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Looking Forward: SEMA Gives a Glimpse of Coming Wheel Trends

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Fresh back from the SEMA Show, I saw several trends and designs that indicate where we are headed for the next couple of years and the market potential for each. Some of the innovations came from familiar names, while others were from newcomers looking to make a name.

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New finishes, or in some cases old finishes that have been revised, were everywhere. What I saw this year was a resurgence of the brushed aluminum finish, also known as satin finish.

Most wheel companies offered some version of the old technique of sanding the surface of the wheel with a fine grit media to produce a pattern of very fine lines. Some companies offer a clearcoat over the brushed finish to make cleanup easy. This technique is different from a machined finish, where a lathe cuts across the surface and leaves a very distinctive groove.

Chrome wheels were still plentiful, but it is nice to see a blend of color and texture for a change. This should allow manufacturers to get more mileage from their designs by offering a wide array of finishes and bolt-on trim pieces to fit individual tastes. Subtle changes like these can make one style of wheel look totally different. I saw this as an overall theme to the show.

HRE (hrewheels.com) incorporates a brushed finish with a new design technique that allows them to shave a little more material out of their wheels to lower unsprung weight.

Notice as you look at this image with a close up inset that there is a groove machined into the side of the spoke. This creates a concave effect much like an I-beam steel girder. Strength is maintained while as much as 1-2 pounds of weight is shaved.

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HRE went on to mill the material around the assembly bolts on their 3-piece wheel to further reduce weight and parasitic torque loss. A small reduction in weight that is furthest from the center makes a large impact on how much torque and horsepower gets to the ground. Remember our article years ago when I added weight to my rear wheels during dyno pulls? Ounces, not pounds, saved in this area translate to more power.

In addition to the brushed finish, powdercoat paints of various colors seem to be making a bit of a comeback this year as well. Here is one of HRE’s styles in yellow powdercoat using the same technique as before.

Adding its own twist to this style, US Wheel (uswheel.com) offers a powdercoated background with brushed spokes.

This was a common trend from several manufacturers that provides more options with the same style of wheel. US Wheel displayed one of its unique styles with a printed image that adds one more layer of distinction.

Next, a new name. Rodtana Designs (rodtana.com) introduced a few new styles along with a uniquely painted outer rim.

This is a 2-piece wheel that has a double racing stripe. This is uncommon, because the procedure is not an easy one. The stripes have to be meticulously masked off and carefully removed after the paint is applied. A clearcoat finishes the process, leaving a smooth surface. In addition to its own styles, Rodtana displayed a product marketed as ‘Endless Lip’ (endlesslip.com).

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This is a 3-piece wheel, except that the assembly bolts are on the internal side of the wheel instead of external. As you can see from this image, there is no apparent ridge for the drop center. The lip flows from the front straight through the windows to the rear, thus creating the ‘endless lip.’ It will be interesting to see how this technology enhances future wheel designs.

Next, WTW Inc. (wtwcorp.com), which markets wheels under several brands, including GFG, Giovanna, Gianelle and others, got into the trim package game with a colored ring that attaches to the outer flange of the wheel.

Multiple colored rings can change the look when mixed with varied colors and finishes, including chrome like the wheel in this image.

Last year we showed you a wheel from Rennworx that had a carbon fiber outer hoop bolted to a forged magnesium center that weighed as little as 14 pounds.

This year, CEC (cecwheels.com) unveiled a 23×11 SUV wheel using a carbon fiber outer.. as well. The center is a traditional forged aluminum, but an extremely lightweight hoop was added. This wheel weights a scant 29 pounds and has a load rating of 2,200 pounds. The natural crosshatch pattern of the carbon fiber blends well with most any finish applied to the center.

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Last month, we talked about Russtec’s new wheel with a carbon fiber hoop, but we didn’t have an image. Here is the wheel with a yellow center, which contrasts nicely with the carbon fiber hoop.

MHT (mhtwheels.com) has added to their already extensive lineup this year by acquiring the ‘Clear Wheel’ that debuted last year with Forgiato.

This wheel is made from polycarbonate. MHT had a new design cut in a familiar ‘Hammer’ style on a Benz as well as a 30-inch solid piece on a donk. It will be marketed under its DUB label, which is appropriate. 

If the rest of the show is any indication, I would expect to see optional bolt-on trim packages or an LED to light up the polycarbonate with an eerie glow at night.

In tune with the rest of the industry, MHT has several styles of forged wheels, many with intricate mill work accentuated by a variety of finishes such as this black powdercoat with brushed aluminum.

Now that you know were to find what you need, get ready to sell.

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