More than just being the cornerstone of style that can make or break your car, the wheels can have a huge influence on how the car performs. On the handling side, wider is always better, since the more wheel width you have, the greater the tire width can be, which puts more rubber on the ground for traction. Diameter is an equally important point of consideration since that will dictate the tire contact patch size and the brake packages you have available. A larger diameter will enable you to fit bigger brakes, which can be beneficial if you plan on putting your car on track, and it will also give you access to the more aggressive tires that have been developed for modern sports and supercars. It’s sad, but true that you’re decidedly limited on options with 15- or even 16-inch wheels. If cost is a prime concern, a 17-inch wheel will give you the most bang for the buck.
Weight is also a consideration, as well as where the weight is placed. The lighter the wheel, the less work your engine has to do get it moving. On the same token, lighter wheels are also easier for your brakes to stop. You’d be surprised how much some custom carved billet wheels can weigh. Where the weight is placed on the wheel is also important as it affects the moment of inertia, which is the resistance to rotational acceleration about an axis. The further away from the center of the wheel the weight moves, the higher the moment of inertia, and the closer to the center, the lower the inertia. This Weld RT-S S74-style wheel (shown) has great looks, exceptional strength for its weight, and is significantly less expensive than comparable custom wheels.
Overdrive transmissions were developed early on in the history of the automobile, and were commonplace add-ons to transmissions by the 1930s and 1940s. For some reason, however, during the height of the muscle car era overdrive transmissions were nowhere to be found. We can only speculate cheap fuel had something to do with it, but there are oh so many more benefits than just drastically increased fuel economy, the foremost of which is decreased engine and driveline wear. The slower the engine spins (without lugging, of course), the less mechanical wear and stress on the bearings, rings and other moving parts, and the less heat that will be generated in the driveline itself. Technically, lower rpm can even help your oil drain intervals spread out a bit. On top of that, the decreased cruising rpm at freeway speeds will create a huge drop in noise, which we guarantee will create a more pleasant cruising experience. You can still have some rowdy loud mufflers, shift into overdrive, and be able to hear your stereo or carry on a conversation.
Variations of the T56 six-speed with its double overdrive have been in vogue for Pro Touring cars the past few years, but those larger, more costly transmissions aren’t the only way to go. We’re still big fans of the lighter, easier-to-package TKO 500 and 600 five-speeds, like this kit shown from American Powertrain. Plus, there are several full auto-to-manual swap kits on the market for most popular muscle cars that are home garage friendly. If you’re staying automatic, it will be even easier and cheaper, since many late-model GM and Ford automatics will bolt right into vintage cars, and there are some conversions available for Mopars as well. Or you can forgo the swap, keep you original trans, and add on an auxiliary overdrive from Gear Vendors. In any event, get yourself another gear!