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14 inch Rim Blow wheel.....opinions please

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I have bought a couple of 69/70 Mustang/Cougar steering wheels on eBay, in pretty poor condition, for the sole purpose of manufacturing some 14 inch wheels, but still dressed as our beloved Mach1 rim blow wheels.


It is a pity they pull so much money, since even the scrubby examples I managed to get are expensive.  Crazy when they will be test-bed items for fitting and finish choices.


On that point - let me know if you have old wheels you no longer have a use for.  At this point I will focus on 3-spoke wheels, but eventually I believe it wil be possible for me to create a 14 inch Mustang rim blow from a decent 2-spoke center hub. (By replacing the two spokes with the three spoke arrangement)/


Opinions needed for rim thickness, and material, and finish


The wheels are a steel framework with a phenolic/plastic type resin molding applied over the framework.  The rear hoop of the rim is the same color to match the interior trim (Black, Red, Blue, Green Ginger....etc)  The front hoop is artificially grained and painted to resemble wood grain.

The rim is almost universally regarded as too thin.  The wheel diameter is 15 inches, and many feel it is clumsy and too large for modern driving styles.  No 14 inch wheels are available commercially to mimic the rim blow style and trim levels.


The  available options for the rim material are timber, or "resin" with many versions and options for that process. 

At this early stage I would like opinions on desired sizes for the rim thickness and material finishes.

Rivets or no rivets?


I intend for the rim blow switch to be incorporated, of course



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for a power steering car for feel and appearance, i would like one that is around 1 1/2 inch smaller in od than the stocker and around 1/4" larger in diameter with no rivets and a finish to match the dark walnut mach1 interior . . this way it would not stick out like a sore thumb when installed in a mach 1 and it will look nice in a non mach 1.


since the finish is easier to change than the wood, you could offer 1 lighter and 1 darker shade and a matte/semi gloss finish like a mach 1 and shiny finish like a shelby one.  

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Thanks for the reply.  I was thinking 14 inch , but 13.5 is just as easy. 

Timber scales for the grip would seem to be the best option. Laminated scales are stable and look good when properly stained and polished. 


The first wheel arrived this afternoon, and the rim is in poor shape, delaminated in many places, about 40% of the perimeter is split and warped. Rough measurements of the plastic rim I make at 5/8" wide, and 15/16" at deepest (highest) point of the finger grooves. 

I took the measurement of the overall diameter and was surprised to see it was 15 7/16".  Slightly bigger than I understood it to be (I always thought 15")

Height from the large plastic mounting ring to top of grip scales is 5 13/16".  I have to keep that dimension close to stock, to maintain a similar reach of the oem wheel.  No more than 1 inch variation.


I took a measurement of a 93 Z28 wheel at 14 1/2".  Also slightly larger than I expected. 


I will post some pics tomorrow, but at this point it is just a worn out Mach I bare wheel.  I intend to remove the plastic scales and metal ring tomorrow and mock up a couple of grip sizes for testing.

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Wow, great idea !!


Those of us still with factory Manual Steering would likely want to stay with the stock dia. wheel ... especially Mach 1 or GT with the quick-ratio box.   I was going to say bigger, but that would not work too well especially with a fixed column.


With the smaller wheel you will need to mod the center pad and center trim to fit too !!


As far as a bigger grip, I've been running a Wheel-Skins 1-pc leather wrap on my rim-blow wheel since the 80's.   I just can't live with a hard plastic wheel, so this is what I've always done on my old cars with hard plastic wheels.  


Wheel in my car has no cracks, but woodgrain was pretty much all worn off & clear over silver band all yellowed & cracked.   At the time, no one was restoring them so this was my best solution.   Put a new O.E. Ford switch in before wrapping and rim-blow function works just as if there were no cover on it.   Don't think I could ever go back to a plain hard plastic wheel especially on this car with Manual / Q-R 16:1 steering box.


I went with brown instead of black trying to mimic the woodgrain color.   The wrap I'm running now is quite a bit darker than the woodgrain, but their next lighter brown is too light ... had that before and I think the darker looks better.


