By on December 1, 2010


Now that my ’66 Dodge A100 runs and drives, I’m contemplating what sort of stance it’s going to have once I install the new wheels. Certified Rambler-racin’ madman and Denver chop-n-channel artist Cadillac Bob suggests that I jack up the front end for that solid-axle gasser look, and he’s probably onto something. However, a cool stance sometimes leads to unpleasant sheet-metal-versus-concrete interactions.

Whether you’re jacking the rear of your ’68 Cyclone about four feet in the air in order to fit the fattest Mickey Thompson tires you can find (as I did to my daily driver at age 18) or installing 24s on your Caprice (as the previous owner of this rollover-victim Caprice I spotted in a NorCal junkyard this morning did), you’re ditching a lot of engineering man-hours dedicated to making your machine handle at least somewhat predictably. Worth it?

After seeing this bonked donk, which no doubt wrecked due to bizarre handling characteristics caused by its monster wheels, I’m reevaluating the idea of the gasser-ized A100; the handling of that van is squirrelly enough at factory ride height, the single-circuit four-wheel-drum brakes are pretty scary, and let’s not even discuss the zero crush space between driver and concrete abutment.

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42 Comments on “Sometimes We Pay The Price For Looking Cool...”


  • avatar
    Stingray

    Sad to see an ex 9C1 end like that. IIRC that one has a LT1. A sweet car.

  • avatar
    86er

    What an ignominious end.

  • avatar
    DaveA

    I like it when the wheels out price the vehicle that they’re on. 

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I was in Lima, Ohio a couple years ago for work over a weekend. I had noticed that nearly all the crappy older cars driven by a certain demographic had giant chrome wheels on them – WAAY more than I had ever seen anywhere else. I happened to visit the local shopping mall for lack of anything better to do that weekend, and discovered that there was a store in the mall that RENTED the things! They had hundreds of them, it was all did! I couldn’t believe it!

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      Ayup, I have seen those wheel rental stores. Makes me wonder what happens when you don’t pay the rent.  Does the repo man take all four wheels off and leave your car sitting on cinder blocks?  Must the repo man demount the tires (assuming they weren’t rented too) and return them to the car owner?

  • avatar
    paul_y

    Don’t get me wrong, I love me some gassers, but they became extinct because they handle like crap when you’re simply trying to drive in a straight line for a few seconds at a shot. Gassers existed because of completely wrong ideas about traction and inertia, combined with ancient tire technology.
     
     
    …and modern tires won’t solve a whole lot in an A100.

  • avatar
    dculberson

    Absolutely no gasser stance if you’re going to drive it more than once in a blue moon.  The  greasers that tool around in those things nowadays spend about 15 minutes a month actually driving, and the rest of the time standing near them talking about them and smoking Lucky Strikes.  Your plan is to drive, right?  Well, keep it factory with some nice stiff shocks.  Unless you want to spend a small fortune making it drive well, in which case lower would probably be better.  You’ll never get it to handle in any manner approaching “well” unless you spend a few grand on suspension work.  But you’ll really wreck the handling if you are just trying to making it look cool.
    (but in reality, what’s cooler than an A100 to start with?  So messing with it won’t make it cooler.  Just harder to drive.)

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      Exactly.
       
      As for your reply below about Miata wheels: lighter is better, diameter is irrelevant. The smallest, (and ideally) lightest wheels that will clear one’s brakes (with tires appropriate to gearing of course) are the biggest that are warranted on any car, ever.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @paul_y
       
      I’ve gotta disagree on that one. My ’05 Saab 9-5 came factory with aluminum 16×6.5s, pretty high sidewall. They sucked significantly.
      I got 17s for it for summer, 7.5s rather than the 7s that most 17s were I was looking at. Not only do they make it look significantly more badass than it did before, the handling is absolutely transformed. The 9-5 hasn’t got the stiffest chassis in the world, and the combination of a fairly sloppy chassis with horribly sloppy high profile, thin 16s was awful.
       
      A steering snap with the 16s resulted in a tankslapping effect that could make you seasick; the 17s (with reasonably sticky Dunlops) could wrench the car quickly enough to scare the hell out of young male passengers.
       
      Without the 17s, no low-profile. Without the low-profile, the road connection isn’t going to be the same. And without the 17s, no 7.5″ tires, and so significantly less contact patch. That combination probably saved my bacon from a good frying when I was forced to swerve around a first-class numbnut who pulled out of a country road intersection a hundred feet away from me.
       
