The cause: Wheel shopping can be fun, and in the process of surfing the web, it’s easy to fall in love with a cool wheel that is otherwise not a good match for the size and visual mass of a larger muscle car. You see the wheel as it looked in the photo studio against a white background, but not on your car. The size of the wheel can be perfect, the size of the tires dead on, the rake laid out like a stealth fighter, but when you put ’em on, it just looks like the wheels are going to get crushed by the weight of the car. It’s kinda like Rosanne in a bikini—she can do it, but it looks hideous. We all know there is a preponderance of import tuner wheels out there, and they look good on those cars if you like that sort of thing. Tuner spoke wheels work best on cars with a compact silhouette. Smaller muscle machines like early Mustangs and Camaros can handle them fine, but a big B-Body like the ’67 Charger? Uh-uh.
The cure: Going to the drags: cool. Dressing your car in drag: uncool. Re-shoe your ride in wheels that nicely balance the visual mass of your car’s body. The heavier the car, the beefier the spoke should look. There’s also sound engineering support of this argument—heavier cars need stronger, more massive spokes.
When is it OK? If you hang out with the Fast & Furious crowd, have at it.
…it doesn’t cost a lot to get the stance right; in fact, it ought not to cost any more than getting it utterly wrong.
Violation: Painting your wheels so black, they disappear
The cause: Obviously, the cause of this is the desire to have a cool, stealthy appearance. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but when the idea is taken to its maximum effect, uh, the wheels disappear. No eye can see them at a glance, and no camera that Canon or Nikon makes can detect them. Short of being picked up by an infrared sensor, these hoops are flyin’ under the radar. We get the look, but isn’t the idea of spending big on wheels that people actually see them?
The cure: Instead of going with stealth black, lighten up a bit. Try graphite or dark titanium. Maybe black works, but use a machined outer lip and/or a red pinstripe. You’ll have stealth, but the shape of the wheel will seduce rather than confound the admirer.
When is it OK? When you really need stealth, or don’t plan on washing your wheels for an entire year.
The Low Exhaust
Violation: Exhaust hanging down too far
The cause: Having a low-sounding exhaust is one thing, but having a low-hanging exhaust is both a pain in the rear (literally) and an eyesore. The silhouette of a muscle car can easily be disturbed by low-hanging pipes, mufflers, headers, and other suspension gadgets. We’re not saying you need to channel your body over the frame and run the driveline and exhaust through the chassis (although that is cool when the pros do it), we’re just saying take a little care to tidy things up. If you don’t, you’ll begin compromising the stance of your hot rod to make it over driveway ramps, speed bumps, chuckholes, and all the normal stuff you find on a road. Not only does junk hanging down look ugly, the low ground clearance means guys lift the frontend up to clear the bumps. No good on two counts.
The cure: A good rule of thumb is to have 4 inches of clearance, more if possible, at the high center point. Clearance is less critical at the axles than in the center or under the chin. Get the right headers, snug the exhaust up to the floorboard, and get the rake set right.
When is it OK? You live in a world with glass-smooth roads and really tall people.