|Wheels for the 1932 Ford projects
||Last updated on June 10, 2012|
The wheels for the coupe and the roadster
The wheels for the coupe are Halibrand magnesium 15 by 8 and 15 by 4 1/2 Sprint that I've cleaned, sanded, and given a brushed finish. The rears are five-inch
bolt pattern and the fronts are 4 3/4. While magnesium wheels aren't considered practical for a street car,
Gibbs Brand keeps them looking good without oxidizing.
After reading parts of my site, some people have gotten the idea that I am a wheel dealer. Not so. For years I've been gathering the parts needed to build a
1932 Ford three-window coupe for the street and a wild, steel
1932 Ford roadster for nostalgia drag racing. I just really like classic racing wheels. More than any
other parts, the wheels determine the theme for the car they're on. They also change the look of the car more than any other part. I like
old racing wheels. A lot. A few years ago, a guy I know said, "Dave, you have a wheel fetish." He was
Back in the'60s and '70s, I had a variety of racing wheels for various cars. We took them for granted. You just went to the speed shop and bought them. Decades
later, my involvement with traditional race cars and hot rods led to my learning more about them. It started back in 1998, when I was offered a set of four
magnesium 15 by 6 Torq-Thrusts with a 4 3/4-inch bolt pattern for $400. All I needed was an old Corvette to hang them on. I bought two for $200 to see what
they looked like, with the understanding that I could either return them or buy the other pair. When they arrived I saw that they were in excellent
Then somebody back east contacted me. He had a pair of Halibrand 16 by 13 "big windows" with a single five-inch bolt pattern for sale. They came off an old
Fuel Altered or Top Fuel dragster from Fort Worth, Texas. Was I interested? Sure. They are the most aggressive-looking drag racing wheels that were ever made.
Who cares if they're so huge that they don't fit anything? We got talking, and it turned out that he had an old Corvette. So, he got my pair of magnesium
Torq-Thrusts, liked them, bought the second pair from the guy that had offered them to me, and sent me the Halibrands as a straight trade.
Once in a while I sanded them a little more, and now they're finally
finished. Considering what they had been through, they were in great shape, and hardly pitted at
all. The pair cost me 200 bucks. And about a hundred hours of sanding.
I have sprayed them with Gibbs Brand, which is what I use to protect all of my magnesium and
These are very impressive wheels. But they are still far from practical. 16 by 13-inch wheels are so big you have to build the car around them.
These magnesium 16 by 13 wheels were made specifically for the 13.00-16 wrinkle-wall slicks that were used on Top Fuel cars and Funny Cars in the late '60s.
Aside from the new 16-inch Hoosier Pro Street tires and the new M&H street tires, there are virtually no new DOT-approved tires available that fit them.
One of the very few street tires that would work with them is the now-obsolete BFGoodrich Sport Truck T/A radial, which was 345 millimeters (13.58 inches)
wide, with a 55-series profile. They were recommended for use with wheels that are ten to twelve inches wide. I looked around for a pair of them and bought a
new pair in March of 2003. After a couple of years I sold them, having concluded that six-ply truck tires that weigh fifty pounds apiece don't belong on a
For the next few years, my wheel searching was concentrated on finding a pair of 15 by 4 1/2 Halibrand magnesium front wheels to go with the 16 by 13s. These
are hard to find. As far as drag racing wheels go, Halibrand (and American Racing, for that matter) probably made at least fifty pairs of wide rear wheels for
every pair of narrow, bolt-on front wheels.
Later in March of 2001, as a result of my searching for narrow magnesium front wheels to use with the 16 by 13s, I bought a pair of magnesium American Racing
Torq-Thrust 15 by 4 front wheels for 200 bucks. They became available after a friend in Georgia bought a 1963 Corvette coupe that had been turned into a drag
car but never finished. It has since been restored, mildly hot rodded, and put on the street. The Corvette must have originally been built up in the
mid-Sixties, because when my friend bought it, the car had a rectangular tube chassis and an early Ford I-beam front axle.|
When they arrived, they looked to like they were in great shape. The lips had the inevitable minor pitting. The centers were painted black but looked fine,
with no signs of pitting. And then I beadblasted all the paint off.