Just another option, especially if your wheel is just worn with only minor or no cracks and you don't want to spend the big $$ on a full blown restoration.




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I run manual steering with the quick ratio power steering box in my 69 Mach 1.  The 15" rim blow helps but is in the way of my left knee when use the clutch to shift.  I've wanted something a little smaller but like the original rim blow style.  14" might be slightly too small.  Maybe a 14-1/2" would give you a little more leg room and still enough leverage for manual steering.

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Thanks Doug, and 1969_Mach1.   Good info.  I like the leather wrap.  So, both of you have manual steering but with the 16:1 box.  That would make a 15" wheel a help. 

I did some mock ups and some stripping of the old rim today.  I will be modifying the center pad and trim as required.  But not tiil I have the grip bar welded in place and the grips scales ready to fit.

So, heres a few pics.

The rim blow switch was fused at the center connections (both of them) and came out of its groove easily.  Hard and useless



I cut out a mockup grip, 14 inches outside diameter, and 7/8th inch wide (1/4 inch wider than stock)  I cut away the plastic cover from the three spokes and tried it in the position, as if I were to weld it to the inside of the grip.  Note how high it sits, which reduces the 'depth' or 'dish' considerably




After removing the entire plastic grip scales, you can see the grip framework is a metal bar, on edge.  This provides good strength for low weight



The spoke arms are welded to the very outside edge of the 'ring'.  Sorry , no good pic of that.

Now, placing the mock up 14 inch grip on the INSIDE of the wheel shows very little loss of "depth, or dish" on the wheel.  I think this will be the best position to fit the new grip, so it is very close to the same reach for the driver.




bad pic, sorry



So that's all for today. 


I don't think this will be a suitable wheel for a 16:1 manual box.  Been there.  done that.  With anything bigger than 205 tires it will be brutal.  This is for Mach 1's with 16:1 power steering.  It will help with leg room, for sure.

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I have had the original steel hoop cut off the  wheel and rolled to make a 14 inch diameter hoop, after shortening the spokes. You can see the smaller diameter in contrast to the re-furbished center pad



I cleaned up the melted horn contacts


I decided to add another horn button in the center of the pad.  It is a simple push button, from Grant.  Not sure on the Mustang logo, but it works for now.  I will keep the rim blow horn switch as well, so the wheel will have two horn switch options.



To re-furbish the pad, which was originally blue, I removed the rubber soft pad from center and sprayed the pad, and parts with black vinyl/plastic paint.





I have had to re-think the resin molded rim, since you need a perfect example to make the mold.

So the plan is to make a laminated timber grip, with correct finger grooves, and painted black at the back-side, like the original wheel.

Some fiddly work to trim and finish the center pad to fit.


More work to do than has been done, so I better get on it.  I am making the wood grips by wrapping thin laminate strips of oak in a circular mold, then some router work.. The 'upright' rim of the wheel is very strong, and I decided to keep the design instead of going with a flat metal grip frame.  Combined with laminate timber, it will be a stable and strong wheel.

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Well, some things take time, and more important things need to take priorities, but I have made my first 14 inch rim blow wheel, ready for a final clear coat and then fitting.

I tried a few ideas, but settled on laminated timber for the grip, laid and glued in place, and epoxy resin to mold the grip to the spokes, then a lot of hand finishing.

I strip cut timber from a nice well seasoned board of straight grained oak.  The strips came out around 1/8 inch thick, and 1.5 inches wide.  I cut a stack and set them in the shower cubicle for a steaming session for 10 minutes, then wetted them down in the shower before setting them inside a large bucket (actually a Christmas tree holder)  This was left to stand and dry, and allow the curve to set into the timber


On the advice of my friend who is a carpenter, I put a layer of masking tape around the metal rim of the steering wheel before and gluing.  This was to leave a tiny clearance, for gluing  later on.  The method was to make a ring of two layers of timber on the outer side of the rim, let the glue cure, then remove the completed ring, remove the tape. 

