Many times over the years, the automotive aftermarket has been given a platform that has largely contributed to a $35+ billion industry. This year, that car was the 2010 Camaro.
The paint hasn’t even cured on the production cars yet and there seems to be no limit as to the performance upgrades available. This is a result of SEMA’s Technology Transfer program that allows aftermarket manufacturers access to critical engineering data and files so that new parts can be available when the car launches and not 12 months later like in years past. I’m going to focus on the products we can install in our shops that most any independent tire and wheel dealer can handle.
With a new platform like this, the first place to make the biggest impact in style is stance, tires and wheels. For stance, Eibach has developed a coil over that can be bolted in just as quickly as an OE replacement strut, but gives the car much more attitude while lowering its altitude.
Installation requires no special tools or expertise, and the owner gets the advantage of single adjustable rebound and compression damping that allows them to tune the suspension from a smooth street application to more aggressive handling by just turning a knob.
Another product that aids in handling is a new strut tower brace offered by Pfadt Race Engineering. This bolt-on brace will stiffen the chassis considerably and has been engineered to clear all engine options, including most superchargers.
Speaking of engines and superchargers, the Camaro has some of the most powerful engines on the street. If you have one of these cars drive into your shop, you can appeal to the owner’s enthusiasm by offering a big brake upgrade.
Baer Brakes has introduced their Baer Claw Extreme (one piece rotors) and Extreme-Plus (two piece rotors) brake systems in the 14-inch 6S and massive 15-inch 6R cross-drilled rotor and 6-piston caliper system.
Moving on to the wheels now, the Camaro has been designed much like the Chrysler 300C to handle up to 24-inch wheel packages without overpowering the overall aesthetics of the car. Forgiato Wheels was blowing up my e-mail with new designs for the car almost before it was in the showroom.
As you can see from this image, the car handles the size quite well. Not everyone will want to run such a large contemporary wheel size and design on a car with classic styling, but you can see that if you stay with an OE 20-inch combination, you will still have plenty of tire sidewall to balance the wheel dimension.
Looking at more broad-based applications, I found a new wheel from BMF Wheels. The late Greg Weld’s son, Brock, is part of this company and so the target market is truck/off-road applications. Last month I spoke about how several wheel companies where milling a groove or other complicated design into the wheels. Take a look at the M-80 wheel here.
BMF has incorporated both a multi-axis milling process to accentuate the windows, as well as add a raised area in between the windows that gets cut slightly to expose the bare metal under the powder coating. Look for more variations like this from other manufacturers.
Since we discussed adding big brake upgrades earlier, it is worth mentioning here that big brake calipers typically require more clearance or X-Factor than what an OE wheel will offer. That being said, Billet Specialties has introduced the Pro-Touring Series of wheels especially designed to have enough clearance for 6-piston calipers.
Notice the deep mounting pad area that allows for the large calipers.
For the dealers that offer hard core racing parts, check out the new forged racing wheels from Exospeed.
This is a 3-piece wheel designed to fit many 4-100 applications. They offer 13×7/8/9 and 15×3.5/7/8 sizes. The forged process keeps weight to 10 lbs. for 15×7 and under 8.5 lbs. for 13×7. They also offer Mickey Thompson and M&H drag tires.
Next, the hotrod market got a signature wheel by Jim Wangers, co-conspirator with John DeLorean who gave birth to the GTO in 1966 after sneaking a big block 396 into what was a “grocery getter” called the Tempest. The wheel is marketed through Big3Performance (big3performance.com) and is styled after the Pontiac GTO wheel of the late 1960s, but in a larger diameter. This will make a nice addition to several of the other retro styled wheels that have appeared over the last few years.
Not to leave the truck market out, Vision Wheels offers its Hauler style wheel in 19.5×7.5 and 19.5×8 for 3/4- and 1-ton trucks with single rear wheels.
They also offer the Hauler Dually in 19.5×6.75. The cast wheel is significantly less expensive than the forged wheels that have been offered for several years. The cast wheel boasts a 4,200 lb. load capacity as well. These are direct bolt-on wheels that allow a medium truck tire to be used on a light-truck. The increase in load capacity provides a longer tread life for the tires and can lead to better stability under heavy loads.
Lastly, Nexen Tire introduced two new tires, the N8000 and N9000. Nexen is placing themselves to be where Kumho and Hankook where just a few short years ago.
They are marketing in a variety of places and are aggressively launching new products to compete in the North American Market. Expect to see more of this company and their tires from broad line to UHP.
It’s been a rough year for many of us, but I truly believe that we will see improvement in 2010. Based on the commitment of manufacturers and suppliers at the show, take this winter to do your homework and begin sourcing new products like these that will help you to differentiate your business from the competition.