Everything You Need To Know About American Racing Wheels
June 11, 2021
The wheel company that started it all—American Racing Equipment. The patriotism and muscle car spirit in the name alone immediately brings you back to the early 50s and 60s where American Racing Equipment took off literally and figuratively on the drag strip and the world of custom aftermarket wheels.
Founded in 1956, American Racing Wheels set the path for what would become one of the most influential wheel companies in the aftermarket wheel industry. I mean, you can’t go to the drag strip, classic muscle car show, or any muscle car show and not see one of their iconic wheels. Their rich history and involvement in the world of motorsports and drag racing has always been a huge part of their company and continues to be that way even after 65 years.
So, here’s everything you need to know about American Racing Equipment and its iconic wheel designs that you’ll still see to this day on the street and as inspiration for modern wheel companies.
Warning: this might induce a strong desire to go grab your dream muscle car and throw on some Torq Thrust wheels!
Quick History Of American Racing Wheels
American Racing Equipment was originally founded in 1956 by Romeo Palamides and his right hand Jim Ellison in sunny California. This was when the aftermarket industry and the American muscle car era started to develop and become mainstream.
Photo from Dragzine
Romeo and Jim started American Racing Equipment as true entrepreneurs do; there was a need that was unfulfilled and they had a burning passion to fix that.
Their passions spread further than just that though. They loved working with, building, and racing muscle cars. Whether it was the drag strip, desert racing, or Trans Am racing, they were there for it.
After recognizing a need in the industry for a lightweight, race-oriented wheel that was up to the task of hardcore racing in nearly every sector, they set out to make what are now considered to be the most iconic wheels ever.
One of them being the Torq Thrust. This wheel is, without a doubt, the most iconic wheel of all time. The Torq Thrust among others has consistently been used for top-tier racing teams and is probably the wheel you see in your favorite movies growing up like Dukes of Hazzard, Two Lane Blacktop, and Bullitt. It was initially developed for street racing muscle cars and provided weight savings and durability for all the street races you participated in that your mom still doesn’t know about...
Not only that, but Hot Rod Magazine and others have recognized this wheel as “the top 20 speed parts that changed the world”. Now that’s a title every automotive aftermarket company dreams of.
American Racing Equipment is THE company that developed magnesium wheels otherwise known as “mags” for dragsters and hotrods alike. These wheels were much lighter and strong than their counterparts which dragsters relied on due to the lack of variety at the time.
Photo from Hemmings
Aside from their old school muscle car, hot rod, and dragster reputation, American Racing Equipment also has released a fully forged lineup for late model muscle cars for the modern world as well as an off-road lineup of wheels.
They have also come out with a more modern design of their famous Torq Thrust wheel.
Their wheels have always been and continue to be 100% American-made while being a huge player in keeping the muscle car era alive.
Who Owns American Racing Wheels?
American Racing Equipment was originally founded by Romeo Palamides in 1956 and is currently owned by Wheel Pros. Before WheelPros acquired A.R.WIt was bought by Platinum Equity in 2005. Then, in 2008, WheelPros decided to add the pioneer of the aftermarket wheel industry, American Racing Equipment.
Are American Racing Wheels Any Good?
American Racing wheels have always been extremely high-quality wheels and have set the standard for lightweight, durable modern wheel designs. Their original wheels were built using magnesium which is referred to as “mags” by the drag community.
Magnesium was used because it was seriously strong and exceptionally lightweight compared to the wheels that drag fanatics were running back then.
They eventually came out with aluminum wheels for a more cost-effective option for customers who wanted their wheels simply for the look. There’s no shame in grabbing a new set of wheels purely for the looks. That has always been a reality for enthusiasts across the community spectrum.
For example, the Torq Thrust was constructed with both magnesium in its original design as well as aluminum later, again to be more cost-effective. Their Torq Thrust 2 model was more modern, had big brake clearance while still having effective heat dispersion for drag builds.
How To Identify American Racing Wheels
Because American Racing wheels have been so iconic and shaped the aftermarket wheel industry, the emergence of replica wheels was inevitable.
But, American Racing wheels are easily identifiable by looking on the inside of the wheel for the classic “American Racing Equipment” stamping.
Photo from Corvette Forum
Another easy way to identify true American Racing wheels is the center caps. They do sell special center caps with the American Racing Equipment logo which adds a nice, classic touch to the wheels.
American Racing wheels have truly made the biggest impact on the industry whether it be the inspiration of new wheel designs, wheel construction, or the passion that the founders had in building a community around wheels.
Are you running American Racing Wheels on your build? If you don't, what model of American Racing wheels would you like to run?
Let us know in the comments below!