|Adapting an Alloy Wheel for the Elan Center-Lock|
By Kiyoshi Hamai
Panasports wheels for the Elan have been around for over 15 years. As a replacement for the stock steel wheels. But, light strong alloy wheels weren't available 20 years ago.
My stock Elan S4 wheels were okay, but in bad condition. I was selling tires and wheels via mail order and search my contacts for anything resembling replacement wheels. It would be nice to get something a tad wider and certainly stronger and lighter. Autocrossing was taking its toll on my stock wheels and they were spliting.
After a long failed search I decided to look into building my own. I started with a junkyard 5.5"x13 wheel and had some machining done to it to check fit and find the correct offset. I wanted to make sure the wheel would fit under the stock fender and spring perch. This excercise led to the maximum backside measurement (distance from mounting face of the wheel to the inside edge of the wheel lip on the inside). However, I concluded that a 5.5" wheel was too wide and would likely require fender widening (flares). That was unacceptable, so I backed off to 5" width.
Next task was to start contacting various wheel makers to see if they would be willing to supply me with un-drilled 5x13 wheels with at least 1" of aluminum at the hub and approximately 4" backside depth.
Not surprisingly no one stepped forward. I learned that biggest concern was liability. They did not want to be liable for anything that might happen if my machining failed and the law suits would follow.
At the time I was doing quite a bit of business with Panasport (then known as Formula Mag) and asked what I was doing with blank wheels. I shared my project to product Elan wheels. I recall there was a pause, and then "Mas" asked if he could call me the next day. Sure enough he called and said that the Panasports engineers in Japan were playing with making Elan wheels, but were struggling with the fit. That call was followed by another where I learned they'd made some 5.5" wheels that fit sort fit on an Elan+2, but ran afoul when fitted on an Elan. I could of have told them that!
In the end I sent them some drawings (I've reproduced them for this article, click below) and they produced a set of prototype wheels that were sent to me for trial fitting. They didn't fit! The offset they used was still for the +2. They had second guessed my drawing and went with their +2 fit. Another call and a 6 weeks later was another set. This time they fit, but they didn't use the "Thrust Ring" I had specified and had instead machined the aluminum of the hub section of the wheel to take the centerlock nut. Another call, this time with some good news, they fit and some bad, without the thrust ring I was concerned that the centerlock may loosen and the added thickness was needed for cars with the 3-ear knock-on instead of the "Nader" nut. I kept the prototype set and mounted on my S4 FHD that I later sold with the wheels. I don't know where they ended up. Maybe someone as seen them.
Anyway another 6 weeks passed and the final set arrives with the Thrust Ring, pretty much as they are still being delivered today.
So, here are the drawings and the specs I gave to Panasport for their Elan alloys.
Elan Wheel - Drawing #1
Elan Wheel - Drawing #2