Prove Our Designer Wrong: Cars Should Only Ever Use Wheels From Their Own OEM

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Welcome to our special Sunday Edition of Prove Me Wrong! This time it’s a bit different because you’re not actually proving me wrong, you’ll be proving our On-Staff Professional Real Authentic British Auto Designer, Adrian. Adrian is a stylish designer-man full of designer-man opinions, one of which we encountered the other day in the Autopian Corporate Slack Fellowship Hall, when David showed off his now-motile Chevy HHR and the Saab wheels it rode on. That’s when we learned that Adrian does not believe in cross-pollinating OEM cars and wheels.

Just so you understand the full situation, here’s how it played out. It started with this message from David:


David did ask for honest opinions here, so he’s getting what he wanted. I saw the Saab wheels and my first reaction was this:


Because, of course the Saab Inca wheels would be better. They’re always better. At this point, we were all having fun, gleefully enjoying the combination of wheel and car, and then whammo:


Oh shit. Now we’re in trouble. I pressed Adrian for clarification:


Of course, Adrian isn’t wrong that lots of effort, design and engineering-related, goes into the wheels chosen for a given car. No question about that. But does that really mean you can never do some mix-and-matching? Other Autopians chimed in:


I admire S.W. Gossin’s boss-level not-give-a-fuckery on that Stratus Coupé, and I think Adrian is delusional if he thinks Thomas has any clothes from Hugo Boss or Giorgio Armani. I know what we pay him. Seeing how this was going, I decided to stir the turd a bit:


I don’t know, I still think that looks pretty great. Knowing how much this was driving Adrian bonkers, I couldn’t help but remind him of the existence of these:


Yes, the Ronal Teddy Bears. You’d think that would be the trump card against anyone complaining about aftermarket wheels, right?

Anyway, here’s the takeaway: the genuine, professional car designer who works for us says that it’s a sin to put wheels from one carmaker onto another car. While I can understand this purist argument, I’m personally not sure I agree, as my fundamental automotive rule is the same as what Aleister Crowley proposed for his Thelemic brand of sorta-Satanism: Do What Thou Wilt

If it’s making you happy on your own car, have at it. And, I do think there are some wheels that can work great visually crossing carmaker lines. But I never graduated from the Royal College of Art, of course.

So, let’s put it to the Autopian Collective Mind: is this okay? What do we think of mixing OEM cars and wheels? Tell us! Explain! Prove Adrian wrong!



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171 Responses

  1. Was it here or the orange site where there was an article about how common it was to find BMW wheels on a certain minivan, because of a weird tire technology that’s not supported anymore?

    Also, sorry to say it, but the designer insists that the OEM wheels are what belongs and that nothing else can work, as though wheels aren’t just one compromise among many between design, engineering, financial, and many other departments. If people prefer a different compromise, as long as the offset and spacing and all that is the same, more power to them for doing something unique with their vehicle.

  2. Your car, do what you want as long as it’s safe (not a fan of massive wheel spacers because it can mess with bump-steer).
    I’m fixing to spend ~38% of my car’s purchase price on a lightweight set of smaller wheels; it’s the best way to get more sidewall and still clear the brakes. I don’t really care for the way they look, but they’re fit for purpose given they were designed for a rally team running my model.

    Taste is purely subjective. I would respectfully suggest that Adrian watch the road in front of him and let people mod their cars as they please

    1. Also, in general I agree with Aidrian in regards to crossing manufacturers. The design language usually just doesn’t work (and yes, there are exceptions, but exceptions prove the rule)

      However, saying that most aftermarket wheels don’t look good is short sighted. I could as easily say that most OEM wheels are ugly because the term “most” throws it all out of whack.
      For every classic like the Torq Thrusts or the Minilite wheels, you’ve got a dozen sins against nature such as the Pro Comp 74 Series Trilogy wheels (sidenote, why the HELL are truck wheels so godawful ugly?)
      The OEM side isn’t as heavily weighted towards bad design as they are, by nature, more conservative in their design. That doesn’t mean that the Mustang didn’t get the 6-spoke Tri-bars for several years, the VW GTi didn’t have those awful 5-spokes from ’05-13 (called Hufeisens I think?,) and Mercedes didn’t have those awful x290 monoblock wheels.

