One thing you’ll immediately notice when you hit the bigger trade shows, both home and abroad, is that there’s literally hundreds of different wheel brands out there. Now of course we know that many of you, much like ourselves, are utter die-hard wheel whores. Shit, despite our best efforts, you may even argue you recognise a couple of the rims that follow in this very feature.
But even the most well-travelled ambassador of car culture simply can’t know every single wheel from every single brand. It’s just not possible. Not unless you’re a cross between an elephant, Charles Xavier and, er, well, you get the idea.
We all have our favourite well-known wheel brands of course. They’re a bit like trainers in that respect. There’s the big kahuna, premium brands, the ones a bit like Nike or Adidas. Then there’s the super-expensive designer offerings like Moschino or Vivienne Westwood. There’s even the stuff that’s right down with the cool kids, the Vans, Converse and Supras.
It’s worth remembering though, sometimes for the ultimate in exclusivity, it may pay to look further afield and think outside the box. Just remember it’s a big wide world of wheels out there, so here’s 10 top picks that are available here in the UK right now and certainly not the usual suspects…
BC Forged H053S – from £727 (each)
Admittedly BC Forged is an American company, and one that’s very well-known on the big-money show-scene across the Atlantic. But they also have a massive UK-based distribution centre and website, so it’s fair to say you won’t have to pull your pants down and bend over because you forgot about Her Majesty’s Customs and their magical import tax. What’s also apparent with BC Forged is they make a lot of wheels, seriously, we actually lost count at 109 designs. Suffice to say that choosing just one is pretty impossible for us, we’ll just say we like the mental H053S here, and leave it at that.
So, why are BC Forged not quite as well-known here in the UK? Well, they’re more something that’s whispered about in super-exclusive circles, you don’t see too many on the streets because they’re about as high-end as it gets. Put it this way, if the King of Dubai wants a set of hoops for his Roller, and he wants them gold-plated and encrusted in diamonds, BC forged will most likely be getting a call. There’s a load of standard finishes available of course, you can also have the lip pin-striped in a multitude of colours and there’s 10-separate centrecaps to choose from too, just with this particular design.
There’s lots and lots of decisions to make, but you’ll end up with some of the finest hoops available anywhere. Either way these stunners are guaranteed to make your credit card explode… and your pants.
Sizes: 7.5-9×17, 8-9.5×18, 8.5-12.5×19, 8.5-12.5×20, 8.5-12.5×21, 8.5×12.5×22
PCD: Any 5-stud
For more info see BC Forged Wheels
ESM-015 – from £110 (each)
This is exactly what the archetypal forged German split-rim is all about, right? Well yes, except for the fact that these one-piece, cast beauties are more American pie than they are apple strudel.
There’s a few cast wheels out there that pull off the forged, multi-piece look effectively, and these items from California are easily one of the best. Besides, who knows ESM well enough to know the difference, eh?
We like the classic, VIP multi-mesh design of the 015 and the selection of usable staggered sizes. The finishes are spot-on too and being able to bag yourself up to a 4-inch lip for relative peanuts isn’t to be sniffed at either. Don’t let those silly prices fool you into thinking they’re not the best quality though. ESM have been designing their own low-offset Euro rims since about 2002, but their factory has been shipping out OEM and special label items for other brands for well over 40-years now. Suffice to say they know a thing or two about keeping both manufacturers and punters happy.
Sizes: 8 and 9×15, 8 and 9×16, 9×17, 9.5 and 11×18, 9.5 and 11×19
PCD: 4×100, 5×114.3, 5×120
Finishes: Silver, polished, white and gold centres
For more info see ESM Wheels
VarrsToen ES2 – from £122 (each)
There’s no doubt that the ES2 here is a classic Japanese-inspired design, and that’s why you’ll find more than a few Hondas abroad with a set of these tucked under their arches. It’s also pretty obvious that the both the look and range of sizes offer a heady mix of track-inspired aggression and the perfect fitment for the balls-out stanced look that’s so popular on our shores. They’re well-priced too, available in other fitments, and some of the highest quality rims we’ve seen out there. So, you might be wondering why these cast wheels aren’t particularly ruling the streets here?
