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Wheel Weights and Types

September 24, 2010 | Research & Identification
The Eternal Debate: More Rubber or Less Unsprung Weight?

One of the most frequently discussed issues on the 356Talk list is wheel size. One school of thought favors 5 1/2" wheels for their ability to put more rubbber on the road, while others prefer 4 1/2" wheels for their lower unsprung weight, original 165/15 tire size, and more nimble feel, especially at lower speeds. However, in the past few years, a number of 5.5" lightweight wheels have become available that are much lighter than any 4.5" wheel, negating that advantage. They are the "MgTEK" or "TECNO-Mg" wheel, a reproduction of the original "Technomagnesio" magnesium alloy wheel that for a time was sold by NLA, and aluminum billet wheels sold by West Coast Haus. (As of May 2008 neither of these wheel types were in production, but as of August 2010 a new version of the classic Technomagnesio is being sold out of Italy.)

In the chart below, drum brake wheels are listed first, lightest to heaviest, and then disc brake wheels, lightest to heaviest. If you have good quality photos of a wheel type listed on this page that does not currently have a photo (photos without hubcaps preferred) please email to barry.brisco@356registry.com . Also please email an accurate weight for any missing data points on this page.

 

Size

Type

Manufacturer

Material

Weight (lbs.)

Click image for larger photo

5.5"

Drum

TecnoMagnesio (original)
MgTEK – NLA Limited

Magnesium alloy

9.0

4.5"

Drum

KPZ (Carrera)

Steel & Aluminum

9.9

5.0"

Drum

West Coast Haus

Aircraft Grade Aluminum

10.5

5.5"

Drum

Ansen

Aluminum alloy

?

6.0"

Drum

West Coast Haus

Aircraft Grade Aluminum

11.5

3.25"

Drum

Early stock 16"

Steel

12.5


5.25"

Drum

Empi

Alloy

?

5.5"

Drum

American Eagle

Alloy

13.5

4.5

Drum

KPZ (Kronprinz)

Steel Painted

13.0

4.5

Drum

KPZ (Kronprinz)

Steel Chromed

13.0


4.5"

Drum

Lemmerz

Steel Painted

13.8

4.5"

Drum

Lemmerz

Steel Chromed

13.8

4.5"

Drum

Mangels Brazil

Steel Painted

15.0


5.5"

Drum

Mangels Brazil

Steel Chrome

16.2

4.5"

Drum

Rudge

Steel Chrome

19.5


Size

Type

Manufacturer

Material

Weight (lbs.)

Click image for larger photo

5.5"

Disc

Mahle "Gas Burners"

Magnesium

9.0 or 9.5?

4.5"

Disc

Fuchs Forged

Aluminum Alloy

9 ?

5.5"

Disc

Fuchs Forged

Aluminum Alloy

10.0

5.5"

Disc

951 (944 Turbo) 1985-86, 1987 (red) space saver spare

Aluminum Alloy (one piece forged)

10.4

5.5"

Disc

Early '90's 993/968 16" space saver spare

Cast Alloy

12.5

5.5"

Disc

Ansen

Aluminum alloy

?

5.0"

Disc

West Coast Haus

Aircraft Grade Aluminum

11.5

6.0"

Disc

West Coast Haus

Aircraft Grade Aluminum

12.0

6.0"

Disc

Fuchs Forged

Aluminum Alloy

12.1 to 13.5

[There are 3
different part #s
for these wheels]

5.5"

Disc

McAfee

Alloy

15.5 (w/o the fake spinner)

5.5"

Disc

MiniLite (UK)

Aluminium alloy

14.0

6.0"

Disc

MiniLite (UK)

Aluminium alloy

15.0

4.5"

Disc

Lemmerz

Steel Chrome

17.1


4.5"

Disc

Lemmerz

Steel Painted

17.1


4.5"

Disc

Kronprinz

Steel Chrome

?


4.5"

Disc

Kronprinz

Steel Painted

?


5.5"

Disc

Lemmerz

Steel Chrome

19.2


Data provided by Jim Breazeale, Brad Ripley (NLA Ltd.), Bruce Sweetman, Steve Watson, Alex Bivens (West Coast Haus), Ben Pratt, Jerry Haussler, Mike Robbins, Dan Jacob, Ken Daugherty, Matt Joy, Eric Nichols, and Freddy Rabbat.


Comments about unsprung weight:

Lee Whistler — "The big deal here is the moment of inertia. Once the unit outboard of the spring - in this case the torsion bar - goes in motion in response to any irregularity in the surface over which the vehicle is traveling, it will generate energy which the suspension must control. The lower the weight which has been set in motion, the easier it is to control. In the case of the wheel/tire, the most costly weight in terms of handling is that outermost from the centerline: the tire tread. The logic of the larger wheels with low profile tires to maintain a given wheel/tire height would seem to be obvious. And the bonus is in faster acceleration and easier braking with lighter wheels and tires."

 


Bill Myers — "On my '60 Rdstr. with disc brakes, I had 5 1/2" chromes with the black crest hub caps. I put the 5 bolt 5 1/2" Mahle "gas burner" with center caps. It took a minimum of ten lbs per corner off the car. I don't race but do an occassional autocross or driving event and the change was remarkable. Others wonder what suspension mods, I had made. I love the wheels on 356s only and have a set ready for my "55 Cont'l "Outlaw". Single best improvement I have made to a 356."

 


John Audette — "I installed the billet alloy wheels from Alex Bivens mounted with Yokohama 195/60 tires on my '60 S90 Roadster (aka The Mouse) a few days ago. The wheels are 5.5" with a 4.4mm backspace so no spacers were required to install them on the car.

All I can say is Wow! I am by no means a big time driver but I *really* notice the difference. It's the single most dramatic thing I've done to enhance the performance of my Roadster. I went from original Lemmerz 4 1/2" chrome wheels with 165's, to 5 1/2" wheels with 195/60's. That resulted in much more rubber on the road -- and a decrease in unsprung weight of over 20 pounds! The car is more nimble, and as the saying goes, it drives likes it's on rails.

Unless you are absolutely committed to an original look (I have my original date-stamped wheels and can put those on any time) I highly recommend that you seriously consider a set of lightweight 5.5" wheels."

 


Jeff Gamble — "The WCH 6" brushed Billets are on the Roadzter with fresh Michelin Hydroedge 185x65. The trip home from the tire shop this afternoon was real interesting as a thunderstorm cell was rapidly approaching the route home... The Roadzter only had the Tonneau and no top. As you can imagine in this case I had to stand on it. Going from 6" steel chromes to the new wheel set up with their reduced unsprung weight (reduced by almost 1/2) felt very very docile. It felt like I could throw the car around with confident ease. Plus I love the understated rich look of the brushed finish."


Other 356 Registry Articles on Tires
Calculating Tire Dimensions & Comparative Tire Sizes
Tire Safety and Date Codes
Tire Inflation Pressures
Tires With Tubes – Original Yes, Needed? No

Tire Resources Online
www.tireindustry.org
http://www.apa.ca

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