      Skinny, high-profile tires do not performance make. The 17s ride rougher than the 16s, sure – but I like knowing what surface I’m on, and I’ll take some thumping from rough pavement if I get to live in exchange.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      For racing purposes, larger diameter wheels, particularly when running stiff-sidewall low-profile tires, will give you a much larger contact patch than a smaller diameter wheel.
       
      I have actually tested this, although it wasn’t the most scientific affair. Back in ’03 or so, I mounted a friend’s stock mid-90’s 17″ Viper wheels on my car, set the tires to my racing pressures, then swabbed paint on the tires and dropped the lift and let the suspension settle — with some scrap plywood under the tires to protect my garage floor. Then we mounted my stock 18″ wheels, then my friend’s 20-inch CCWs that he uses for road racing. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but we calculated that the 20’s yielded something like 15% greater square footage versus his original 17″ wheels. (Oh, the dumb ideas you’ll try after you install a lift at your house.)
       
      Granted, the Viper’s total side-to-side contact patch measures something like 50″ of rubber, so it doesn’t take a lot of additional front-to-rear patch to yield a 15% increase in total area — but regardless, you can’t argue that 15% more rubber on the road isn’t significant.
       
      ALL professional road-racing teams run fairly big-inch wheels these days… much larger than they need to. Like the gassers, people who run the smallest possible wheels are operating in the same mindset the professionals abandoned several decades ago.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I upgraded my E46 from 17″ to 16″ wheels. The car is just transformed. So much better, I can’t believe I lived with the idiotic 17″ wheels for so long. Totally worth the money! Ride, handling, steering feel, traction — everything is substantially better.
     
    Increasingly larger wheels is one of the things that stops me from buying new cars. Morons.

    • 0 avatar
      dculberson

      Yeah, @vvk, I had a Miata (1999 base model, lightest NB Miata made) with 17″ wheels on it.  I bought a set of the 10.5 pound 14″ factory wheels and put Blizzak winter tires on it.  The car got significantly faster!!  I mean, butt dyno only of course, it felt like 10 – 20% more responsive and just all around felt a hell of a lot better.
       
      It didn’t help that the Momo 17″s what had been on there were 29 pounds a piece – yikes.  But I’ve been a firm believer in right-sized wheels ever since.  But a set of deep 18s do look really sweet on some big old American iron.  I can see the temptation, but for a driver it’s not worth it.

  • avatar
    paul_y

    It’s really a shame that this poor bathtub b-body had to die like this.
     
    At least with lowriders, even if you screw up the handling through weirdo suspension mods and tiny wheels, the center of gravity more or less precludes rolling the General Motors Genericar.

  • avatar
    jet_silver

    When I see these huge-wheeled cars it makes me wonder what other knock-on effects people put up with:  there has to be pretty poor sidewall compliance, the speedo has to be off and badly, and the wheels must weigh a lot; but does this affect transmission shift points?  Do people with big wheels like that change their final drive ratios?

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Gray

      People who do these kind of things to their cars probably don’t know what “final drive ratio” means.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      You’d be surprised. There is a shop next to ours that does a fairly brisk business with these conversions, and I’ve talked to them about the process. The high-dollar option runs mostly truck parts underneath with a lot of weird multiple-shock stuff taken directly from the big-4×4 side of the automotive-abuse hobby. Rear gear swaps (actually usually axle swaps) are routine. Even their lowest-budget clients get their best efforts to correct the speedo.
       
      The biggest problems are everything tied to all that unsprung weight, for obvious reasons. Bearing and wheel-stud failures are routine. I wouldn’t be real surprised if the car pictured with MM’s article lost a wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      No, people with big wheels like that ask, “What the hell is a final drive ratio?”  And then they turn up their gangsta rap on their stereo that is worth many times what the car is worth, and drive away doing 20 in a 55 zone so they won’t run over a pebble and bend their BEAUTIFUL(ly ugly) wheels.  It’s ridiculous.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    While shopping for my 05 xB, I test drove the stock 15″ and the optional 18″ wheels.  The 18″ rode rough and didn’t make sense for western PA potholes.

    When I upgraded from the 15″ steelies to aluminum a couple years ago, I decided to stick with 15″ since I like the ride and lower price of the tires and rims.  Now the steelies wear snow tires for the winter.

  • avatar
    Kelster

    I’m voting for a mystery machine makeover for the A100….

