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Vintage Mag Wheel Restoration

6/4/2020
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A graduation present for Jonny.

One thing that’s very handy when you put a teenaged driver in a unique vehicle, is the constant updates on what they’re up to and where they’re at from friends and acquaintances. That being said, Jonny didn’t do too badly through his first year of driving his truck. In fact, most of the time, any bad behavior that was reported back was actually me, driving his truck.

Something that’s not handy is having a taste for vintage mag wheels and an enterprising group of those same friends and acquaintances who know of this affliction. That’s exactly how I came to own another set of daisy spoke mags. A friend of mine had them and after some horse-trading, he didn’t. This particular treasure was something he’d gathered for his full-sized 60’s Buick collection. Those cars had a 5 on 5” bolt circle just like GM five-lug trucks. These were perfect for a change of pace on Jonny’s truck.

They were in excellent shape, but there’s always room for improvement.

Score!

My first step was a good scrubbing and pressure wash. I used a plastic scrub brush and dish soap. This removed all the brake dust and grime that was embedded in the porous cast finish.

After that, I peeled off the ancient tires and took them to the recycler. With the rims bare, I repeated scrubbing the centers with foaming glass cleaner and a softer plastic brush. I think the brand name on this one was Colgate. Toothbrushes work great for getting between the spokes and into character lines.

The next step was to try and bring the satin sheen back to the machined lips on the face side of the wheels. A great secret weapon for this is an SOS pad. Dampen it slightly in a dish of warm water and follow the direction of the machining on the rim. You’ll be surprised at how quickly and effortlessly this works on most old aluminum wheels.

Once you are satisfied with the cleanliness and pattern of the machined portion of the wheel, you may find that it lacks the luster and depth that set this style of wheel apart. That’s where a quick swipe with Metal Polish by Wizards comes in. You can bring them to a near chrome shine with this wadding polish if you like. I know my son better than that. He would prefer a lower-maintenance sheen. After a quick lap around the outer surface, I pulled the black residue out of the metal with a microfiber rag.

Use care not to get any on the raw cast portion of the wheel as it will require scrubbing to remove it again.

Something else I should mention if you’re planning on using a vintage mag wheel on one of these newer trucks with 14mm lug nuts. Mag style lug nuts are nearly non-existent in that larger thread size. The only one that I could find was a Dorman Part #611-279.1, which was a lucky find until I realized that the OD of the lug nut shank was .740” and the bore in the wheel was for a .685” diameter lug nut shank. Use of these lug nuts required that I ream the lug bores to .750”. For this, I used a quill reamer and a precarious hold down arrangement on my vertical mill.

All in all, the installation went well. I chose to step to a little taller tire for this set of wheels. Since they were all four 7” wide, a 275/60 tire on the rear would’ve been a little much. I went with 235/75R15 on the rear and 205/75R15 on the front. This helped with ground clearance as well by raising the front cross member about 1” higher. Having the rubber tucked up inside the fenders also helps make the truck look lower.

Now if I could just get him to paint it.

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