What About Wire Wheels?

The question has animated the world of MG owners and replica MG owners for decades: wires?

The MGTC came standard with big, beautiful skinny wire wheels affixed to its axles by shiny two-eared knock-offs. These imparted an air of down-to-business style while also maintaining utter quaintness.

Later MGs, most notably the B-series, had a wire wheel option. But the TD was rendered without it. Not a factory option, and something of an expensive aftermarket addition.

Most folks think these cars ought to have them as a matter of right. And after much study (wire knock-offs are not for the faint of heart. They require truing, cleaning, usually tubes for the tires, and they never seem to have the steel wheels’ durability) I agree.

But Bridget is not a TD. So the typically available conversion option (all $3549.95 worth of it) is not available. Not directly, anyway.

So the question going in is, can British knock-off wire wheels be adapted to Bridget’s VW wheel hubs?

As putting wires on many MGs requires fun stuff like new stub axles, I was at first despairing. Then I discovered the “Dark Side.” Triumph engineered a seemingly much simpler adaptor system that bolted directly to the brake drums of those cars, requiring only a shorter stud kit (or some patience and several hacksaw blades). Triumphs (like later 4-lug MGs) have 4.5 -inch bolt circles. These are just a bit smaller than the 130mm circles on most post ‘68 VWs.

Trying to figure this out using available information about the adaptor dimensions proved impossible. So I finally just bought a set of used ones on ebay, hustled them out the garage and got out the jack and stands.


THEY FIT.

The TR4 #42 Rudge adaptor hubs will fit over the rear (long) attachment nut and grease runner–so long as the cotter pin is given some gentle persuasion with a hammer.


Up front there’s a complication with the grease cap. Seems the lip surrounding that (which allows one to pry the cap off with a large screwdriver or the flat part of the 4-way lug tool) is too wide to allow the adaptor to fit fully over it. The grease cap also has two “ear”-like reliefs in it about halfway up. So the adaptor hub will not seat on the brake drum as it should.

The grease caps would have to be pounded and/or ground down. Need to buy a couple cheap Chinese grease caps and play. They’re likely to be made of thinner stock and so more amenable to adjustment. But even if they have to be rendered one-use items by the conversion, that is a price ($5 per wheel change) I would be willing to pay.

So the way forward now is to look for a machine shop willing and able to ecomonically drill new 4.5 inch bolt holes in the existing wheels. If these are to be put in the “meaty” part of the drum, the old holes will have to be filled–welded–and then the new ones re-drilled on them. The other option would be to install the correct “short stud” kit that comes with the wheel conversion kit. Perhaps they could safely be embedded in the spaces between the existing holes, leaving me the option of easily switching back to stock steelies if necessary.

There are still many questions to be answered, of course. For example, how would the wire wheels’ offsets change the track? Would they still fit under Bridget’s fenders? The expense of getting these is still kind of daunting: $2,000 seems like a likely low estimate.

Still: nice to know that the option is there, with just a manageable bit of tinkering.

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About stuntmidget

I'm a poor mechanic and general wisenheimer. I love old cars and the stories behind them, true or not.
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2 Responses to What About Wire Wheels?

  1. Roy Hendrix says:

    Ed,
    Well, you just needed a guinea pig. Enter Roy, stage right. It can be done. It can be done without major machining expenses in a home workshop with a good drill press and a good thread tap (I used 7/16-20 grade 8 bolts).
    After much research, I was convinced that to weld up the old holes would be too risky and likely add stresses to the drums with a possible nasty later surprise, – brittle fracture. The bolts are bolted through from the backside so they act much like studs. For some reason, that seemed stronger to me. The lug nuts need to be short “acorn” shaped open variety else they interfere with the wheel inner basket.
    Offset change is about an additional 1/2″ wider and is not visibly noticeable. I did not even have to realign the front end. The change in the way that the car rides was noticeable. (Here I should note that I installed 14″ 72 spoke, chrome Triumph Stag wheels with new 185/75R14 tires with tubes. These are almost exactly the same outer circumference as the 165R15 VW wheels that I took off.) It is considerably more sure footed.
    I am within a whisker of whipping the speedometer drive problem, but it is extremely tight in there and I failed on my first 2 attempts at modifying the grease cup.
    Surprising but, it proved impossible to get the 5th wire under the bonnet of my Daytona MiGi with a full sized tire so, I had to go with a donut sized spare.
    Yes, I am aware that TD’s did not come with wires, but I had two sets (one 48 spoke and one 60 spoke) for my TF-1500 and as you said “these cars ought to have them as a matter of right”. I couldn’t agree more.
    Hope that I get to Carlisle and get to show off this (2013) year. I always enjoy your narratives.
    Roy

  2. stuntmidget says:

    Thanks for the detail, Roy. You did nice work on yours and I look forward to seeing it in person. I’ll be interested to learn how the speedo drive problem gets solved. Please update when you do it.

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