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Light vs. Heavy wheels

Do they make a difference?

Photography by John Kiewicz, Scott Kileen

Car crafters have been hearing the same rehashed speed secret for years: For every 100 pounds you remove, your car will run a tenth quicker in the quarter-mile. But is this adage really true? In past testing we've had mixed results--sometimes a 100-pound drop in static weight (such as a steel versus a fiberglass hood) will make the car go two-tenths quicker, while other times it doesn't seem to make a difference at all.

However, racers claim that more important than reducing overall weight is the benefit from reducing rotating weight (like wheels and tires) or reciprocating weight (like rods and pistons). Furthermore, wheels and tires are unsprung weight, which is supposed to make an even greater difference in vehicle performance than sprung weight. As a result, we've heard that swapping on a set of lighter-weight wheels and tires not only improves acceleration but reduces stopping distances.

We were more interested in dragstrip acceleration, so we tested traditional rally wheels from Wheel Vintiques (which makes reproduction rallies in numerous sizes) against lightweight Center Line wheels on our 502-powered Mean Street

Chevelle. For consistency, we used the same size/type rear tires (Mickey Thompson E.T. Street 26x10.5-15) mounted on 15x8-inch steel and aluminum rims. Up front we tested both 15x7- and 15x4-inch rims in steel and aluminum with the same diameter tires (to not affect rollout). Did the lightweight goods really make a difference? Check out the results box. A huge thanks to L.A.-based Flip's Tires which, as always, did all our mounting and balancing muy pronto.

Test Configurations
Test 1
(2) 15x7 rally with BFG P215/60R15 = 95.56 lbs.
(2) 15x8 rally with M/T 26x10.5-15 = 93.70 lbs.
Total weight = 189.26 lbs
e.t. and mph = 12.137@111.99

Test 2
(2) 15x4 rally with M/T 26x7.5-15 = 70.86 lbs.
(2) 15x8 rally with M/T 26x10.5-15 = 93.70 lbs.
Total weight = 164.56 lbs.
e.t. and mph = 12.107@112.52

Test 3
(2) 15x7 Center Line with BFG P215/60R15 = 70.46 lbs.
(2) 15x8 Center Line with M/T 26x10.5-15 = 64.10 lbs.
(4) Center Line center caps = 0.96 lb.
Total weight = 135.52 lbs.
e.t. and mph = 12.103@112.10

Test 4
(2) 15x4 Center Line with M/T 26x4.5-15 = 42.12 lbs.
(2) 15x8 Center Line with M/T 26x10.5-15 = 64.1 lbs.
(4) Center Line center caps = 0.96 lb.
Total weight = 107.18 lbs.
e.t. and mph = 12.026@113.11

Total weight reduction = 82.08 lbs.
Total performance gain = -0.111 sec, +1.12 mph

Weight Comparo
Traditional Rally Wheels (Wheel Vintiques)
WheelMaterialSizeWeight (lbs.)
RallySteel15x418.78
RallySteel15x723.68
RallySteel15x827.23
Options
Flat "disc brake" center cap1.12 lbs.*
15-inch chrome trim ring1.28 lbs.*
*Note: Per NHRA rules, for testing we did not run rings or caps. For street cars, add 9.60 lbs. for caps/rings.
Lightweight Wheels (Center Line)
WheelMaterialSizeWeight (lbs.)
Convo ProAluminum15x49.64
Convo ProAluminum15x711.13
Convo ProAluminum15x812.43
Options
Center Line center cap0.24 lb.
Tires
BrandTypeSizeWeight (lbs.)
BFGRadial T/AP215/60R1524.10
M/TSportsman26x7.50-1516.65
M/TE.T. Front26x4.5-1511.42
M/TE.T. Drag26x10.5-1519.62
M/TInner tube*#95524.80
*Note: We did not run tubes for testing, but if you choose to run tubes in the slicks, add 9.60 lbs.
SOURCES
Center Line Wheels
N/A
www.centerlinewheels.com
BFGoodrich Tires
877-788-8899
www.bfgoodrichtires.com
Wheel Vintiques
5-59/-251-6957
wheelvintiques.com
Mickey Thompson Tires
4670 Allen Road Stow
OH  44224
800-222-9092
www.mickeythompsontires.com
Flip's Tire Center
Dept. 5.0
7745 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys
CA  91405
818-786-8686
www.flipstires.
com
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