Wheel Fitment Hell
This is one of the instances where the sins of the previous owner came back to haunt me. I was never happy with the suspension stance and wheel fitment of the car when I purchased it. Wheels make the car! It's especially true for the Nissan S-chassis. As you can see in the picture above, the car is riding too high in front, with too skinny of a tire. In the back the car is also sitting too high, and both wheels poke out too far from the body. The previous owner Matt warned me "You'll be tempted to lower the car but don't! Trust me - the tires will hit." He was not wrong, but he could have saved himself and me a lot of frustration and hassle if he had only done his homework. The S13 240 is actually a very tricky car to achieve perfect wheel fitment with BECAUSE the rear can accommodate a much wider wheel and tire than the front. To achieve a flush fitment without excessive negative camber, you will need staggered width wheels or some wheel spacers to adjust offset. Due to a lot of misinformation on the 240 forums, this is a painstaking process of experimentation, trial and error. Ask me how I know!
In the picture above, you can see one of the previous owner's first mods to this car - a "square" set of MB Motorsport "Battle" rims in 17x9.5 inch size (+15 offset) on all four corners. For tires, he chose 225/45/17 tires in front and back, slammed on coil overs. The 240 Forums will tell you this fits without problems, but IT ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT FIT!!! He quickly "bacon-ed" the front fenders, which is a rippling that happens as the tire rubs the lip of the fender as you turn the steering wheel. It was so bad it put a tear in the metal on the passenger side front fender. His "fix" was to raise the suspension back up, and mount a thinner 225/35/17 tire on front, as seen in the title image. I did not think this was an effective, or aesthetically pleasing fix.
Besides looking bad, the car had terrible tire wear problems due to excessive negative camber - a byproduct of lowering the suspension too much without the appropriate adjustable suspension arms to bring the alignment back in spec. After adjusting the camber back to OEM specs (with the help of aftermarket adjustable suspension arms), I found the Battle wheels did not fit at all. The battle over proper fitment was just beginning!
Here, you can see how much the wheels and tires did not fit in the rear with camber set to a reasonable level. Although negative camber increases as the suspension compresses, there was no way this would fit without fouling the rear fender.
As you can see, the story at the front of the car was even worse. I removed the coil spring to test how the suspension would compress, and I could plainly see that no amount of fender clearance would ever allow this 9.5 inch rim and 225 width tire to fit.
I really liked the look of the Battle wheels, so I started to look for solutions to get them to fit. I sourced a set of Origin 20mm wider front fenders. Even these fenders were not wide enough to contain the 9.5 inch width rims. Now if I was willing to run a crazy amount of negative front camber, I could get these to "fit", but I was not willing to sacrifice handling, grip and tire life to make that work. There had to be a better way!
Initially, I sourced a set of inexpensive wheels from Fitment Industries to test fit sizing on my car. I liked the concave face of the JNC 014 wheels in white, which look very similar to Volk TE37s. These wheels were sized 17 x 8.25 (+32 offset) on all 4 corners with a 215/40/17 tire. Although they looked great on my car with stock body panels, I felt they were not quite aggressive enough to pair with the Origin Aggressive body kit. I was still determined to find a way to get the Battles to work.
I decided to have my friend Ryan try and roll the lip of the rear fenders for added clearance. His shop, Total Collision and PDR, specializes in metal forming and customizing. With their expert metal work, I was able to fit the 9.5 inch rim in the back with a meatier 235/40/17 tire for increased grip, all tucked nicely into the rear body work without rubbing. This was my first bit of success.
The front of the car was a bigger challenge. The MB Motoring "Battle" wheel was available in a narrower 17 x 9 inch (+30 offset) size that should fit the front of my car. Unfortunately, Discount Tire, the original distributor of the wheel in the USA, discontinued selling these wheels 3 years ago. Luckily, this wheel was still available in Japan as the Circuit Spec Tune Hyper Zero-1. But it was a lot more expensive to import a set to the USA - a pair of these wheels in the size I needed would cost more than an entire set of 4 cost from Discount Tire. Ugg! Before I plunked down all that money on a set of wheels I was not even sure would fit my car, I decided to source a cheap wheel off eBay in the exact same size to test fitment. I got the last MST MT30 wheel in the 17x9+30 size IN THE COUNTRY for $125. Too bad, because I actually liked how they looked - a clone of the Work CR Kiwami. But at least I knew this wheel would fit. I paired it with a 215/40/17 tire in the front. If you want to run the stock metal fenders in the front, the widest tire you can fit is a 215 - I firmly stand by this statement! Because I was still in the experimentation phase, I also test fit a 215/45/17 tire on the front. This also fit, with the added benefit of giving me an extra 1/2 inch of height (and bumper clearance) in the front, but the sidewall looked too chunky compared to the tire on the rear of the car. And chunkier tires in front looks BAD. So I stuck with the 215/40/17 inch size tire.
Now that I finally found the correct size wheel for the front, I ordered a pair of the CST Hyper Zeros from JDM Distro in Ireland. They were very easy to deal with, and carried the wheels I needed in stock. I placed the order on Monday, and thanks to Air Freight from TNT, I had the wheels in my hands by Friday!
The CST Hyper Zero wheels weigh just over 21 pounds each, which is not bad for a cast wheel. A similar spec Volk forged wheel can weigh as little as 17 pounds each. Those wheels cost around $700 a piece though!
Did I mention this was wheel hell? Even though I ordered the CST wheels in bronze (they were only available in Bronze or Matte Black), they ended up being a much lighter gold color than the Battles. Damn! After going through all this effort to get matching wheels, there was no way I would be satisfied with wheels whose color did not match. Unfortunately (there's that word again!), all wheel refinishers in Chicago will only powder coat the wheels. And of the 6 places I checked with, nobody thought they could match the bronze color. Double Ugg!!
Since powder coating a set of 4 wheels would cost an additional $600, I decided to look for a more cost-effective solution first. I tried to find an off the shelf bronze paint that would match but did not have any luck. Turns out, bronze is a pretty difficult color to match.
I also tried automotive grade paint from the local Napa Auto Parts. I looked through a selection of paint chips until I found a bronze paint color that looked pretty damn close...
My Uncle Jim was able to spray the wheels, which turned out great. Unfortunately (again!) the paint was slightly off by a shade, so we decided to paint all 4 wheels. Triple UGG!!! After the paint dried, we applied a top coat of DupliColor Matte Clear paint for wheels. I liked the matte finish that the original Battle wheels had better than a glossy finish.
Finally... sweet, sweet success! After mounting the tires, I took the car for an alignment at P&L Motorsports in Lisle. Surprisingly, my garage alignment was pretty close and only minor tweaks were necessary to bring the car into OEM alignment specs. At last, I am finally satisfied with how the car sits, and with how the wheels look and fit inside the fenders. Getting the car to this point was a real uphill battle (zing!), but at least the car finally looks and handles like it should. People who don't tune cars will never understand the pain.