New Street Wheels and Tires

September 2002
I just recently acquired some used BBS RC (polished and clearcoated) 18"x8.5" wheels with brand new Kumho ECSTA Supra 712 235/40ZR18 tires mounted on them.  I had never considered getting these wheels for my car before, even though I liked them a lot, because they were WAY out of my price range (approximately $500 per wheel! ).  I had also thought it wouldn't be feasible for me to buy 18 inch wheels, because I would have to buy a new set of 18 inch tires to go with them (a $700+ additional cost) since I was already using 17 inch wheels and tires.  But, while browsing through, I came across a really good deal on a used set in fairly good condition with new tires already mounted on them.  The tires were the same brand and model that I had planned on getting soon too (in 17 inch), so that was a bonus.   The wheels had absolutely no curb rash on them, but they were a little dull looking (read update below).  I figured that some Blue Magic Metal Polish cream and a some elbow grease would bring them back to their original shine, so I jumped on them.

When I received the wheels and tires, I immediately cleaned them up really good with soap and water and put them on the car to see how they looked.  Since I had never even considered these wheels before, I wasn't sure how I would like the look of them on the M3.  I had originally thought that the best looking wheel for my car would be the BBS RK wheels in 17"x8", but recently started searching for a different wheel (I'm a real big wheel junkie).  The wheels changed the look of the car dramatically, especially compared to my painted factory wheels, but I still wasn't sure if I liked them... yet.  After a few days I took the time to polish and wax each wheel, and they ended up looking almost brand new, but I still wasn't completely happy with the look of the wheels on the car, so... I decided to do a little experimenting.

In my previous quest to find the perfect wheel for my M3, I decided that I wanted an 8-point mesh wheel with exposed lug nuts.  The BBS RC is a beautiful 8-point mesh wheel, but the center caps for these wheels have a big hex nut that threads into the center of the wheel with a cover that hides the lug nuts.  So, just for shits and giggles , I took all 4 center caps off the car one evening to see how it would look.  The lug bolt area is recessed like the SSR Competitions, so I thought the wheels (and the car) actually looked better without the center caps, but the small opening in the center of each wheel didn't look too appealing for every day street driving.  So, again just for shits and giggles, I popped out one of the BMW logo center caps from one of my factory wheels, and shoved it in the opening of one of the BBS RC wheels on the car.  The BMW center cap was just a hair smaller than the opening in the BBS RC, but I was able to temporarily position it so that it wouldn't fall out.  I stepped back to take a look, and I immediately loved the new look of the wheel and decided that I needed to make this a permanent modification to the wheels.  I was able to fabricate a small insert for each wheel that fits tightly inside the opening and allows the BMW center cap to snap into place as if it were a factory option from BBS!  The wheels now meet my "perfect wheel" criteria, and look absolutely gorgeous on the M3.  Whoohoo!

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UPDATE March 2003: It turns out that 3 of the wheels did not have any clear coat on them (stripped off by the previous owner... why??? ), but the 4th wheel was only about 6 months old and still had the factory applied clear coat.  It was a real pain in the butt to keep the 3 non-clear coated wheels polished (EVERY time I washed the car) so they would look as good as the newer clear coated wheel, so I decided to just have all 4 wheels painted bright silver by Drury Body Shop.  I've actually thought that the polished wheels were a little too "bling-bling" for my personal taste, so painting them silver has toned them down and I think they actually look better now.  I also think they now look kinda similar to the wheels on the E46 M3 CSL.

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UPDATE August 2006: Due to the multiple scratches and rock chips in the paint over the last 3 years, I decided to strip the paint off and give the wheels a brushed aluminum finish. This way there won't be any chips from rocks, and I can easily fix any scratches within a few minutes. It took quite a while to get all the paint stripped off the wheels and to brush each wheel with Scotchbrite pads in a specific way so that the brush grain looks uniform, but I think it was worth the effort. From ten feet away, they still look like they are painted silver, but up close they look even better because you can see the detail of the brush work.

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UPDATE August 2012: The brushed finish on the BBS RC wheels looks great, but bare aluminum does not hold up well to the elements or to prolonged exposure to brake dust. Refinishing the wheels periodically with a red 3M Scotchbrite pad is necessary more often than I would prefer, especially since I don't drive the car that often. I was almost ready to bite the bullet and have the wheels powdercoated or re-painted again, but I stumbled onto two products, SharkHide and Zoopseal, that are used to seal bare aluminum and other metals from the elements. Zoopseal is better for polished aluminum and is more expensive than SharkHide which is great for brushed aluminum. I spent some time refinishing the wheels again, and sealed them up with SharkHide. The wheels look great again, and SharkHide is supposed to last for 3 years and is very easy to apply.