Dubs don't matter much these days. Tucking a set of 20s is child's play. You can buy a stock Dodge Ram with chrome dubs. Heck, most every Chevy dealer on the block swaps out the factory aluminum 17-inch wheels on Tahoes, Yukons, and Suburbans, in favor of at least a 20-inch wheel package and throws in a set of TVs. If you want to really make waves in the custom truck world these days, then you had better be bringing bigger ammo than that to a show. All across the nation, the benchmark for custom truck acceptance has been elevated to a set of dubs and supremacy begins at the 22-inch mark. Remember when 15-inch rims were custom, and if you had 16s, you were the man? I can, and God, that makes me feel old. I can vividly remember purchasing-ahem-bartering for my first set of aftermarket 15-inch rims and tires to put onto my Toyota minitruck. The wheels in question were a used set of 15x7-inch Image three-spoke rims that were a copy of a much cooler rim, the Antera Opus1. Anteras cost about two grand at the time, and by the time I paid off my debt on my first whack-ass set of wheels, virtually everyone in my truck club had moved up to 16s, and even 17s, which was massive as far as I was concerned, back then.
This was, oh, about 1994, which was a time when OEM wheel swaps were heating up for a couple of different reasons. First off, finding used OEM wheels was simple and cheap. You could easily grab a set of Corvette or Camaro IROC take-off alloy wheels and bolt 'em up to your Silverado or S-10 mini. They might not have had the appeal of a custom alloy or the rapidly emerging billet rims, but they had size in their favor, and any 16-inch wheel looked better than a 14- or 15-inch stocker. Import truck owners were also jumping on the OEM bandwagon by swapping Ford Probe GT, Nissan 300ZX, and even Chevy Z71 alloys onto their five- and six-lug axle-equipped trucks.Not only were these inexpensive wheels that surpassed the 14-inch diameter barrier, but since they came off of front-wheel-drive cars, most had enough backspacing to tuck inside the narrow fenders of a seriously slammed sport truck back then. Sure, you had Boyd Coddington and Billet Specialties slugging it out for supremacy in the third-generation Silverado market, but aside from those and a handful of other companies that would actually build you an expensive custom wheel, the industry was relatively small, with very few options to choose from.
Man, did things change quickly back then. Just two years later, I was eating strictly off the Wendy's 99-cent Value Menu to save enough cash for my first sets of 17- and 18-inch wheels. Of course, by the time I had put 500 miles on the 17s, I had to upgrade to 18s, just to keep up with the Joneses. At the time, it seemed like lunacy to stuff a wheel that big into a compact pickup, let alone cram a set of dubs under a fullsize Chevy. But, over the next few years, the wheel market exploded, and the diameter of wheels increased with at least the same voracity as the number of new wheel companies that sprang up. Along the way, there were a few signs that things were getting out of control. Remember those old Neeper ads that had cartoon renderings of Honda Civics and Chevys with wheels so huge that the tires looked like rubber bands? So do I. I also remember standing in awe of a one-off 36-inch gold-plated wire wheel at the SEMA Show one year, thinking to myself, that will never happen. I'll never see wheels that large on a truck. Now, I'm not so sure.
Just the other day, I stopped for a red light and a soccer mom in a brand-new SUV stopped next to me at the intersection, but the spinners on her 26-inch rims didn't. I'm still in shock that there are people willing to fork over the cash for 26-inch tires. How long could the treads possibly last? Those tires and wheels cost as much as my dualie did. Did you know that a set of Oasis 26-inch rims with tires costs upward of $15,000? I mean, I'm glad there are wheels that big on the market today and that companies and truck builders are still pushing the limits of what is possible and sane. If it weren't for these visionaries, we'd still think a set of dubs was the perfect combo for a body-dropped CK, when we all know that deuce-deuces look much better tucked into the fenders. Heck, even lifted trucks look better than ever with a set of 44-inch tires, now that there are 18-, 20-, and 22-inch rims available to replace those puny 16-1/2-inch ones that were so en vogue a decade ago. Forget handling and off-road capability because few Ford Super Duty owners with trucks that large are going to pitch their trucks sideways in the dirt anyway, so they might as well pack as much bling-bling into the arcass of their tires as possible.
And so the cycle continues. The wheels are massive, while the tires are dissolving into nothingness. In this issue of Sport Truck, we'll be taking a look at today's trends in tires and wheels. We'll road-test 24s and tell you exactly what it's like to drive every day with wheels twice as large as OEM Mini Cooper rolling stock. In addition to our regular cornucopia of tech articles, Sport Truck will show you how to upsize your rim and tire combo without throwing off your truck's speedometer calibration and how to care for those expensive rollers after they get dirty. It's going to get crazy, so sit back, pop open a cold one, and daydream about flossin' a bigger set of doughnuts under your ride. See ya next month!