The cause: This one is tricky because it arises from the desire to use a potentially much better modern front suspension. Late-model performance cars like the Corvette, Viper, and Camaro are often donor cars—or are used as the geometry models—for the suspensions in older muscle cars. They often have wheels with little backspacing (a high positive offset) in order to provide room for larger brake packages and to reduce the scrub radius—both good things. Thus, the front rim dish is going to be limited. (Project X, in fact, has a C6 Corvette front suspension, and high-positive—offset custom wheels.) Some builders, however, just throw in the towel. Resigned to the fact that the car will need a front wheel with little or no dish, they just quit worrying about the look.
The cure: If you must use a late-model front suspension, you can minimize the disparity between the front and rear wheel offset. Choose a design that accentuates the lip that is there, build the front of the car to fit as much offset as possible, and don’t get carried away with too much offset in the rear (i.e. keep it limited in back). Project X is a good example here.
When is it OK? If you don’t mind a really expensive car that looks like a half-breed bastard.
Every car needs wheels, tires, and suspension, so you might as well nail it.
Violation: Sidewall height not proportional to tire height, or to the size of the car
The cause: When ordering tires, the owner or car builder is looking at the overall tire height without considering the sidewall height. In a staggered fitment where the rear is taller than the front, the rear should also have a proportionally taller sidewall. “Even Steven” will do in a pinch, but the rear should never be shorter. Another problem is that tire manufacturers often wimp out when it comes to building larger tires—especially for the rear. They will market a line toward muscle car enthusiasts often as an afterthought, when most of their sizes are for imports or front-wheel-drive cars. As tire makers and car builders court each other for sponsorships, a lot of uncool muscle cars get built with tires that have too short a sidewall, and also not enough width.
The cure: Just buy some Nittos and call it a day. Also, tire makers shouldn’t pretend to cater to muscle cars if they really don’t.
When is it OK? If you’ve got a front-wheel-drive hot rod that’s traction-limited up front.
The “Fake Rake”
Violation: Car has rake, but doesn’t look like it does
The cause: An aesthetically pleasing rake takes into consideration several visual cues, only one of which is the actual angle of the rocker panel relative to the ground. Fake rake happens when the builder only looks at the rocker molding; when the front is closer to the ground than the rear, he’s done setting his stance. The eye of the admirer, however, is also judging the distance between the top of the rim lip and the top of the wheel arch; when the top of the rear rim is too high relative to the rear fender lip (when compared to the front situation), the eye sees the front as being jacked up in the air—even when the car may be lower in front!
The cure: On most homebuilt street machines, the front is probably not low enough, and is the most common problem we find when searching for feature cars. On pro-built cars, having too large a wheel in the back often causes it.
When is it OK? If your car is truly fast, you can have whatever rake you want.
As a muscle car owner, you’ve already paid the high price of admission—so why look like a doofus?
“Hippo in a Tutu”
Violation: Wheel center/spokes too thin for visual mass of car