Well, in a way they are, sort of. You see, without mentioning any names or even looking on the internet, I can think of at least 3-other popular brands that offer their own, very similar-looking version of the VS1. And you’ll find plenty of these on our home-grown Hondas… not to mention just about everything else. Perhaps then, there’s just easier or more well-known options. But, then again, where’s the fun in that?
What you can see about the VarrsToen ES2 though is that it’s a stunning, albeit classic, bit of design. A great choice if you’re looking for something different that’s not so different at all.
Sizes: 9×17, 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5×18, 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5×19, 9 and 10.5×20
PCD: 5×100, 5×114.3, 5×120
Finishes: Hyper Black, Matt Black
For more info see Varrstoen
Ispiri CSR1D – from £187 (each)
UK-based manufacturers, Ispiri, have been on the scene since 2013 and, unless you happen to prefer your cars of the Germanic persuasion, you may not know they’ve already launched all sorts of amazing, flow-formed and forged offerings, along with some of the freshest cast designs we’ve seen for years.
The CSR1D here is one of those instant jaw-droppers. This premium wheel is actually Motioncast, a process unique to Ispiri, which ensures less impurities and fewer air pockets in the metal than traditional pressure casting. To be fair though, I may have been banging on about wheels here in FC for the past decade or so but, if these weren’t so well-priced, I’d think they were forged monoblocks any day of the week. I mean, there’s not many directional cast rims, with this level of finish, that come with options like a single or stepped lip, right? But even that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The turbo fan-inspired CSR1D is an amazing stand-alone wheel but, along with its full-faced brother, the CSRD TF, it forms the Ispiri X2 system. The idea here is that both wheels can be used on either axle to complement each other and give a totally different look. It’s a novel approach for sure, but one that works extremely well for serving up heaps more impact… in an ‘80s race and rally car kinda way. Absolutely stunning.
Sizes: 8.5 and 9.5×18, 8.5 and 10×19
PCD: 5×100, 5×112, 5×120
Finishes: Carbon Graphite, Vintage Gold, Pure Silver
For more info see Ispiri Wheels
Autostar Geo – £100 (each)
Okay, so you may have heard of these little beasties but, admit it, that’s only because we had them in our products section a couple of months ago, right? In fact, we’re not entirely sure where Autostar and their rather mental selection of little hoops have come from either. We’re told it’s Malaysia where the sun is shining, the beaches are sandy and, quite clearly, all the wheel designers are off their tits on TUAC.
Anyway, what’s just as astonishing as the design and finish of the Neo is the price. These 8×15-inchers come in at a bargain 100-quid a corner and you don’t even have to endure a 14-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur to bag some for yourself. The guys at Nuts 4 Wheels still have a few left here in the UK… probably not for long mind.
Finishes: Black and gold mesh
For more info see Nuts 4 Wheels
Simmons V5 Series – from £POA
These little 15 and 16-inchers may be little-known here in Blighty, but Down Under the Simmons V5 is nothing short of an institution, especially in old-skool circles.
The design of these is pretty interesting too, their textured centres give a distinctly rough and tough motorsport appearance, while the barrels can offer up to 6-inches of dish for a thoroughly, some may say contradictory, refined look. It works though, with all big bollocks brazenness that our Aussie cousins do best.
Still, what’s most unusual here is that any width between a miniscule 4 and full-fat 12.5 inches (in half-inch increments) can be specified, along with more dish options than just about any other wheel on the market. Come to think of it the sheer quality of what they produce is simply off the scale too. They’re so proud that every wheel is machined to any fitment spec at their factory in New South Wales, if you look closely you’ll see the word ‘Sydney’ cast into the centres. These are much imitated, but the originals all have this mark, and you’ll find they’ve been shipped all over the world, including here.
Each rim also comes with its own unique serial number for the ultimate in accountability. We can’t think of anyone else that does that!
Sizes: Any 4×15 to 12.5×16
PCD: Any 5-stud
For more info see Simmons Wheels
CMST Tuning Custom Line – from £3000 (set)
Admittedly we’ve only ever seen one or two sets of these here in the UK, but that’s simply because these full-custom forged beauties are so hot of the press, they’re still smoking. Available through the guys at Kode it’s obvious that the 3-grand starting price is a fair chunk of change but, when you consider these are designed and manufactured specific to every application, they’re actually something of a bargain.
