It’s fair to say Bowling Green, Kentucky-based RC Components changed the game when it entered the drag racing wheel arena, bringing its many years of experience in manufacturing motorcycle wheels to the table with ultra-modern designs that have given race cars the world over striking looks. But RC’s wheels aren’t just a pretty face — not even close — as the company’s founder, Rick Ball, set out to, first and foremost, develop a better-engineered wheel.
Dragzine’s all-new project, BlownZ28, a ProCharger-boosted, Pro Line big-block-powered Limited Drag Radial Camaro, will ride on a set of RC’s sleek Comp Series race wheels front and rear. While we were discussing wheel options with Ball, we delved into the story, the mission, and the influence that RC’s drag wheel foray has had on the industry.
Two Wheels To Four
“I’m a gearhead. Back in my younger days I had a ’69 Camaro that was in Popular Hot Rodding magazine, sometime in the early 1980s. Around that same time, I ordered a set of wheels for my motorcycle I was building and it took four or five months to get the set,” Ball opens. “And I said, ‘this is BS.’ I figured he needed a good competitor. I had a body shop at the time, and I called up Boyd Coddington and forged a partnership, and here we are today.”
In recent years, a local friend of Ball’s began incurring breakage issues with another drag wheel manufacturer, and encouraged Ball to produce a street/race wheel. Once the Kentucky locals got a look at his creation, the response was overwhelming and once again as he put, “here we are.”
“Even though RC began as a motorcycle wheel manufacturer, my background was drag racing, so this wasn’t really a leap for me at all,” Ball says.
“When I did the first wheels, I designed a set to my own personal tastes,” Ball explains. “Then when people got to talking about them we went ahead and designed three of four more — we ended up doing the five-, split-five, and then 10-spoke wheel. But I wanted quality. I think many manufacturers have been price-driven, trying to come in cheaper than some of the top brands, and it shows up in their product. We try to produce a good product and take care of our customers, and if you can do those things, it will reward you. We try to take care of every customer, because every customer is your most important, so we came in focused not on price, but to create as good a product or better than everyone else. I’m not a ‘me too’ type of guy, so we looked at ways to make it better.”
I came out with something as nice or better than anything else that was available, and we did it not by coming in at a lower price and producing a cheap product, but by making a better product. – Rick Ball, RC Components
Ball says it was simply “perfect timing” when he entered the market, as consumers were searching for fresh, new looks and improved durability.
“I came out with something as nice or better than anything else that was available, and we did it not by coming in at a lower price and producing a cheap product, but by making a better product. It’s been awesome. You go to the NMCA races and talk to the outlaw and radial-tire racers, our wheels are everywhere.”
RC’s Interlocking Design
One of the central methods RC employed for its race wheels was the interlocking center. It has become a hallmark of RC’s drive wheel design that takes the stress of torsional forces away from the lug nuts and applies them to the structure of the wheel center and shell themselves. The end-result is an altogether stronger wheel with greatly reduced risk of a catastrophic wheel center separation.
“It actually snaps into the wheel and then the bolts are installed, so realistically, the bolts are just holding the wheel in place and it’s driving off of the rim for a lot more strength.” Ball explains. “Then it also opened up the design, to give it a better look.”
Ball adds, “I did this design on my motorcycle stuff years back, and we asked ourselves why we couldn’t do that on the car side — well the reason they don’t do it is because it’s more costly. It makes it a two-operation process, because you have to machine the backside, and then we have to cut out the flowered design in the wheel itself, rather than just boring a hole in the center with a lathe, which is more expensive. The center is also thicker than what other manufacturers use, because we’re mounting it in front instead of behind the wheel; so we’re starting with a thicker piece of material, which is, again, more expensive. But it gave us such a great look.”
RC’s engineering team utilizes digital Finite Element Analysis (FEA) testing on its wheels to certify the strength of the designs, and it has proven time and again how stout the interlocking assembly truly is.
“When we do the FEA testing on the wheel, it’s all blue up through the interlocking area of the wheel center, so we know it’s more than strong enough. The blues and greens in those tests show us there is no stress at all. The center section is definitely the strongest on the market. We use 15-bolts like other wheels, but ours snap in place also. We probably could have turned around after the FEA testing and only used five bolts, but the design didn’t look as good,” Ball adds.
With a gob of boosted power on tap — enough so to potentially push into the 3-second zone in the 1/8-mile — BlownZ28 will undoubtedly require the use of sturdy double beadlocks to keep the drag radial tires locked in place. And RC has gone the extra mile in that department, as well, engineering inner and outer beadlock rings that features .25-inch “teeth” that effectively interlock to sandwich the tire bead and resist torsional movement. As good as RC’s design has been, the nearly sub-.900 60-foot times from many doorslammers of late sent them back to the drawing board to increase the “crush” between the beadlock rings and the tire to improve clamping force.
“For the most part, the racers know we’re experimenting as much as they are, and they’re pushing the boundaries every day and we have to play catch-up. But it’s nice to know they’re working with a company that doesn’t even think twice about addressing their needs as they arise,” Ball says.
Backspacing and Offset
RC has specifically accommodated drag radial racers in recent years — particularly those racing on big tires with Pro Modified-style cars with large wheel-wells and body wheel openings. In moving from a 16×16 with a 5-inch offset to a 15×12 or 15×14, it left large, unattractive gaps under the fenders. So RC moved to a 2-inch offset, which pushes the wheel out to the body line for a much better look.
“We pretty well offer any backspacing measurement — we’re every 1/2-inch, but we can do less than 1/2-inch spacing if it’s a double beadlock, which allows us to get very precise,” Ball says.
In addition to its drive wheels that run the gamut from 15×8-inches through 15×16-inches, and the more recent 16×15 and 16×16, RC has also quietly added a 16×18-inch wide wheel to its lineup for Pro Mod-style cars with SFI 15.3 rating.
For use with our 315 drag radials, we will utilize 15×13-inch Hammer-S drive wheels with a 2-inch backspacing, with double beadlocks and 5-on-5 bolt pattern. The fronts, matching Hammer-S’s, are 15×3.5-inch with a Strange Engineering spindle-mount. All four will feature RC’s “Eclipse Cut” styling, with a mixture of black powder-coat and polished aluminum on the wheel center, wheel shell, beadlocks, and center caps.
Not only will BlownZ28 have flashy looks — because hey, a great set of wheels can make or break a vehicle — when it hits the track, but we can rest confidently in the safety and durability of these hoops that are the direct result of RC Components’ emphasis on quality design and engineering.