprint Car roots.

Though relatively successful, Senter admitted that he needed to produce his own wheel. He once again drew inspiration from his circle-track exploits, this time by loosely basing his design on Halibrand's highly esteemed wheels. "I just machined off the rib around each hole in his wheel," he admits. "If you look at them, Halibrand's wheels have an oval hole behind that lip. That's my wheel."

Of course that's the grossly oversimplified version. What Senter did was bring modern die-casting techniques to bear on an old profession. By centrifugally casting the wheels with high-strength alloys he created wheels as strong as they were beautiful for less time and money than typical sand-cast wheels cost. He named the new wheel the Sprint in honor of its background.

Like the Torq-Thrust, the Ansen Sprint is one of the most copied wheels in the industry, a sign of a good idea for sure. American Racing currently produces a range of Sprint sizes.

Rocket Racing Wheels
The wheels Rocket Racing Wheels released in the 1970s existed as interpretations of popular models, primarily the Cragar Super Sport. As interest died out for composite wheels in the 1980s and 1990s so did demand for Rocket's products.

Recently David Coker, brother of Coker Tire's Corky Coker, resurrected the Rocket brand. Only instead of resurrecting the obsolete parts with it, he struck the company in a new mold by literally making new precision molds.

Rocket created several original wheel designs but it also produces interpretations of enduring wheel styles. The company drills the wheels for 4.5, 4.75, 5, and 5.5 patterns to use conventional 60-degree conical-seat bulge lug nuts. All wheels are available with a cast-style finish or fully polished and some like the Launcher and Igniter feature a cast-style center and machined lip.

SOURCE
Rocket Racing Wheels
P.O. Box 5347
Chattanooga
TN  37406
888-307-7525
http://www.rocketracingwheels.co
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Radir Wheels
65 River Road
Montville
NJ  07045
866-334-3470
http://www.radirwheels.com/
American Racing Custom Wheels
19067 S. Reyes Ave.
Rancho Dominguez
CA  90221
www.americanracing.com
Real Rodders Wheels
Fallbrook
CA  92088
888-298-4212
http://www.realrodderswheels.biz
Halibrand Performance
500 S. Washington Ave.
Wellington
KS  67152