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here’s huge news for Mopar fanatics this month! Remember the skinny magnesium Torq Thrust wheels the factory installed on the front of 1964 Race Hemi Dodge and Plymouth sedans? They’re a rare as hen’s teeth, right? If you find a good set today get ready to spend a couple grand. Well, that’s changed since a company called Vintage Engineering in Redwood City, CA (firstname.lastname@example.org) has just introduced a perfect reproduction you can buy right now. This is big news since none of the 5-spoke wheels currently on the market is even close to being correct on these cars – let alone any retro-themed ride featuring narrow 5-spoke front wheels.
A little history lesson will make things clear. The original 5-spoke Torq Thrust wheel was introduced in 1963 by American Racing Equipment. Aluminum and magnesium versions were available and they immediately took off with builders of gassers, hot rods, Super Stockers and Factory Experimentals looking for lightweight rolling stock. While many sizes were available in all the popular bolt circles, the 15 x 4 size was preferred for use on the front axle of drag-themed machinery.
In 1965 the Ford Mustang and Chevy Corvette introduced optional disc brake packages. Owners looking to fit earlier “flat spoke” Torq Thrusts found out they didn’t clear the brake caliper and couldn’t be used. Seeking to appeal to this juicy new sporty car market segment, American Racing modified the contour of the spokes to provide the needed clearance and the Torq Thrust-D was born (the D stands for disc brake). The D’s primary change is an added curvature to the radius of the spokes to make clearance for the bulky brake caliper. Thesewheels have come to be known as “crow’s foot” wheels among enthusiasts since the arched spokes resemble a bird’s claw.
For several years American Racing marketed both Torq Thrust variants simultaneously but as more and more Detroit performance cars were fitted with front disc brakes, demand for the supposedly non-compatible (more on this in a moment) flat-spoke style wheels began to slack off. I’m not sure what year the plug was actually pulled, but by 1980 these flat spoke wheels were only available on the used parts market. And while sales of the Torq Thrust-D limped along, new spoke-less solid-center wheel designs like the Cragar Super Trick and similar offerings from Centerline caught the fancy of hot rodders seeking to emulate the latest high tech look of an NHRA Pro Stocker. This was the era of Pro Street.
By 1990 the Torq Thrust-D was also gone from the American Racing catalog but a rising tide of nostalgia saw American Racing do a re-release in 1992 that instantly became a smash hit and is still available today. As for the original flat-spoke Torq Thrust wheel type, American Racing hasn’t shown any interest in a re-release; despite many published pleas in nationally circulated magazines – several written by me.