      Everyone makes mistakes. Venerating one over the other exclusively is silly

  3. Sorry but Adrian is wrong, Saab wheels are from the same OEM as the HHR, different brands but same mfg. Fact is many modern wheels look like crap and just need to go, so if you find something that fits properly from another mfg and aren’t hideous then go for it.

    1. Well, there are definitely exceptions. Sometimes you see a car and the wheels look as if they came off another brand, or vice versa: Mercedes alloys on a 1979 Ford Granada would work, for obvious reasons.
      On the other hand, Porsche’s iconic Fuchs wheels would look rather awkward on a Ferrari 308, for instance. Owners of old Subarus often install Peugeot 505 alloys since those two share a perverted 4x140mm bolt pattern and it ALWAYS looks offensively ugly.

  4. A Facebook group dedicated to just this thinks Adrian is wrong. Some fraction of the time they’re wrong and he’s right, because engineering. But some other fraction of the time they’re right and Adrian is wrong. Adrian will be forced to drive a Honda Civic on Mini phone dial wheels.

  5. I get what Adrian is concerned about. But rather than agree or disagree with his statement I’d like to offer an alternative take. Most vehicles can be “updated” by simply installing one generation newer rim from the same model/family. I have seen many 4Runners with one generation newer rim and it is a tasteful update that respects OEM design language but adds some new slang to the mix. I have seen several other examples that also prove this theory. Plus when you do this your suspension-y things are often very similar from one generation to the other so the previously mentioned arc-y things and whatnot are also not drastically altered. To me, this is the way to upgrade rims. Plus all those people who are fancy and buy new cars only to swap rims create a great second-hand market of nearly new rims available for commoners like me to swoop in and snatch. Go forth and put those Five Hundred rims on your Taurus.

    1. I’ll agree with this wholeheartedly. I put some newer F-150 wheels on a 05 Navigator, and they totally upgraded the truck, made it look 10 years newer. I also tend to put 1 gen newer wheels on BMWs that I own.

    2. I’ve also seen plenty of instances of newer wheels on older cars. JK wheels on TJs come to mind. Don’t love it but also don’t find it offensive.

      Ironically, I run E36 M3 dsii wheels on my 2011 128i. It’s a rare scenario where an older wheel works on a more modern car, IMO.

    3. Agree. There is a great aftermarket for Wrangler take-offs. I took advantage of this several years back when I swapped some super sharp polished aluminum wheels onto my ’06 Grand Cherokee that had crappy chrome plastic-clad steelies that I HATED. It looked really nice with those wheels. They were just a tad bigger, but very tasteful, and went well with the lift the PO added. On top of that, they still said “Jeep” on the center cap which is important to me. I say do what you want with your vehicle, but having a different brand on the wheel you are running is not a great look in my opinion..

  6. I’m not an engineer, but I agree with Adrian.

    But to be fair, I am someone who think all mods should be invisible and for speed, and/or reduced noise and more comfort while looking as stock as possible.

    For instance, I would love to take a Toyota Avalon, and either tune the 300hp V6 to maximize its power, or replace it with a more potent engine, but leave the exhaust alone. The cooling, suspension, and brakes would also then get changed to match the type of uh….spirited highway driving that would (safely) occur on long stretches of open highway. So, a total dad-mobile that also goes like hell.

    But it should look 100% stock externally. This is the kind of thing I find to be fun and hilarious.

    I think if you are going to change the wheels, they should not only be OEM, they should be a size smaller…because most vehicles have wheels that are too large with tires that do not have enough rubber. This is both a ride comfort choice and for asthetics. I like more tire/smaller wheels. Nothing excessive, but a 19 down to an 18 or 17 at most. So, what a winter wheel/tire combo looks like, but without winter tires.

  7. I bought used Civic wheels to mount my NB Miata’s winter tires on because they matched the bolt pattern, had more than enough offset, and were dirt cheap. Did it look odd to see a Mazda rolling on wheels with Honda badge caps? Maybe a bit. But remove those caps and you’d never know.

  8. What about Rostyle wheels?

    These were used on MGB’s and Capris alike. Although they can be considered OEM because both cars came from the factory so equipped.

    Most of the arguments concerning fitment have been covered here. You know a BMW wheel will fit other BMW’s. And there are dozens of choices if not hundreds. I personally think E92 wheels look pretty sharp on earlier E46 coupes.