The insides of the spokes looked like someone had taken a BB gun and used them for target practice. If I had known they were pitted that badly I would have
passed them up. But they were mine, and I wasn't about to just slop more paint on them and pretend they were fine. I spent more Saturdays than I'm anxious to
admit using a die grinder over at
Russ Meeks' shop, getting rid of their imperfections. Those wheels took a lot of
In June of 2001, I bought one Halibrand 15 by 4 1/2 magnesium Sprint with a 4 3/4-inch bolt pattern from Tracey Alexander. This wheel has only ever been on one
car. Back in 1967, Tracey's brother bought it new in San Diego for his 1957 Corvette gasser. On its last run the car did a big wheelie, the driver panicked,
backed off, and came down hard. Bad move. One front wheel was bent and cracked and cannot be repaired. This one was undamaged, and in the best condition I've
ever seen of any magnesium wheel this old. Aside from its patina, it essentially looks new. It has never been buffed. You can clearly see the original
machining lines, and the tooling marks around the insides of the slots where the casting flash was cut away. It proved to be a lot easier to find a matching
pair of wheels than to find just one wheel with a 4 3/4-inch bolt pattern like this one. I eventually gave this wheel to the only person I could find that had
a mate for it, my friend Lars Lundstrom in Sweden.|
After spending several hundred dollars on phone calls, in July of 2002 I finally got a nice pair of them in a trade from Thom Taylor in California. In late
2004, I bought a second pair, with a Chevy bolt pattern, on eBay. This picture shows one of them as all four of them look now.
The Halibrand rear wheels for the coupe are a pair of 15 by 8 magnesium "big window" Sprints, with a single five-inch bolt pattern. These interchange with the
16 by 13s for the roadster, and are the perfect match for the Halibrands for the front of each car.|
Found in November of 2002, they came from Don Raleigh in New Jersey. Don used to run them on his 1937 Chevy coupe gasser, which had a six-carb 327 and an Olds
rear end. I bought them after Don pulled them out of storage for the first time since the 1960s, complete with the remains of a wasp's nest on the inside of
one of them.
When I got them I inspected them for damage and found none. In fact, they turned out to be about as nice a pair as is reasonable to find these days.
In these pictures they are shown after I invested three hours and half a sheet of 80-grit emery cloth in cleaning them up, hand-sanded them with finer emery
cloth, bead blasted them completely, and then sanded the lips with them spinning in a lathe. Then I gave them a brushed finish like the 16 by 13s and both
pairs of 15 by 4 1/2s.
This picture was taken in May of 2004, and shows some of the parts for the roadster. The 15 by 4 1/2 and 16 by 13 wheels surround a pair of
finned "lobster" front calipers in the front, and a pair of
dual-piston rear calipers behind them, with a fuel cap between them. All of these were made by Halibrand,
with everything but the aluminum fuel cap being cast magnesium.|
The really neat thing about these old wheels is how they change the look of the car. Something that isn't shown on this page is all of the hunting around it
took to find these old wheels. I put as much energy into trying to find them as I did getting them to look like they do.
The wheel shown here is one of the pair of 15 by 8 1/2 Torq-Thrusts, in the rare, five-inch bolt pattern. The picture shows the wheel after I spent a few
evenings getting the pair of them uniform with emery cloth and then brushing them with Scotch-Brite.|
The process for refinishing all of the wheels involved bead blasting, sanding by hand with 80-grit emery cloth in alternating directions to get rid of all of
the ripples, low spots, and imperfections, sanding them again with 180, bead blasting them again, and then finishing the lips in the lathe.
Finding narrow front wheels that look right on a traditional hot rod can be a challenge. In the '60s and '70s, American Racing didn't make narrow aluminum
Torq-Thrusts. The only narrow Torq-Thrusts were the 15 by 4 magnesium wheels.|
The Torq-Thrust wheels for the front are a rare pair of mid-1960s aluminum Torq-Thrust "D" wheels that were originally made as 15 by 6s and then narrowed to 15
by 4 1/2s.
