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Chris Rosales

How to Choose the Right Wheels

There’s nothing less steezy than a stock car. There are exceptions, but everything is better lowered on TE37s. TE37’s on your dad’s Chrysler Pacifica? Swag. A set of mag blue TE37 SAGAs on your toaster oven? Goes hard. Chrome TE37SLs on the garbage can? C’mon now.

But really, a careful selection of aftermarket wheels is the true ticket to swagging out. There’s a healthy criteria for choosing the right set of wheels, mostly based on arbitrary historical precedent, and the culture.

I’ve been ruminating on Wheel Culture, as I’ve dubbed it, while I searched for a good set of wheels for my 2023 Subaru BRZ. It’s similar to sneakers or streetwear. Some models and brands are undeniably dope, instant swag adders. Most of those wheels come from Japan or Germany, some even from Russia. More than anything, cool wheels come from companies with significant racing heritage, adapted to the road for style.

Allow me a quick breakdown of cool wheel companies. At the top, Japan’s Rays Engineering with its Volk Racing line of motorsport wheels, including the totemic TE37. Then, there’s BBS out of Germany, which practically owns the 1990s’ multi-spoke motorsport wheel style with the LM and E88. Completing the trifecta is Yokohama with its Advan line of wheels, most notably the RG and TC series.

Then, some left fielders that have world-ending swag: Spoon Sports, famed Honda tuner, with the SW388, Desmond Wheels with the Regamaster, which actually inspired the SW388 in the mid-1990s, and Mugen with the MF10. Finally, there’s the middle tier of wheels. This is where companies like Enkei, Work, SSR, Rays Gram Lights, and Weds exist. Within each, there are cool wheels and decent wheels.

It gets deeper, because not all variants of swag wheels are created equal. Even amongst TE37s, there are variants that are extremely desirable and others that are overlooked. I’ve found a few key factors that determine the desirability of the wheel:

  • The shape of the face and concavity of the face. The more concave, the better. And the spokes must fall into the center of the wheel gracefully, with no awkward protrusions.
  • In absence of concavity, the depth of the face compared to the lip. Example: the Mazda 787B rear wheel goes hard. The deeper the barrel, the better.
  • The fitment and rarity of the wheel for a particular chassis.
  • The particular variant of the wheel. TE37 Saga, TE37SL, TE37RT, etc.
  • The finish/color of the wheel.
  • Also, it’s a given, but your ride height has to be low.

It’s all down to spec and variant. The right specification (diameter, width, and offset) will determine items one and two, and go the longest way in making the car look right. Generally, the wider the wheel, the more concave the face will be. This is why you’ll see dudes (including me later in this post) cut and fit the car around the wheel setup rather than risking looking like a dork.

Cutting to the chase, I chose the WedsSport SA-25R. These aren’t normally a wheel I’d go for on the basis of swag, but they were $1,000 used and in the right size: 18x9.5 with an offset of +45. They’re also fairly lightweight, around 20 pounds per wheel.

The ideal fitment for my car would be an 18x9 +40 or +35, but I couldn’t quite find perfection within my budget. And truthfully, I destroyed the factory Michelin PS4s on my stock wheels and only had wider tires in my secret stash. Instead of simply replacing the tires on my stock wheels, I decided to spend more on some dumb wheels. It’s just logical.

There are some critical swaggy elements to the SA-25R. Firstly, the finish is nicely considered, with no flashy colors or elements. It lets the car do the work. Secondly, the wheel face has a good bit of concavity, and the spokes are shaped nicely to give the wheel some visual depth. Also, the cast text on the rim of the wheel looks cool. Thirdly, they are still a Weds wheel which gives them a bit of street cred. To complete the look, I tossed the set of 265/35/18 Yokohama Advan Neova AD09s I had in my shed, which maximized the JDM vibes. All said and done, the assembly weighed 44.4 lbs, compared to the 38.6 lbs of the stock stuff. Not great, but sacrifice comes with the territory of swag.

Fitting a 9.5-inch wide wheel to the BRZ was mostly straightforward, with some massaging needed. A dude called Mr. Sexy (not joking) preemptively cut the car’s rear fender extensions to fit wide wheels with no worries. Otherwise, I would’ve had to run extreme rear camber or a weak fitment. And I would never run weak fitment.

I also had to run coilovers to clear the inner barrel of the front wheel. While the 265mm AD09s are wider than I want to run, they’re a great, hard-wearing tire that will make for great practice rubber until I throw my ultra stickies on in the fall.

For now, it’s a modest upgrade, and I can finally run my tires of choice for track days. While my initial impressions on the street are that the car is now way too gripped up and I’m not the biggest fan of the dampers, I’m reserving judgment until I hit the track. Most importantly, I finally roll deep in my BRZ and not look like a dork. It finally has some swag. But there’s still more where that came from.

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