photos by: the author
We Take a Restified ’68 Firebird Convertible and Bring it Up to Date with a Killer Set of YearOne Cast Aluminum Rally II Wheels
It wasn’t that long ago when 15-inch wheels were considered a large diameter wheel for a classic musclecar. When we typically think of a wheel upgrade, we think of something in the same diameter, but maybe with a wider dimension and with and a bit more chrome – at least that’s how things used to be.
Nowadays, enthusiasts want to take these vintage icons and transform them into all-round performance machines; no longer solely interested in cruising around, sprinting from stoplight-to-stoplight in the unsanctioned 1320′ or running the quarter-mile at their local dragstrip. Big stopping power, incredible handling and the ability to step up to a wider, lower-profile tire with great gripping capabilities is where the hobby is at.
Today, there are endless places you can go for updated-sized rollers, and while there are very nice options out there, there are many, many more that just don’t look right on a ’60s or ’70s classic vehicle. They either look too garish, too cheesy or can easily be seen as being dated in a few years. We don’t know about you, but if we’re stepping up with something more modern, we want it to look good for the foreseeable future!
Luckily, our friends at YearOne have just the solution for guys like us by way of their cast 17-inch retro-styled wheels. Available in both 8-inch and 9-inch wide diameters, YearOne takes the same look, feel and overall style of your vintage Magnum, Snowflake, Honeycomb, Rally II, Chevy and Mopar Rally or Z28/Monte SS N90 wheel, and has recreated them in a one-piece cast aluminum design.
Our in-house ’68 Firebird is equipped with several modifications, including a 455 powerplant, a Cadillac shade of silver and several bolt-ons, but was still sitting on the factory Rally II wheels it had left Pontiac with some forty-seven years ago. They looked great, were in perfect condition and didn’t even have so much as a ding in the trim ring.
But when it came right down to it, it just seemed that the Firebird looked like it was on roller-skate wheels whenever we parked it next to the other cars at our local cruise-in. We also wanted to give it an edge in looks as well as upgrade the handling characteristics slightly. Going from a 15-inch diameter Rally II to a 17-inch version with a lower profile tire will certainly help steer us into the right direction.
Another added benefit was the difference in weight; keep in mind that the factory wheel, though shorter in overall diameter and narrower in width, is cast in steel, whereas the modern-sized counterpart is cast in aluminum. Less weight also means less poundage on the scales and in the rotating weight loss department. They won’t rust, pit or slow our car down.
So we gave our friends at YearOne a call and placed our order for staggered width 17-inch Rally IIs; 17×8 in the front, 17×9 in the rear. You can order these individually or as a set, and with or without center caps. You also have your choice of center caps, too, actually; black lettering with a red background or red lettering with a black background. We chose to stick with the OEM theme of our car, and ordered the caps with the black background and red lettering (PN RTWSB1).
With a backspacing of 4.5-inches in the front and 5-inches in the rear, clearance wasn’t an issue and our wheels sit flush with the body panels; so they don’t stick out passed the body panels in the front or rear. YearOne always recommends test-fitting their wheels before you have them mounted on rubber, which we had off-camera, prior to the installation.
Of course, that left the question of which tires to go with, and although there are just as many tire choices as there are wheels, we went with the BF Goodrich g-Force Sport COMP-2 for their tread life, grip, ride comfort, handling and braking improvements, and overall value. There are probably better options out there in regards of sheer grip, trackability or even a lower price point, but the g-Force Sport COMP-2 offered the perfect balance of what we were looking for. Plus, they were the appropriate compliment to our new YearOne wheels, since our factory Rally IIs were equipped with BF Goodrich’s Touring T/A radials.
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of Timeless Muscle Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.