Wire Tattoos, Van Dyke Beards… and Twennies
In the 80s,
it was tinny electronic recordings advising you that the door
In the 90s,
it was auto-strangulating seatbelts that assaulted you as soon as
you closed the door.
the cement-headed obsession with oversized rims (ree-uhms,
if pronounced correctly in High Ebonics).
The sight of
something along the lines of a clapped-out 78 Caprice Classic
worth $1,200 sporting $3,000 worth of tackier-than-New-Jersey-Hausefrau
Cameltoe twennies is a spectacle unique to our era. Like
curb feelers and jacked-up rear ends (redneck high culture) a generation
ago. Only those things eventually went away. And they were
mocked as markers of low culture (and a low IQ) at the time.
The Big Shiny
Wheel thing shows no signs of fading. And it has permeated all strata
of the culture.
The look is
now routinely emulated by the designers of brand-new $60,000 SUVs
(see, for example, the new Range Rover Evoque it comes standard
with nineteens and twennies are optional, right from the
factory). The surest confirmation that the ghetto has moved to the
Where did it
And will it
(but not huge for their own sake) wheel/tire packages do have a
functional purpose up to a point. In the past, they were
fitted pretty much exclusively to performance cars, for the
purpose of enhancing their performance. A wider tire has
a larger contact patch and a shorter-sidewall tire flexes
less both of which improve things like steering response
and cornering grip at high speed. But there are downsides, starting
with a rougher ride and including higher rolling resistance from
the increase in unsprung mass, more rapid tire wear and (almost
always) much higher replacement cost.
In the context
of a performance car, these liabilities are acceptable because the
car handles, accelerates and brakes better. In other words, the
larger wheels and tires make sense they have a functional
purpose and the downsides are accepted in return for the
on a 165,000 mile 78 Caprice?
Or a new Camry?
At first, it
was mere copycatting. Standard cars were made to appear sportier-looking
by outfitting them with larger/wider/taller wheels. But it very
quickly got completely out of hand to the extent that today,
even minivans routinely wear 18 inch wheels which
is utterly retarded given the purpose (and character) of minivans.
Same goes for crossover SUVs and all the rest. From
a functional point of view, shoeing ordinary A to B passenger vehicles
with huge wheels/tires is as silly in its own way as fitting a performance
car with ever smaller wheels and tires.
the rest of the article
[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
Best of Eric Peters