The D-spoke Americans have more backspacing than the more-common Torq-Thrusts. They were introduced in the early 1960s to fit Corvettes with disc brakes. The
spokes are straight like the original Torq-Thrusts but have a curve at the outer end.
Like all of the wheels on this page, the early Ds are not easy to find. This pair came from a small town in Wisconsin. Someone had used a rattle can to paint
the spokes yellow. The guy that advertised them online for $60 had found them where he works, at the city dump.
These wheels were made with a 3 3/4-inch backspacing and 3 1/4-inch frontspacing.
The wheels were narrowed by
Lonnie Gilbertson at Gilbertson Machine in Portland. By narrowing the insides of the wheels
an inch and a half, I ended up with a pair of 15 by 4 1/2s with a one-inch positive offset.
These pictures show the wheels after they were bead blasted, narrowed, sanded smooth, and then given a brushed finish.
I haven't bought the tires for these wheels yet, but the smallest Hoosier Pro Street radials look like they would work well.
Back in 1998, I learned of some aluminum center caps for sale that American Racing had produced for their magnesium five-spoke wheels. They had been "restored"
by someone who sent them to a production polishing shop. When I looked at them, it was obvious that these particular caps had been quickly polished with a
buffing wheel by someone who was not a perfectionist. This rounded off some of their detail and left small gouges in the aluminum. I do a lot of fine polishing
myself, and a lot of this work involves repairing the damage that has been done by so-called professional polishers. I decided to pass.|
For several years, I looked for another set of these aluminum center caps, asking dozens of people about them. In June of 2001, a pair of American Racing 14 by
6 magnesium five-spokes with rounded spokes and a 4 1/2-inch bolt pattern came up for sale. These wheels were most likely used on a Mustang road racer in the
mid-Sixties. Included with these magnesium wheels was a pair of the original American Racing aluminum center caps, complete with the original gaskets that went
behind them. (The gasket was used to prevent electrolysis between dissimilar metals.) I didn't need the wheels, but when I asked the seller if he had any more
center caps like that, he told me that he had another pair and he was willing to sell them. None of the four center caps had ever been polished. For $240 I
bought the four center caps, the gaskets, and the pair of 14 by 6 magnesium wheels.
I later found a set of four new old stock American Racing aluminum center caps, still in their original boxes. I currently have a total of dozen of these
center caps. Some of used ones were oxidized so I cleaned them up with emery cloth in a lathe.
This pair of 15-inch American Racing magnesium 12-spokes, mounted on a pair of early Ford spindles, came on an old Deuce race car that Miles Metcalf
With no provision for front brakes, they're not practical for the street, but they're great for nostalgia drag racing. For now, they're sometimes used in the
shop for mocking something up.
These wheels have never been polished, and they're going to stay that way. I've wiped them down with a fine sanding sponge to remove the oxidization.
When Dan Carlson offered me this pair of the original E-T III 16 by 10s after deciding not to use them on his gasser, they were too neat to pass up. I bought
them and set them aside.|
These are the original two-piece version of the E-T III that have the inner and outer halves held together with socket-head cap screws and self-locking
The reason for building a wheel in two halves was to make it easier to change tires at the track between rounds, although it still takes a lot of muscle to
unseat the bead. The mating surfaces on each of the halves has a machined, stepped recess. This provided adequate sealing without an O-ring or a gasket, since
these wheels were designed to be used with slicks, which use inner liners or inner tubes.
E-T introduced the 16 by 10 E-T III around 1969. The styling was inspired by the big-window Halibrands, but taken further with larger windows.
As with all of the other wheels for the car, I have completely cleaned them in a bead blasting cabinet, and then sanded them by hand with 60-grit emery cloth
in alternating patterns to make the surfaces uniform, and then gone over them with 150, 240, and 400-grit emery cloth.
These pictures, which were taken in March of 2006, show them as they are now. After sanding them inside and out, I brushed them with Scotch-Brite.
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