Here you can see the blue tape on the metal rim.  You can see the glued strips outside that.  I used a motorcycle tie down to maintain tension on the timber hoops during the curing process.  the ends need a couple of clamps to hold them aligned during curing.


here you can see the jig I made to hold the wheel steady, and at exactly the right height off the table.  This was supposed to  make the clamping process easier.  I used a couple of spacers made from paint stirrers set under the metal rim, then tightened the whole wheel down with the nut and washer.  It is really the only way to get the rim  exactly level with the work table, since the rim was never welded exactly true to the hub.  I hope this makes sense.


In hindsight, the tape was not necessary, as it was difficult to get the outside timber hoops really tight against the rim anyway. Tis is actually the hardest part of the entire build.  it is hard to get good tension applied to the hoop.  And, the first hoop has to be end glued, and has to hold itself together until the second hoop is glued on outside that.  Once the second hoop is glued, and cured, it is super strong.

Second outer layer glued on.  I used vise grips and some scrap to really get the ends aligned and tight..  They can be difficult.



The inner layers are easy, since they hold themselves in position against the rim during the gluing process.  First one is just end glued, and the next two are fully glued.  First remove the outer timber 'ring' so you can clamp hard against the metal, (and no damage to the timber), Mark and notch out for the spokes as required.

This shot is further ahead in the process, where the inner rings are cured, and the filler strips are being glued in.  Using a jigsaw to cut down the strips, then gluing over the metal bar, top and bottom.  Don't sweat the thickness, as it will be sanded down flush to the outer metal rim, and then the outer hoop is fitted with epoxy, direct to the wood-metal-wood outer....


Here is the filler and inners finished.  The gaps around the spokes are all epoxy filled later.




Setting in the fillers is time consuming, and at this point you must have set the height correctly for all the timber, since this will determine the final look and 'height' of the grip.  You will see later how I misjudged this on this first wheel.



So, enough for one post.  The rest was just a lot of epoxy work, a ton of sanding and shaping, roughing in and fairing in, and so on.  I cant find any pics of that, but it is not rocket science anyway.


I have the rimblow switch being glued in right now, under masking tape, but will post up some better pics of the finished item tomorrow.


Oh, there are two grooves to be cut into the finished timber rim.  One for the fake chrome strip, and the wide shallow groove for the rim blow switch.  I will show you the jig I used on my triton workbench.  I used the biscuit cutter blade to make both cuts,, and took my time.


I also spent a lot of time cutting down the rim blow switch.  The new wheel is 14.25 inches OD.  I cut about 3 full inches off the length of the switch to get it fitted.  That surprised me, how much shorter the inside rim is now, compared to a stock 15 inch wheel.


I also added a second center horn switch to this wheel.  Will have to see how that works.


I should get it onto the car tomorrow.  This wheel is actually from a 70 cougar, so it wont look perfect on my 69, but it is the prototype....

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here is a quick pic of the wheel before I set the glue for the rimblow switch


compared to stock



the project has taken about 20 hours of work, a lot more planning and messing around.  The gluing takes time, layer by layer, and the finishing/fairing work is slow.  I will fit the wheel and drive it, see how it feels.  I started this project to make a smaller wheel for better steering control, but with the recognizable look of the stock wheel. 

I guess I could make them as required for enthusiasts.  I expect most folks could do as well, if not better than me, but I suppose there are some that might want it made for them.  Especially those with old wheels that are too far gone for a restoration. 

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Well, thanks for the comments.  I am happy with the finished product, although it is not perfect.  I used rattle can paint and clear.  and no telling how good and long it will last over time.  But the wheel is strong, and feels good in the hand, just slightly bigger in the grip, but still feels like a thin older style grip compared to modern, fat soft grips.


I just took off the tape holding the switch in place and gave it a final light sand, and new coat of stain on the timber.  Will clear it later and then fit for a test drive.


As to cost, I don't know,  I guess 400 if you supply the wheel, and all parts.  I estimate well over 20 hours to make the rim, and honestly, with all the fiddling around to trim and fit the center pad, wiring, cutting the grooves in the rim inside and out, probably more than 20 more hours to get to this finished state with the first one.  So at 10 dollars an hour, that's cheap. 

