The Wheel Rack
July 1, 1998
By Scott Lewis
My 1993 Camaro Z28 has 43K miles on it. Two of the tires are original. (The other two had nails in them in a place that was unrepairable.) One of the original tires has a screw in it. The head is worn down, but it is visible when looking at the tire. It is located right on the edge of the tread. This is most likely not going to be repairable. Even if it was, there is very little tread left.
Time for new tires. I called around, and Discount Tire had BG Goodrich Comp TA VR4 tires in size 245-50/VR16 for $121 each.
The last time I bought a tire for the Camaro (over two years ago) I paid $209 (mounted and balanced) for the same tire. This made me consider checking the price of other tires. So I headed over to The Tire Rack.
The Tire Rack has plenty of tires on there site. All the sizes are available with their prices. I spent a little time browsing around. I was impressed by the quantity of tires available, and the prices are definitely better than they were two years ago. Then I tried their Wheel Rack application.
The Wheel Rack is an Internet application that shows you a picture of your car with the possible wheels you could buy for it. The application looked great. I was thoroughly impressed. I checked out my Camaro with any of 11 possible wheels, some in more than one size. Then I did the next logical thing and checked out the Corvette. I was impressed to see that you could see the Corvette in one of six possible colors. (The Camaro is displayed in red only.)
There was only one wheel available for the new C5 Corvette. I assume this application relies on the wheel's being specifically listed for the car, and there is a lag in updating the information for new vehicles. I became curious how many wheels could be available for other models. Knowing BMW owners love wheels, I checked out the BMW M Roadster.
The BMW Z3 (M or otherwise is the same picture) is available to see in three different colors. is You can see it in any of three colors. As expected, the BMW had over 20 different wheels to pick from.
Then trouble started to show. At this point I thought this was the best Internet application I had ever seen. A friend of mine was looking at the application with me. He is thinking about getting an Acura 3.0CL (the wuss). We tried to pull that up, and realized the limits to the program. The car was not pictured. They just displayed a generic sport coupe silhouette. In fact, checking the previous generation Camaro (1982-1992) displayed the same silhouette. It was displayed again when I tried to display the previous generation Mustang (1979-1993).
Obviously it would require an enormous amount of time to get every car in the application. But I thought it was strange that some cars, the new Jaguar XK8 for example, just showed a box saying the picture wasn't available, while other got a generic silhouette. By the way, they did not even have a listing for the Dodge Viper, or Plymouth Prowler. They claim to have over 2000 vehicles pictures. I hope they are not counting the silhouettes or the repeats. (By repeats, I mean that all the Camaros, whether standard, Z28, SS, or convertible, all show the same picture of a plain Camaro. This is true of a number of other cars as well.)
I assume that they have used there market knowledge and put in cars that they sell the most wheels for. Remember, this is a business application designed to help sell wheels. With that in mind I looked around some more. You will find the New Beetle available for viewing in all its colors. You will find the previous generation Corvette; Ford Explorer; Toyota 4 Runner; Chevrolet Blazer; Cadillac Eldorado; Audi A-6; BMW 3-Series, 5-Series, and 7-Series; Chrysler Sebring, Town & Country, Cirrus, and Concorde; Acura Intergra; Eagle Talon & Mitsubishi Eclipse (these are both the Mitsu); Mitsubishi Eclipse Spider (one of only 2 convertible I found pictured differently from its non-convertible counterpart); Honda Accord Coupe & Sedan, Civic, and Prelude; Lexus SC400, LS400, and GS400; Mercedes-Benz SLK230, E320 and SL500/600; Porsche 911 & Cabriolet (the other separate picture for a convertible, but not the all new 1999 model), 944/968, but no Boxster; and many, many more. Too many to list here, and I got tired of looking just for inclusion in this list. Trust me, this list is just to wet your appetite.
Note: If your car is going to be pictured, it will have the color at the end of the name that is displayed while your waiting. This way you know ahead of time if the wait is worth it. Also, the actual car photographed is displayed so you don't think your going crazy.
The application is slow. In fact, it is one of the slowest Internet applications I have seen. But, if you have the time, it is well worth it. The application make heavy use of your cache, so at least flipping back and forth is quick. You can order the program on CD-ROM for $14.95. I don't know why, except to goof off with it like I was doing. If you are really interested in getting new wheels for your ride, I suggest spending the time with The Wheel Rack. It is amazing if your car's picture is available.
I still think The Wheel Rack is the best Internet application I have ever seen. I just hope they keep adding more cars (how about a 69 Camaro).
I saw my first Prowler on the street. It was a 1998 model. I know this because it was bright yellow, and the extra colors beyond the original purple are only available starting in 1998. I was so mesmerized I didn't get a chance to tell if I liked the yellow enough for mine (when I win the lottery). I will definitely get one when I win the lottery. (Car and Driver's latest issue shows the Prowler in Yellow. Yes it is good enough for me to get it in yellow. Where's that winning lottery ticket?)