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1985 280SL (Euro)
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239 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Perhaps someone on this forum can explain the mystique behind the ever increasing size of wheels supplied as standard equipment on new cars. Manufacturers seem to slap the biggest possible wheels on cars and then offer( for extra $$ of course) an even bigger size as an option. 32 years ago my SL came with 14" wheels and provides a great ride. A few years back I had a 1964 Olds 98 convertible which was a truly enormous car, and it had 14" wheels too. Back in the 50's through 80's it seemed that just about all cars other than puddle jumpers had 14" or 15" wheels and this included limos and muscle cars. Today we are looking at ever increasing wheel sizes which unfortunately results in the very significant extra cost of replacement tires. My daily driver has 17" wheels and I'm really not sure why it needs them. Just what exactly is the presumed benefit?
 

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Premium Member
1984 380SL, 1973 450SLC
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2,174 Posts
They make the rims larger, (17 inch) the tires thinner, less sidewall, but the actual overall diameter of the wheel assembly is almost the same as the old 15 inch wheels..

Side walls have a tendency to flex giving the car less control in hard turning..... at least that is what i get out of it..... also less rubber for the landfills.. :)

RC
 

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86 560SL
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1,243 Posts
Cars these days have a more aggressive look and larger wheels are a contributing factor. It also allows for showing off the drilled and slotted rotors and multi piston brake calipers.
 

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Premium Member
1983 380SL, 2000 S430, 1991 420SEL (retired) - RHD
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5,624 Posts
It also means they charge more (like double) for low profile tires. The ones on both my Benzes cost half those on my wife's Honda Accord.
 

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Outstanding Contributor
450slc5.0cab 280sl5sp 280se4.5 500se+500slAMG +250seStkW108 350sl4spdX3 500secEuro
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22,617 Posts
I also think that suspensions have become more advanced and can absorb more of the bumps in the road while I'm guessing that the older suspensions weren't quite as able. That's just my assumption.
 

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1985 280SL (Euro)
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239 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Well, there are some interesting thoughts put forward here. However in terms of historic automobile design why did
so many of those old cars from pre WW2 have big wheels which in the 50's were rationalised to 15" or smaller? If you go back far enough the earliest cars actually had what resembled cart wheels and several of the bigger cars in the 20's and 30's used skinny tires on wheels with monstrous diameters. The question remains, are motorists actually receiving any benefit from today's use of bigger wheels together with the associated costs involving tire replacement?
 

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92 300CE/1996 mustang cobra (supercharged)/12 Civic/15 F150/04 F150 mud truck
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8,105 Posts
simple
it looks cool to the newest generation
and the newest generation are buying most of these"stylish " cars
the Aftermarket forced manufacturers to increase wheel diameter in order to be cool
 

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'84 SEC EuroCoupe, '85 200T EuroWagon, 2012 Nissan Maxima SV Sport
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3,172 Posts
My SEC has 16" and the Maxima has 19" with low profile tires.

Guess which one I can drive on a dirt road without spilling my coffee?

Clue..it's the one that came from the factory with no cupholders.

 

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1983 380SL
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240 Posts
big wheels

Not sure if you watched the Grand Tour last night.

Now that is an SL with oversized (land rover) wheels and frame and V8 and all the rest. Obviously this was more of a joke. No tears over the SL, if you watch program you will see quite some rusty spots. It is a UK car so wrecked by salt.

Cost £14k ($20k) and must be truly horrendous to drive. They take it for a drive on Cobham (UK) which was interesting since I lived there for many years. Made the wife perk up a little - normally not that interested in car shows.

 
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