I am happy to do it for those of you who cant, or don't have the time, or machinery.  Just be aware they are not perfect.  the ends of the center pad are a bit ugly (but you don't see them)  The rims are not perfectly circular (and never were anyway)  The finishes are not commercial, hardened grade paints and clears. All natural timbers have flaws, discolorations and imperfections.

I can live with all that.  Some folks cant, and I don't want problems with fellow forum members about it.  I take care and do my best, that's all I can say.


But I am excited, and cant wait to drive with it.  Those eagle eyes will see the first wheel is for a 1970 Mercury Cougar, but fitted for a 70 Mustang now, with the thicker steering column.  I will stick it in the 69 Mach 1 and see how it improves the steering rate, then get on with the 69 wheel I have just begun.   

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That's some really nice work. I wonder if a set of band clamps would make the hoop making easier. They have a ratcheting action that tightens the belt when you turn the screw. I have some I use for gluing up frames and such but no reason they shouldn't work just as well on a hoop..



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Great idea 69RavenConv, that would be perfect for the job.  The strap I used is just the tension type (motorcycle tie down) and you cant get that last little bit of tension on it.

I was thinking of one of the steel bands used to keep the covers on industrial dust extractors.  They have a sort of cam arrangement, and the strap obviously would not stretch, but I think the action would drive the cam/lock inwards, toward the timber, and probably mark it or dent it, so, your suggestion is just the ticket.


I will constructing the next wheel slightly differently.  I will do all the inner hoops, then all the fillers, and then sand it flush with the outside of the metal hoop, so it leaves a decent flat and even surface to glue on the outer timber.  I will only put on a maximum of two layers on the outside this time. to make the wheel diameter a bit smaller.


The switch glued down nicely, and I put on two more coats of clear, which has dried, so it is time to test drive it.  I will post some pics of the wheel installed, along with some feedback from the drive.

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Okay, slight hiccup with fitting, but not unexpected......  The deluxe wheels fit INSIDE the steering column shrouding.   a small lip, but due to that the 70 wheel will not fit inside the 69 shroud.  I measure it to be 4 mm larger in diameter compared to the 69 'ring', so, no good with the 69 Mach1

 I could fit it to a 70 but doing that will not tell me much about the improvement to a 69 with stock power steering and stock steering box.  So, I better get on with the 69 wheel.....

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New wheel completed, and this one was made from a 69 Mustang rim blow, so it fits.  I made this one same as the first, with laminated oak. After shaping and sanding, I really liked the clean look of full wood, so I did not add the false steel rim around the outside, nor the rim blow switch, and did not paint the rear of the grip black.  I like the look of the finished wheel with just the 69 deluxe center pad, and this pad has the aftermarket horn button.

It fitted on the column perfectly, the horn works perfectly, and it has improved the steering by 100%

The small amount of slop has diminished to nearly nothing.  the size of the wheel is an improvement in control and faster in the turns.  amazing what an inch difference will make.


Some pics of construction and finished product on the car.

raw formed hoop


some epoxy filler to fill and strengthen


rough shaping and finger grooves


faired in, and finer sanding.  finger groove detail. laminations visible


epoxy faired into spokes/grip.



stained, prior to clearcoat



clearcoated and assembled with center pad



fitted in car



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Holy crap, that looks great! I believe you've just added another project to my never ending list. It never crossed my mind that this could be a diy project. Kudos!

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That's really outstanding work. I'm one of those who thinks they need much more thickness. I put one of those cheap black cushie covers on the wheel just to make it more comfortable.

Thank you.  The rim is thicker in both dimensions, and smaller in diameter.  Just what it needs.  It feels good, and steers faster.  Looks pretty much like the rim blow it replaced, and that is all I wanted.


Holy crap, that looks great! I believe you've just added another project to my never ending list. It never crossed my mind that this could be a diy project. Kudos!

Thanks RPM.  anyone could make what I did, with just time, simple tools, simple jig.  I tried to show as much as needed in my pics for others to follow and do it themselves if they want.  I only hope they use up old deluxe wheels that are way beyond conventional repair.   It is not expensive in material, just time consuming.

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