So you think you're a big baller and you roll with a pretty heavy crowd, eh? Don't fret, little homie, here's a story about a guy who rolls on 24s every day-not with one vehicle, but two. That's right, our hero has two trucks on 24s, an '02 Cadillac Escalade and an '00 Ford Excursion. Both vehicles sport custom-made Oasis 24x10-inch wheels and are driven daily. So, what's life like on 24s, you ask? I spent a day with Victor Hernandez of Walnut, California, to see what it was like to roll big.
The first thing I asked Victor was why he chose such a huge wheel and skinny tire to roll on a daily basis. Victor said, at the time, it was the biggest diameter of wheel you could get, and being involved in the show circuit means that you have to stay on the cutting edge of the trend. To that end, Victor told us that he is currently having a custom set of 26-inch wheels being made, which will debut later this summer. Put simply, Victor went big with his wheels to keep up with the Joneses, which isn't easy or cheap.
The pros and cons of rollin' large are many, but you may also be wondering how you can fit wheels like these under a vehicle. In the case of Victor's Cadillac Escalade, a few tried-and-true mods keep his truck rolling right and the tires lasting as long as possible. To prevent any type of tire rub, some careful trimming of the inner fenderwell was performed, according to diameter of wheel and offset. Victor opted for 2-inch spindles up front and 3-inch drop coils in the rear, to bring the truck down to a tire-hugging ride height. As an added precaution, 1/2-inch spacers were installed between the hub and wheel to keep the tire from contacting and tearing out the factory brake lines and rubbing the inner fenderwell. It also gives the big SUV the wide and nasty look that all ballers crave.
Speaking of brakes, I should probably mention that they are critical, especially when you upgrade to a much larger and heavier wheel and tire package. Let's talk about the wear and tear that stock factory brakes are subjected to. To drive a truck with a brake system that effectively stops 24 inches of wheel and tire at any speed, you can't be a baller on a budget. We also compared the weight of a standard 17-inch wheel tire combo, which weighs in around 58-60 pounds. The big-baller 24 comes in at a hefty 90-100 pounds. Yes, that's a lot of weight hanging off the side of your vehicle. Stock brake pads will not last the normal length of time the manufacturer recommends, nor will they perform as well as they did when the lightweight stock wheel package was in place. Heat is an enemy to brakes, causing brake fade, and it's amplified with heavier wheels, which could have devastating results on the freeway or in cross-town traffic. The solution is cross-drilled and vented aftermarket brake discs and larger calipers with more pistons for better clamping force. As a bonus, not only will the new brakes work better and make your truck safer but they look really cool, and when you're a baller, looking cool is everything.
How do you get something this large to roll true? That's a good question. An average 16- to 17-inch wheel will traditionally take about 6 ounces of inner side stick on weights to balance the wheel. In the case of a big-boy 24-incher, it can take as much as 12- to 16-ounce weights on a fairly round, balanced wheel. Always ask your tire dealer if they have the proper tire mounting equipment and wheel balancing machines. Improperly mounted wheels can void the warranty, or worse, cause an accident when you least expect it.
Once you've selected your wheel, you have a host of tire manufacturers to choose from, including Toyo, Kumho, Hankook, and Pirelli, just to name a few. Tire size depends on your ride height and what look you're trying to achieve. Consult a reputable tire and wheel shop and they can help you in the right application for your particular vehicle.
The average cost of a 24-inch wheel and tire package can drain the pocketbook in the $6,000-8,000 range, depending on quality and brand you select. Buying cheap or at a discount isn't always the best buy. Do your homework and select a wheel that is right for your truck. Buying a forged wheel will save weight in most cases, which will save wear and tear on your truck's braking system. Buyer beware, when you purchase a set of these behemoths. Shoddy manufacturing may cause problems down the road. Try to stay with reputable brands that have a proven track record and you can't go wrong.
Cruising through the streets of SoCal with Victor proved to be like being in a parade. Men, women, children, and small woodland animals stopped and stared at the black powdercoated Oasis wheels as we rolled through town. The ride was quite comfortable on the highway, and driving over some rough road didn't seem to effect the ride anymore than if we were on stock wheels. I asked Victor the ultimate question: "Hey, dude, can I drive your truck?" Without batting an eye, Victor pulled over and handed me the keys. My chance to be a big baller! I was nervous because I thought, What if I cut the corner too close and hit the curb? What if I'm too busy waving at the crowds of adoring baller fans and I run a stoplight?
"Stop fantasizing and drive!" cried Victor.
Driving this wild ride was awesome. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I immediately noticed it wasn't much different in steering than a new stock SUV. Granted, you can feel the heaviness of the wheel and tire combo, but other than that, it was smooth. We proceeded through downtown with stop-and-go traffic, and acceleration was a little slow but seemed to respond as I pushed the pedal. Braking was smooth and came to a stop with regular pressure on the pedal. So, out to the freeway we went. California freeways are known for their wear and tear on a vehicle and the big-baller Escalade took it on. It tracked well, but at times, it seemed to follow the grooves in the road. Overall, it took minimal effort to keep it on the straight and narrow. At 70 mph, the big baller was ready for an exit off the freeway and back home. Changing lanes and braking to exit the freeway was normal, but we noticed that the sometimes-typical nosedive of hard braking was absent, which is most likely due to the lowered and wider stance of the drop kit and wheels-not to mention my excellent driving skills!
We asked Victor a few questions about life on 24s and here's what he said.
ST: How did 24s change your life?
Victor: We get a lot of attention from everyone. We can be in the barrio or Palm Springs, and we get positive response. When my wife drives it, she gets questions like "How do they drive? Who makes them and how much do they cost?"
ST: How have they affected your driving habits?
Victor: You have to be more careful. You can't drive over potholes and small junk on the freeway that you normally might drive over in stock tires. My driving style is fast but cautious, and I avoid sharp turns to reduce the wear and tear on the tires.
ST: Insurance, did it increase your monthly rate?
Victor: Yes, it did. We first had to provide a receipt to show proof of purchase and overall cost of the wheels and tires that we wanted covered. It was an increase of about $30 per month. Depending on your driving record, this amount could vary.
ST: How hard is it to maintain a set of 24s, and how much time is devoted to maintenance?
Victor: Since the time we started running 20-inch wheels up to the 24s, we have developed a daily routine of checking the air pressure visually and with a tire gauge. Also, a critical inspection of the wheel studs. Factory studs seem not to be as strong and need checking once a month. We have actually broken some studs on more than one wheel on the way home from a show.
ST: Wheel care, how do you keep these behemoths clean?
Victor: We personally like to use Meguiar's products. We handwash the wheels and tires with Meguiar's Gold Wash to clean the brake dust and other debris that might accumulate on the tires. We then use chrome polish to give it the show shine, and carefully sponge on some tire dressing. Everyone has their own personal favorite brand. This is a weekly ritual and even more so when we go to a show.
With the seat laid back, baller-style, and Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage" on the bass-boomin' sound system, I was definitely a player. The experience was great and we had no problems, except Victor repeatedly telling me, "You can stop now." Life on 24s was sweet.
So, if you have the funds or a home equity loan, you can be a big baller and live life on 24s, too. Watcha!