In the past several years, what single aftermarket product has been the most popular? Exhausts? Grilles? Roll pans? Leather seats? Without a doubt, the most well-rounded, free-wheelin', and exciting product in the marketplace has been wheels. Naturally, wheels have always been popular, and important pieces of aftermarket equipment when it comes to modifying a truck or SUV. But recently, wheels have reached epic proportions when it comes to popularity.
In the past year or so, there's been an added spin to aftermarket wheels - spinners, or free-wheeling outside center pieces that rotate at different speeds than the actual road-contacting tire. Spinners have revolutionized wheel design and are probably the most sought-after (and often the most expensive) of all aftermarket wheels.
Wheels have become so popular, they've actually been elevated to the stuff that legends are made of. There's a magazine named DUB that bases its name and premise on large aftermarket wheels. Certain rap, rock, and sports stars have their own personal unique designs, vehicles have been reportedly stolen just for their wheels, and we truck enthusiasts spend millions of dollars each year in order to get that one particular wheel that matches the overall design of our truck and lifestyle. Can you think of any other aftermarket modification that stirs such emotion and affects so many enthusiasts? Custom paintjobs come close, but don't have the same overwhelming popularity as wheels.
Add in the fact that wheels come in a virtually unlimited variety of designs, are manufactured chrome-plated, polished, painted, or a combination of all three, made in one-piece, two-piece, and three-piece configurations, and come in sizes from 13 to 27 inches, and you begin to understand this very complex piece of aftermarket equipment. Wheels are often the very first item aftermarket enthusiasts change on their rides, and when the truck is complete, they may change the wheels again to tweak and finalize the truck's final look. To truck builders, wheels are definitely as important as interior mods, paint, performance upgrades, and even mobile audio.
What's ahead for wheels of the future? Well, spinners will eventually run the gamut of popularity, and the next best thing will be there to take its place. We've seen wheels that light up with their own LEDs, so this could be a bright future mod for rolling stock? How about wheels with LCD screens that offer videos of the truck they're attached to, or wheels that flash red when you apply the brakes? How about wheels that appear square even though they are actually round? With wheel designs, the sky is indeed the limit.
Speaking of spinners, take a look at the photo that accompanies this editorial. Taken by photographer Carl Edwards, it indeed captures the essence of the wheel culture, and no digital touch-up was applied in shooting of this particular image. Let me slip into a blatant moment of promotion by informing you that this image is on the cover of the latest issue of Truckin's SUV (Jun. '04), which is on sale on newsstands as you read this. It is indeed a well-rounded issue, and the issue of wheels will be spinning in our heads for a long time to come. With that said, I'm getting a bit dizzy, and better call this a wrap - by the circuitous route, of course.