Chevrolet Corvette Wheel Guide: Composite, Carbon Fiber, Forged, and Cast Aluminum
Aftermarket wheels are a great way to dress up your Chevrolet Corvette, but before buying your new wheels you should think about how these new wheels could impact the performance of your Vette. The method used to manufacture the wheel greatly impacts both the strength and the weight of the wheels, alterations that can affect the acceleration and handling of your Chevy V8.
Developments in composite technology have brought us wheels made out of carbon fiber, although these are still in relatively early stages of public introduction and the price of these wheels are astronomical. Also, critics feel that these fully carbon fiber wheels are too fragile for anything but a show car, so the market for these wheels is very small. The most common materials are aluminum alloy or steel, formed by either forging or casting the metal into molds.
Forging uses incredible heat and pressure to form a solid chunk of metal into the different shapes of the wheel. Due to the limitations in the forging process, forged wheels are often two or three piece units, either bolted or welded to make the final product. In most cases, a two piece wheel has a forged center section attached to a spun or stamped tire mounting surface and a three piece wheel uses a similar center section but the inner and outer tire surfaces of the rim are separate pieces attached to the forged center. This process causes a forged aluminum alloy wheel to be about 300 percent stronger than a similarly designed cast aluminum wheel. Along with being lighter, the means by which forged rims are assembled allow for a great deal more customization based on the customers’ needs. This process makes a lighter, stronger wheel that can aid in handling and acceleration, but you will pay more for the higher quality wheels. If you’re more concerned with performance than looks and low price, forged wheels are for you.
Casting is the most cost effective means of using metal (aluminum alloy or steel) to produce strong wheels. There are two forms of casting, gravity casting and negative pressure casting. When a wheel is gravity cast, molten metal is poured into a mold and left to cool, and when the wheel is removed from the mold there is very little finishing to do – unlike most forged wheels that have to be assembled after they are formed. Negative pressure casting is done by using a high pressure vacuum system to “suck” the molten metal upwards into the mold. This process allows the cast wheel to be stronger as the product is less porous than a wheel made by gravity casting. These wheels can be every bit as strong as the forged wheels, but cast wheels are often made thicker and heavier to make sure they are strong enough. This added weight can negatively impact handling and acceleration, as it takes more power to turn the wheels, but these wheels are almost always less expensive and offer more selection, so if youre more worried about “show” than “go”, cast wheels make for a great way to customize and save some money.