    Most people won’t notice Toyota wheels on a BMW, though. But we’re not most people. Gearheads will notice and it won’t look right to them. Although there are always exceptions.

    However, like the Rostyles, branded wheels from an external supplier that are offered as OEM are an exception. BBS is BBS, whether they’re on a BMW or a Porsche.

  9. Back in the day, the family 1979 Saab 99 GL 5-door rode on Incas. Much improved ride and handling than the OEM steelies it came with. (Incas allowed wider tyres and a wee bit lower profile but still within the wheel arch and turning clearance.) The steelies were relegated for winter tyres.

    Today, my dads 2018 BMW X1 xDrive 2.8i rides on Mini Cooper Countryman OEM rims winter (sans ‘Mini’ centre disk) and the BMW OEMs summer. After all, that model X1 was a Mini underneath.

    So is it okay with Adrian if badge families can cross pollinate? 🙂

  10. I must be weird in that I don’t really place a huge amount of importance on the wheels, I’m more of a body, paint, interior, and trim person. Just stick something on there that works and looks decent, or better yet, just do steelies and a metal hub cap

  11. Considering Adrian can’t even draw the wheels with appropriately sized tires, I’m not going to listen to his opinion on wheels.

    Factory wheels are often the ugliest god damn things and IDK why designers/management keeps pushing such terrible choices onto the general public when it’s been proven TE37s look good on damn near everything.

    Case in point: BRZ/GR86: The wheels are TERRIBLE and look like they came from Sears in 2003

  12. I hate being that guy especially since I seem to be picking on Adrian but he just keeps being wrong.
    So Adrian, Jaguar it was owned by Jaguar, Ford, some Indian manufacturers, and a few others. Can I use all their wheels on an XKE? SECOND, I own an Isuzu Vehicross which was made during when GM and Isuzu were in business together. Total Isuzu body and underpinnings with a GM motor and transmission. With horrendous chrome wheels that peeled horribly. Can I only use Isuzu rims or are GM rims okay, or possibly just Chevrolet rims? Since most rims are designed by nonmanufacturers why can’t we switch?
    BTW has anyone mentioned you look like one of the ghosts from ghosts?

  13. From an engineering standpoint, using one OEM’s wheels on a different OEM’s vehicle should be fine, as long as:
    – the wheels have the same bolt pattern (or the offset is different enough that you can get a bolt-on adapter in there to get to the same bolt pattern)
    – similar offset (generally I aim for +/-5mm, but this can vary if you’re adding much wider wheels to avoid hitting the strut, inner fender etc)
    – the same hub-centric diameter or larger (and spacer rings are used) as the car that they’re installed on
    – don’t hit the brakes or other components
    – the tire isn’t much larger or smaller in diameter than OEM (I aim for <3% deviation)
    – and aren't too much heavier than the vehicle's OEM wheels

    I've gotten 3 or 4 sets of OEM wheels from craigslist/FB marketplace or junkyards to put on other vehicles very economically with a lot of success. Sometimes I'll keep it within the family (Mazdaspeed 3 wheels as winters on the RX-8, mazda6 wheels as summers on the Mazda5), but mixing and matching has worked out well too (Chrysler Sebring wheels on Toyota Celica, Hyundai… something? don't remember… on a previous Mazda5). The key is to make sure that they are OEM wheels, and inspect them closely for cracks, dents, and roll them to look for a wobble or something when buying. Usually you can get 3 or 4 good ones from a set of 4 take-offs in the $200 range, then if you need to replace one just check for a match in a junkyard, those are usually only $75 or so.

    Aesthetically, to each his own, but Saab has made some nice looking wheels over the years (the ones David chose wouldn't be my top pick, but they aren't bad and if you can get a full, undamaged set from a junkyard, who's to argue?). Those are from one of the later 2007+ 9-3's I think, which shared some parts of the epsilon platform (although Saab apparently reworked it substantially) with the Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G6 etc. Similarly, many bits of the powertrains were shared with other epsilon & delta (like the cobalt, HHR etc) platform vehicles too, so I'd have no concerns about that swap. The wheel diameter looks a maybe an inch or two too large for the HHR styling, but for junkyard wheels/tires there may not have been much of a choice since these used a somewhat odd 5x110mm bolt pattern.

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