You can have any centre design you can jot down on a napkin, any finish and any fitment. As long as you can get 19-inch plus rims under your arches, you won’t find as much choice anywhere else. Perhaps the ultimate in custom.
Sizes: Any 19-22-inch diameter, Any
For more info see Kode Shop
Forgestar S18 – from £POA
Forgestar offer a couple of awesome-looking modular 3-piece wheels but it’s their rotary-forged, flow-formed monoblocks, like the thoroughly race-inspired S18 here, that really float our watercraft around here.
Of course, an amazing construction process is one of the most important elements to this mesh-faced beauty. Rotary forging and flow forming hasn’t been around that long but the idea is they take an almost flat casting of the face, then stretch out the barrel under immense heat and pressure with big hydraulic rollers. It’s a bit like a huge, mechanical potter’s wheel and the result is increased strength on a molecular level and a wheel, that’s 15-percent lighter. Bloody clever I think you’ll agree.
Arguably though, the best bit about these wheels is that they’re all built to order in semi-concave or deep concave configurations and there’s a simply staggering array of finishes available, literally anything you can imagine. Personally, I’m liking the carbon inlay on this limited B8 version… I only wish I could afford it.
Sizes: 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 11 and 12×19
Offset: ET18 – 78
Finishes: Any Custom Finish, plus Brushed Aluminum, Brushed Charcoal Tint, Race Gold/polished lip
For more info see Forge Star
APEX FL-5 – from £255 (each)
We all know that there are various brands that have become synonymous with producing wheels for track work on certain marques. So much so that certain race-ready rims have become almost standard fitment on some stripped out road cars and weekend circuit warriors. If you had a Cossie for example, Compomotive may be your first port of call for track wheels. Maybe you’re rocking some sort of Italian rally monster, in which case you’ll probably sell you nonna’s false teeth for a set of Speedlines. The point is that the APEX FL-5 is just like that but, because they’re only made in a 5x120PCD, they’re little known outside the BMW Motorsport community. Trust me when I say that the M3 guys absolutely rave about these, and rightly so.
It goes without saying that these are all-business in terms of design, finish and fitment, but the real trump card here is that they’re ridiculously light. APEX actually flow-form the front lips as well as the barrels on these and, if you look closely at the spokes, you can see they machine material out of the sides leaving a super-strong, but ultimately lighter, I-Beam profile. There may be other firms that do this of course, but it’s something I haven’t seen before.
Combined with beefier lip profiles to stand up to serious abuse, what we have here is one of the all-time great competition wheels. All you need is a fast Beemer to go with ‘em… or some adaptors.
Sizes: 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10 and 10.5×18
Finishes: Anthracite, Race Silver, Black
For more info see Apex Race Parts
JMS Savage – from £130 (each)
There’s a reason you’ve probably never heard of the rather badass JMS Savage here, and that’s because, unless you’ve got a particularly hairy chest and a big gold medallion, you probably haven’t got a Noughties Yank Tank on your drive either. Yes, there are American wheels and there are proper USDM-model-only wheels and, even though they’ll happily ship you a set, these are very much the latter.
Still, while these may may designed for late model Mustangs, Camaros and Chargers, there’s more to the story than meets the eye – just look at the PCDs. Mustangs have a 5×4.5-inch PCD which we know as the common Jap 5×114.3. The Camaro is 5×4.75-inch which equates to 5×120.65 and the Charger takes a 5×115 wheel… did someone just say German cars and wobble bolts? Available in loads of finishes and offsets, bizarrely it’s the sizes here that are seriously limited here.
In fact, they throw up perhaps the weirdest staggered combos ever. You can have a 10×17 on the back with either a 4.5×17 or a 10×15 on the front – your mate’s certainly not gonna have either of those on his Golf, is he?
Sizes: 10×15, 4.5 and 10×17
PCD: 5×4.5-inch, 5×4.75-inch, 5×115
Offset: ET-24 – 51.5
Finishes: Polished, Silver Chrome, Black, Black Chrome
For more info see JMS