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Project Camaro
Wheels & Tires

May 2, 2018
By Scott Lewis

Selecting new wheels & tires took a lot of soul searching. I was getting a lot of information from all directions. Quite a few people told me to get 18 inch wheels. I eventually want to add 4 wheel disc brakes to the car that dictates the wheel size... to a point. The brake kit I will likely go with is from Wilwood and might fit in a 15 inch wheel, but 17 inch or larger are a better choice to be sure there won't be clearance issues.

I was struggling mostly between getting a larger wheel with a classic design, or a complete modern looking wheel. Oh yea, we have goals for this car. Goal one is, "Slightly improve the appearance of the vehicle without altering its stock nature." There you have it... classic styled wheels are it.

I went with Wheel Vintique's 66 Classic Rallyes. I bought 17x7 for the front, and 17x8 for the rear. I skipped the 18 inch wheels even though there is a much larger tire size selection for 18 inch wheels. The deciding factor was that Wheel Vintique does not make a trim ring for the 18 inch Rallye. I did find a couple of "no name" brand companies selling an 18 inch trim ring, but they were electroplated plastic trim rings. The trim rings from Wheel Vintique for their 17 inch wheels are stainless steel.

One of the biggest selling points to me was the 4-1/2 inch backspacing for the 17x7 wheels. These wheels were destined for the front of the Camaro. In my research, more than once I saw the the ideal backspacing for a 7 inch wheel was 4-1/4 inches. Almost every wheel I found for the Camaro in 17x7 had 4 inch backspacing. I have seen plenty of cars where the wheel/tire sticks out a bit too much. It doesn't look right. Also, this will likely lead to the tire rubbing on the fender well. If the 4-1/2 inch backspacing turned out to be too much, I could easily use a 1/4" spacer to get to the ideal backspacing of 4-1/4. In addition, I have heard that the hubs that come with Wilwood disc brake kits pushes the wheel out up to 3/8". That could place the wheel almost perfectly in the wheel well when I get to the brakes.

The 17x8 wheels come with the same 4.5" backspacing. Doing research on Rallye wheels I found 4.5" to be about the ideal backspacing for Camaros with an 8 inch wide wheel. Back in the day it was quite common to get Corvette Rallye wheels and put them on a Camaro. This was a problem as the factory Rallye wheel for the Corvette has a 4 inch backspacing. This, of course, led to the rear wheels sticking out slightly... and causing rubbing issues.

With the wheels selected it was time to select tires. I was a little concerned with rubbing since my car is stock and I will be lowering it. I am also not going to be doing any hard core driving with the car. Well, define had core. I do not plan to autocross it or do any track days. I just need really good street performance tires. Size should not be that critical.

I went with 225 width for the front. I read that 235s fit on a stock 67-68 Camaro without issue, but going with 245 or more means being very careful with backspacing, and other factors can come into play. Since I was not in a position to do any fabricating if there were any fitment issues, I played it safe and went with 225/45-17. These are almost exactly 1 inch shorter overall than the 205/75-14 tires on the car previously. They fit perfectly. They do leave the front looking a little high, because the top of the tire is now 1/2" further away from the bottom edge of the fender lip. I will be adjusting the ride height in the near future.

The rear tires is where I am a little disappointed with myself. Staying on the conservative side, I went with a 245 width tires. These were about 4/10" shorter overall than the tires that were on the car. A 255 tire would have been exactly the same overall diameter. Again, I was concerned with putting too much tire on the car and upsetting the aesthetics of the car. Once I put the 245/45-17s on the car it was clear I could have put the 255s on without issue. Granted, this is a very small difference. I have already gotten over it. However, if I do enough burnouts with the 245's I will buy 255's next time.

Problems

Now that you know my thought process in choosing my wheel & tire selection, it's time to cover the problems. It was not a perfect experience.

The wheels arrived 2 days late due to a bombing at the FedEx facility in Shertz. That was not a big deal other than I was not able to get to the tire store on the day they arrived because I did not get home from work until after they closed. I was so excited to take a picture of the new wheels I pulled one out of the box, took a trim ring & center cap out and put them on the wheel and took a picture of it leaning on the old wheel/tire on the car.

At this point I took the wheels out of the boxes and loaded them up in my Ford Focus, hoping to get all the tires installed the next day. Well, when I got to Discount Tire with the wheels we discovered the 2 rear wheels (17x8) were dented. Sob! I had them mount the front tires on the 17x7 wheels. They had trouble with one wheel that would not balance 100%. They said the wheel was just a touch out of round. More sobbing! At this point I have to hope it will be OK as the wheels are clearly labeled. "if you mount them you bought them." I can't return the wheels after the tires have been mounted.

When I got home I took pictures of the bent wheels.... and the boxes which did show slight crushing in one spot each of the 17x8 boxes. I bought the wheels from Summit Racing. They had an online form to fill out, and I did just that. After filling out the form and uploading pictures of the boxes and the wheels I waited. I received an automated email shortly after saying someone would review my claim and get back to me in 24-48 hours.

Just 2 hours later I received an email asking me if I wanted a refund or an exchange. I asked for an exchange (of course). The next day I received an email with the order. The day after that I received an email with a tracking number. The day after that the replacement wheels arrived. Sweet. That was fast!!! Thanks Summit Racing.

Back to Discount Tire and they mounted the rear tires without issue.

I went home and carefully checked the clearance of the front wheel/tire. They fit perfectly. I put all the wheels on the car without issue.

 

Well, almost! It turned out that 1 of the trim rings would not get on the wheel and stay there. It was a little loose and I could just pull it off too easily with my hand. There was no way I would drive with it, surely it would fall off on the road. I put it behind the drivers seat and pulled it out for pictures.

I logged back on Summit Racing's web site and ordered 1 trim ring. When it arrived it went on the car easy, peasy.

That is the end of my wheel & tire story. All's well that ends well. The car's ride and handling changed exactly as expected. The ride is slightly firmer (with significantly less sidewall for cushion). The grip in corners is noticeably better. However, the steering on the car is an old manual setup so there is no way to tell if turn in is much improved. It could just be in my head. There are no vibrations, so that is an improvement as there was a slight vibration at about 70 mph with the old wheels/tires.

For those that are keeping track... the total cost for the wheels, tires, trim rings & center caps was $1752.88. I did not include the cost of the additional trim ring, since it is not on the car.

What's Next?

I have decided to do minimum suspension modifications to be able to set the overall ride height of the car. Stay tuned.

 

Running Total
   
Previous Total $25,500
Wheels $818.96
Trim Rings $187.96
Derby Caps $183.96
Tires $562.00
   
Current Total $27,252.88
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