Astro Wheel

Astro Enterprises in Gardena, California, was one of the earliest entries in the wheel market. According to advertisements it established its footing in approximately 1962 with a dished-face modular wheel called the Custom. Though two pieces, the wheel was welded and ground on its face to appear as if it were a one-piece cast-aluminum wheel like the Ansen Sprint that followed (interestingly Astro cast an aluminum version that reportedly preceded Ansen’s). It later produced the Super Custom, a variant of the custom that had a disc welded to its face to fortify the wheel hub’s integrity.

Though it built more dished wheels than anything else, Astro is most famous for an all-steel wheel that resembles Wheel Centre Co.’s first composite models. Oddly enough, the most familiar bullet-spoked version was the revised model introduced in about 1965; the original design that dates to at least 1963 has five stumpy, barrel-shaped spokes that terminated at a flat hub. Even odder, enthusiasts still refer to Supreme-style wheels as Astros even though Astro ceased production sometime around the Nixon and Ford administrations.

The Supreme still enjoys brisk production by several companies, including Cragar, Allied Wheel, Truespoke, and Wheel Vintiques. Though cosmetically identical not all Supreme copies are up to the task; more expensive models feature tabs welded to the back of the spokes. Many maintain that without these tabs the wheels are prone to crack. Do your homework before you buy.

Winfield Terra Thrust

To keep things concise I tried hard to stick to wheels that are still in production or turn up frequently at swaps but there are some stories about unobtainum wheels that are just too good to pass up. Car customizer, fitness nut, and all-around great guy Gene Winfield set out to produce a line of custom wheels in 1963.

“I called them Terra Thrust,” he says. “They had aluminum centers. It was a material called Tenzaloy and I had them cast. I used steel outers and I literally bolted them together—each spoke had two heavy-duty Grade 8 bolts.

“Of course I didn’t know how to market that stuff or have the money to do it so I never did anything with it.” He reportedly made 20 sets, one going to the original ‘Solar Scene’, another that went on the ‘Strip Star’, another for his ’40 Ford sedan delivery that he sold to one of Brizio’s guys, and another set that he’s using on a recreation of the Solar Scene.”

Hollywood

The Hollywood Wheel Disc Shop produced accessory wheel covers based on George DuVall’s designs, starting in the ’40s. By the ’60s, however, demand for wheel covers waned. So Hollywood did what any viable company would: It changed with the times.

It hired A&H Foundry in Los Angeles to cast several wheel center models based loosely on the Torq-Thrust design. Others surely sold them but Hollywood’s most visible retailer was none other than Speedway Motors.

Cragar

Named for one of its co-founders (CRAne GARtz), Cragar existed as early as 1930. Though it produced monumental speed parts like overhead-valve conversions from the Miller Schofield tooling and later belonged to Bell Auto Parts’ prolific owner Roy Richter, it made its greatest mark on the automotive industry with a wheel.

Though equipped with five spokes, Cragar’s Super Sport resembled no other model on the market. More than unique, the wheel’s shape was bolder and more purposeful looking than any of its contemporaries. Its immediate success spawned variations, including wheels with cast-finish centers, all-aluminum faces, and even other original designs.

Cragar’s competitors confirmed the wheel’s success by producing countless knock-offs of the design. Whether identical or merely loosely based on the original design, these copies validated the original. They also proved that there’s something immortal in the design: The wheel enjoys 49 years of uninterrupted production and as much popularity today as it did when first released.

Keystone Kustomag/Klassic

In 1964 auto parts distributor Keystone introduced another composite-wheel variation with five-scooped edge spokes that tapered and rose dramatically toward the center of the rim. Christened the Kustomag, the wheel proved incredibly popular from the start.

Though initially quite popular, the Kustomag didn’t enjoy the same lifespan as Cragar’s Super Sport wheel. It returned a number of times, each bearing a subtle variation or name change.

Like most vintage designs the Kustomag is enjoying a modest reprise. Now produced by Carlisle Brake and Friction, the same company that produces Cragar, the Keystone Kustomag is back as the similar 32-series Klassic.

Kelsey-Hayes

Kelsey-Hayes, the company that offered wheels that we featured in the first installment of this series, never got out of the accessory-wheel business. However, the specialty wheels it offered over the years differed little from its competitors. In 1969 it broke that streak.

It introduced a series of spoke-inspired wheels with cast-aluminum faces riveted to steel rims. Initially called The Bad Ones, the wheels soon acquired the equally improbable Stripper moniker.

Though never hotly embraced by the enthusiast crowd, the Stripper wheels found somewhat comfortable homes on cars prepared by supercar dealerships like Yenko. Their production life was brief but they frequently surface at swaps.

SOURCE
Wheel Vintiques
14955 Don Julian Rd
City of Industry
CA  91746
800-959-2100
http://www.wheelvintiques.com/
Truespoke
Fallbrook
CA
760-731-8301
http://www.truespoke.net
Rocket Racing Wheels
P.O. Box 5347
Chattanooga
TN  37406
888-307-7525
www.rocketracingwheels.com
Allied Wheel Components
800-529-4335
http://www.alliedwheel.com
Wheelsmith
888-686-3472
http://www.wheelsmith.com/
Rally America
16320 Morgan Canyon
Prather
CA  93651
559-322-2128
http://www.rallyamerica.com/
Cragar Wheels
http://www.cragarwheel.com/
Radir Wheels
65 River Road
Montville
NJ  07045
866-334-3470
http://www.radirwheels.com/