Saturday 6 October 2012

E21 316: Finally decided on wheels - period Cross-Wires

The gleaming new look of the respray was being let down a bit by the tiny 13x5 steel wheels, so I've been looking for some 15x7 in the right offset [~12mm] to make the car a bit more sure-footed in the twists and give it some real stance. I'd like to have got 8" or 9" wide on the rear, but I think 7 is the maximum for the E21 without arch modification. The question was which way to go with the rims?

First I had my heart set on banded-steel wheels for a ratty deep-dish look and to keep costs down. The stud-pattern is the same as early VW Golfs, so there are plenty of sets around, but the lowest offset I could find was 33mm and that's just too big for an E21 without using spacers, which I am loathe to do without being ready to hack the arches yet. Having my own set made was the only option, but we'd now be talking around £500 and still finding 15" steels with a low enough offset is all but impossible. I even enquired about having the stock 13" steels banded to 7J, which is possible for about £200 unpainted, but they informed me that the band would be in the middle of these wheels, giving the width without the deep-dish look. Calamity! With all avenues now exhausted, it was time to look into alloys...

But what alloys? Modern ones look rubbish on classics and there's still the offset problem, so I found myself limited to ones designed specifically for the old BMW fit. Of the modern rims, ATS Euro Cup are probably the most retro friendly and have the lowest offset at 20mm, but the previous owner had these on my E21 and he says they still rubbed a fair bit. To guarantee a good fitment and do justice to the look of the car I began looking for period alloys from the late '70s and early '80s. The choice is a bit limited and seemed to come down to between the Alpina style multi-spokes, which are done to death, or BBS style cross-wires, so I chose the latter. An original set of BBS in the E21 fitment could be thousands, but thankfully there were several companies at the time making decent one-piecers in a similar style, which are a bit easier to get hold of.

They're still thin on the ground though, so I've been scanning eBay for a couple of months and have finally got hold of a set of Melber light-weight 15x7 with the magic 12mm offset.These are proper German period items, well made and Melber have a good rep. in club-sport circles. Best of all they fit the retro-racer bill perfectly, but were still a bit more than I wanted to spend @ £275. They're well used too and don't include tyres either, but thats for the best as I want to stretch under-sized ones on myself and I'm just glad to finally put my massive wheel conundrum to bed...

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