Custom Japanese wheels for a 74' Toyota Celica
My 74 celica came with overfenders installed with 1980's supra wheels.
The supra wheels are well built wheels that suited the car. There are plenty of 1st generation Celica's running them.
But then I saw some photos of what these Celica's with overfenders looked like in the 1970s at the fuji speedway (http://japanesenostalgiccar.com/fuji-speedway-in-photos-circa-1977-80/.
My supra wheels obviously didn't fill those fenders out the way it was done back in the day.
And sometime in the 2010's, in a Montreal body shop, my car was cut for overfenders:
Knowing nothing about wheels 7 months ago, I immediately assumed I had to just buy a set plus spacers - it’s just the first thing that came up on google. A set of 4 wheels would cost about 1200 to Canada shipped with taxes and all. You know, Rota wheels and that kind of stuff:
I spent about a month looking at those sort of wheels.
Researching the Rota’s brought up a lot of fake vs real wheel debates. Which I didn't care about. But it did open up my mind in terms of wheel design - could I get something more original and unique for this car? The previous owners of this Celica had put a shit-load of work into it...I should least look at more options, right?
Which led me to: http://kyushashoes.com/
Wow…so many amazing wheel designs done back in the day. And just plugging in the names of old-school wheels led to google images of really cool, thoughtfully designed Celica's.
And then I saw this: http://www.speedhunters.com/2008/09/the_101_gt_gt_cool_japanese_wheels_pt_1/
I started looking at original Japanese wheels, like starsharks, speed star, wantanabe etc. on ebay.
I priced them out. About $1600 CND to get them to Canada, then I would have to find a place to refurbish them (warped lips, curb rash, worn seats, not to mention polishing and cleaning).
Nothing came up locally in terms of a shop I could hire to help do this stuff. I could see the dolla dolla bill's rising as I imagined repacking the wheels to ship them off to some other shop out of the city.
My refurbished wheels google search led me to a small wheel shop in Australia called Barrel Bro’s.
And that’s when I saw the SSR XR4’s, and XR4's on Celicas!
That’s what my Celica wanted.
Machine-like and clean looking.
Each wheel looks like a big mechanical gear sitting within the lip!
So I contacted Barrel Bro's on facebook (all our communications were through facebook messenger instead of email, which is just the way they do things), and they sent me this super hi-tech diagram of how to measure the car for a set of wheels:
A few weeks later, we dug our way into the snowed in storage facility, and some friends and I made those measurements in the cold Canadian winter:
Barrel Bro's gave me some options based on my measurements.
14" or 15" wheels?
I went for 14". I love the look.
But I cannot tell you how much of a pain in the ass it was to find tires for them in Ontario, Canada. Such a pain in the ass. Like almost giving up on new wheels pain in the ass. More on that below.
9.5 Inch wheels on the front, 10 inch wheels on the rear to fill the overfenders!
Either they could customize a set of XR4's that fit just within the guard, or just slightly poked out.
I went for just slightly poking by selecting lips that would achieve that fitment.
Before I hit the trigger on ordering the wheels, I tried to find a tire shop that would work with me. This took another month - I didnt want to get stuck with rims that I couldn't not put tires on, because most places where I live are standard, big box stores that are great at putting wheels on stock, modern cars only.
Not 14" wide-ass wheels.
A month later, I found one that said they would (as it turned out, eventually they wouldn't). So I facebook messenged' Barrel Bro's, sent the deposit, and off they went making these wheels. Production time? 8-10 weeks.
And in those 8-10 weeks, they sent me these pictures - the making of my Xr4s:
Once finished, shipping was really fast (within 7 days I think...)
I was having a picnic with my daughter when the UPS truck showed up:
It was another 2 weeks days before I could get an appointment at the tire shop...so, the tires laid around my living room, played with by little kids, and cats...and one of them found it's way in the bathroom for some reason.
I didn't mind at all. They are great to look at (and are light enough that 3 to 6 year old's can toss them around).
Even the cat got into them.
An important thing to note is that while these have been refurbished, they are still decades old, used wheels. So while they look amazing, they hold imperfections that you will see magnified up close. The same could be said for my 74' Celica...so, it works. You can't really see these imperfections at normal viewing distance in real life.
I guess they realized it might be a challenge to fit the wheels, and they just ignored my messages.
The second tire shop (Frisby Tire) were good sports, and decided to give it a go. They ordered some B.F. Goodrich's to do a test fitting...P215/60/R14 (front) P235/60R14 (rear). Based on overall diameter, there was a good chance they could fit. They were about an inch bigger in overall diameter, but my car has stock suspension and what looked like loads of room. Seven days later, they were in....and it looked like it could work:
The technician backed out the of garage bay, and it looked promising until he turned the wheel....whumpwhumpwhumpwhump....both the back and front wheel started rubbing...the front so badly the fender was vibrating wildly. Ughh.....
I learned right there an then that overall diameter was something I had to get way more specific with. It LOOKED like I had tonnes of clearance, especially with cut fenders. In reality? Not a chance with 60 aspect ratio, which gave large overall diameters for the selection I had.
A week later they tried a new set of 185s...hoping that a bit of a stretch would make them fit. They couldn't even put them on the wheel. They tried, and these guys were nice enough that they didn't charge me for their efforts.
A month later, I found a small shop close to downtown. Hyashi Tuning. I took the Celica in for an oil change, and these guys were really into the car. They had a bunch of first generation MR2's in the lot, and got the idea of what I was doing with the car. We started talking tires.
It was here that I realized that I was wrong with one of my assumptions, a 15" wheel, while bigger, would have given me access to lower profile tires, which would have been an easier fitment. I wrongly assumed 14" would be smaller, and more likely to fit. So, I was paying my ignorance tax as a result lol.
They found 1 set that would potentially fit, that I could order through 1010tire from the US.
A set of street legal semi-slicks - Toyo R888's (http://www.1010tires.com/Tires/Toyo/Proxes+R888
About 1000 bucks shipped, non-returnable.
Poor performance in rain, they wear fast, but otherwise had a good reputation.
I took the plunge - at this point, I just wanted to see the wheels on the car. The overall diameter was less that my previous supra wheels - I took this as a good sign.
FITMENT DAY #3:
Getting them on the wheels and balancing took several different techniques.
New wheel in the front, old on the back...
The smaller sidewall (225/50/14 - with an overall diameter of 22.8) definitely fit better (the BF goodrich were 24.2 overall diameter).
We took it off the ramp....the rear tires fit perfect with no rubbing. The front fit, until you turned and them womp..womp..womp...as the overfender rubbed against the wheel.
So they took out the grinder....
Which gave me some XR4's, 14 inch, wide ass wheels on a 74 Celica.
Here are the Pro's n Con's after 6 weeks of driving:
Once the tires are warmed up (a few minutes of driving), my highway performance, cornering and braking are all improved. Cornering massively so.
This tire / wheel combination is so sticky that I can't spin out the back wheels anymore - they just grip. It just feels like a more stable car at highway speeds, and the handling is more refined.
These tires are loud - there is a hum, and the note varies with the speed and driving surface. But I like it - the car sounds pissed off and in a hurry!
Even with shaving the overfenders and body, the turning radius is reduced with the fat wheels. It will still rub a little bit, but if I pin the steering wheel I'll hit the inner frame of the body. Not an issue for most daily driving. But tight, underground parking garages with narrow lanes? It sucks.
The wide-ass wheels/tires added weight. The car is less "squirely", which I kind of liked before. The trade off is a more stable ride and better cornering.
Im gonna enjoy it the way it is now, and look into lowering the car a bit next year...or not. Maybe tune the engine a bit? A better exhaust?