Friday, December 19, 2008

Grip That? On Steering Wheels.

I am a boring youngish, oldish sot who hems and moans about those things not original. Those things that go against sound thinking and engineering for a moment of flashy lust. I am not to the point of those that think the catholic mass should go back to Latin, but I am pretty far on the original side of original.

Now, to steering wheels. Why are they changed, I hesitate to use the word upgraded, so often? Simple, It takes only one nut to take a wheel off and swap it out. It gives the owner a false sense of accomplishment that they actually did some meaningful work to their car. One man's opinion here, but it is the same reason lots of people swap out light lenses and add on metal pedals. It is easy to do this. If swapping engines was an easier proposition there would be all sorts of half-breeds driving around. 

Why do I not like 99% of most aftermarket wheels?

A) They are ugly. Period. They may look 'cooler' on their own than the OEM wheel but in situ they look as awkward and out of place as a 12 year old at his first dance with the girl's school from across town and his Dad lurking in the corner as a chaperon. Just look at how wartish the momo wheel looks in the otherwise stock SC above.

B) They are invariably smaller. And this is not always a good thing. Especially for beginning racers. A smaller, thicker wheel invariably encourages a death grip. A more aggressive seizing of the wheel with one's fingers. My karting instructor, after a few laps, saw me stretching my hands and instantly recognized I was holding on too tight. Looser hands, to a point, encouraged smoother driving. And a Porsche at speed, on the track, has a pretty good weight to the wheel in all the cars I have been in, 911, 944, 951, Boxster.

Some driver's I have met search for a smaller wheel to increase the weight because they say it feels better, racier. But this heaviness feels good for a short time. But the penalty in rougher movements. Jerky turn-in. And fatigue are not worth it.

C) Even some stock performance wheels have a yellow line at 12 o'clock. Ugh. Unless you are driving a rally car and making multiple, full 360 degree wheel swings, this is just a boy racerish affectation. If you like a yellow stripe at the top of your wheel, you probably also like flashy exterior badging.

This was, I think, a nice follow up to the below post on driving gloves. You can imagine the acid reflux I endure when glimpsing someone with string back driving gloves gripping a Grant colored wheel. The burn is horrendous. 

Don't believe me. Reinstall your stock wheel for your next track day and see if you don't drive smoother, more relaxed and more energized. Heck, even F1 cars have power steering. 

Everything in moderation, even the feedback and weighting in the wheel of a sports car. 

And just because I railed on them. Doesn't mean they don't have a place. A wood-rim wheel in say a Jaguar or Austin Healy is quite lovely. They match the wood and delicacy of the cars they are installed in. I even once purchased a 1967 MGB from a man who lived in a converted Newport Carriage and owned a gasoline pogo stick that had an original Les Leston drilled rim wheel. It was superb.

Pics from pelican, stuffswap, 7motorcars and seriouswheels .coms

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