    • 0 avatar

      Nah, go with something original, like I suggested before over on Jalopnik… How about a Super Mario Brothers “Bullet Bill” paintjob!
       
      http://www.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&biw=1472&bih=674&sout=1&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=Bullet+Bill&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Sad end for a good car. Does anyone else think that these massive overblown alloys just look plain fecking stupid? I seem them on various ‘blingmobiles’ around town and I nearly kill myself laughing every time. They look utter balls.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    Where I live, everyone is obsessed with “Hellaflush.” You go to a car club meet here, and the first thing everyone does is try to stick thier finger in your wheel wells, and if it fits, you’re totally un-cool.  I guess it’s kind of the opposite of the donk ride thing, but it’s along the same line of thinking. That is, basically making your car totally useless for the sake of style.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    The gasser looks is period appropriate for your ’66 van. But then, so is shag carpeting and sexually harassing your secretarty. Personally, I’d go for a more enlightened approach and put some disc brakes and sway bars on that bugger. IF you want to be period appropriate, put some lake pipes on it, adopt a great dane, and paint it to match the Mystery Machine.

    Oh, and I LOVE donks. Half the entertainment of any drive though Newark is swerving next to a donk or getting in front of them and braking hard. I love watching the moron drivers freak out. Let’s face it; they’ve basically made the same performace improvement to the car that taking a sawzall to the ECU would deliver. Actually, I take that back. A sawzall to the ECU would be safer for the driver and everyone else.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    More proof there are a lot of people out there with more money than brains.

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    Original diameter of the 225/75 R15s that came on a Caprice is 28.3″.  24″ rims with LoPro tires wouldn’t change the OD of the wheel tire combo that much.  I’m hesitant to place the blame of the accident that provided the coup de grace on that B-body on the 24″ wheels.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    After seeing that first photo, my first impression was: Good. That’s the right place for all those “roach-mobiles” as I hated them all. Whoever was responsible for the design of that style, let alone the management who cleared it for production deserved to all be unceremoniously fired. The worst of GM in the 1990’s, to be sure. Now I know that for some reson those cars had their fans, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what the appeal was. Rear-drive? C’mon, now!

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    From RWD wheel sets on FWD hubs (bye-bye outer CV joints; you’ll be lucky to get 10K miles out of ‘em) to undersized tires on oversized wheels (you really didn’t want any kerbing protection, correct?) to uselessly articulated mini truck dump beds (just give it a straight rear hinged layout: at least when the fad is over and done with you’ll have a useful enhancement to your truck’s hauling capabilities) to hydraulic lowrider suspension setups so poorly reinforced, the first attempt at hopping dumps a half ton of cheapass non-sealed lead-acid batteries onto the filling station’s concrete pad, I have enjoyed decades of point and laugh hilarity in the name of automobile customization. And when the only sound louder than their twelve, 12″ subwoofers bridged into half-ohm instability is the glass-shattering BOOM when their badly wired 2-farad caps short out, you know it’s amateur night at the weekend cruise.

    Better to keep things close to stock, albeit with the addition of sway bars if possible and replacement of worn rubber bushings with modern polyurethane types.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      …the only sound louder than their twelve, 12″ subwoofers bridged into half-ohm instability is the glass-shattering BOOM when their badly wired 2-farad caps short out…
       
      Well, at least when they threaten to “bust a cap” they can back it up…

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    When I hear my sheetmetal hitting pavement, I usually think that’s RAD and admire the sparks in the mirror.
    Bag this thing.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    90% of the time, vehicles with 20 inch or higher wheels are shod with hilariously cheap/terrible Chinese tires. Sunny brand are really common and are beyond terrible.

  • avatar

    Somewhere along the line, the original purpose of mag wheels was forgotten…racers used them to reduce unsprung weight for improved handling. For years, most custom wheels actually brought a functional benefit to the cars on which they were installed. Or at the very least, they looked cool without a deleterious effect on handling/braking.
    Today, you have people jacking up suspension and raising the center of gravity, then putting on wheels that are heavier than stock, so unsprung weight is increased. The final result is at best an uncomfortable ride and at worst a safety hazard.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    the single-circuit four-wheel-drum brakes are pretty scary
     
    @MM: Since you don’t care about the originality of your van, updating it to use a dual-circuit MC should be quite inexpensive.  You only need the MC, a few Weatherhead fittings, and a short length of prefab brake line that has the fittings and flares already done.  I’ve done this conversion on two Chryslers, and a disc brake conversion on a third one, which is only slightly more complicated.  I assume the procedure for your van would be similar.

  • avatar
    bigdonks

    Hey that white 93 chevy caprice is my old car i still have the pink slip to it i can show you pics how it use to look before we flipped over in that car it only have like 111,000 miles on it did you buy it at central tow in fremont that was a good running car. Trigshaeb@yahoo.com


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