Style or Substance: Three-piece Wheels for European and Japanese Imports
Brands like BBS, HRE, Vossen, ESR, and Rotiform have bridged the gap between classic race cars and modern street machines, making them fashionable for all builds. It isn’t unusual to go to your local car meet and see cars sporting three-piece wheels.
For many car enthusiasts, one of the first go-to mods when starting a new project is a brand new set of wheels.
Not only will the right wheels improve your car’s ride quality, but they will also make your car look better with the right size, offset, and color.
Adorning your car with aftermarket wheels is like a woman who wears fine jewelry - she only dons the pearls or the gold earrings after she’s put on the expensive dress. But the jewelry shouldn’t draw one’s attention away from the dress. Rather, it enhances the lady’s radiance and takes her looks to the next level.
Similarly, sparkling wheels highlight the beauty of a luxury car. Simply put, three-piece wheels look fantastic, whether you’re after style or function. Even if you are less than thrilled by some of your other upgrades, placing the perfect wheels on your car can be the finishing touch that brings your car to life.
The “Modest” Builds
Starting our list is a set of wheels for what we consider “modest” builds.
Although one’s budget is generally based on spending power and disposable income, every so often it’s fun to splurge on a luxury item. A new set of affordable 3-piece wheels is around $3,000 to $4,500
Although there are many brands to choose from, the one most likely to attract the eye of the discerning customer is Rotiform. It has a modern design inspired by supercars of old. These emulate the wheels of older supercars but are designed for a new generation of consumers and drivers.
Work Meister S1
Starts at $3,000 for a set of 4
The Work Meister S1 is a staple among both retro fans and modern fans. Because of its classic five-spoke design, the Work Meister S1 is like a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation.
The wide spokes of the Work Meister S1 look better on modern cars, but older European cars can still wear these wheels with pride.
Another advantage of the Work Meister S1 is that the 5 spoke design appeals to the JDM crowd. The natural proportion of the wheels looks appropriate on Imprezas as well as M3s and M5s. Yet the wheels also look great on the more mundane Golf, or even on a halo car like the S2000.
The Work Meister S1 is a timeless design that unites all segments of the car community.
Starts at $4,300 for a set of 4
Next on the list is the ESR LP5. The 5-spoke design can, beyond doubt, easily steal the hearts of enthusiasts.
Its spokes are rather clean and the face flows smoothly. These go well with a lot of modern cars but they can also give older cars a little bit of an aesthetic edge.
What’s nice about the LP5 is the number of options you can have on it. You can play around with finishes, fitment, and wheel lip so that it works best with the build you want to have.
Starts at $4,400 for a set of 4
Nothing is as timeless as rocking a set of BBS on just about any car. The BBS LM has been one of the brand’s long-selling favorites around the world since 1994.
Its three-piece design originates from BBS’ rich racing heritage, particularly Le Mans. The multi-spokes are nothing short of magnificent, inspiring a lot of other wheel brands to follow suit.
Despite its motorsports origin, the BBS LM has the appeal and elegance that makes it a charming street wheel. It’s hard not to find LMs in a variety of sizes, offsets, and finishes during car meets.
Starts at $4,400 for a set of 4
Perhaps one of the most iconic wheels you can get from Rotiform is the FUC custom forged wheels, inspired by the Fuchs alloys found on vintage Porsche 911s.
The price of these wheels is not for the faint of heart. Yet these wheels are a perfect example of form over function. They embody a style that is iconic and timeless, while still providing consumers with all the latest in wheel forging techniques and material.
And if the FUC doesn’t suit your taste or your car, Rotiform has several other three-piece wheels, for both Modern and Retro rides.
BC Forged Wheels HT53
Starts at $4,400 for a set of 4
For those hoping to save some of their monthly paycheck for things like food, shelter, and clothing, but who still want to get some street cred with the crew, the BC Forged HT35 is still a reasonable option.
This split 5-spoke wheel (much like the other 5-spoke wheels discussed in this article) has a natural elegance that draws attention to the intricate details of its design.
BC Forged also offers the HT53 in a variety of color combinations, from the traditional silver or black to sapphire blue or bright green.
If you’re Paris Hilton and want pink because “that’s hot”, you’ll have to pay for a custom finish. With that said, if you’re Paris Hilton, you probably want them diamond-studded as well!
The Showstoppers and Garage Queens
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the wheels for those who want to stand out from the crowd.
When money is no object, you can find one-of-a-kind creations. They come in colors you can only imagine and fit your car like a glove. In this category, we naturally turn our attention to high-end brands.
Starts at $15,000 for a set of 4
Naturally, such a stylish set of wheels will be the talk of the next Cars & Coffee. But the color you choose will determine whether this talk is positive or negative. Choose the right color and your car will be praised. Choose the wrong color, and it could be the laughing-stock. Either way, all eyes will be on you as you make your way to your parking spot.
The Adv.1 ADV006 has an angular, modern aesthetic to it. Its style suits the modern European car better than it suits the classic model.
At well over $13,000 for a set of 4 wheels, the ADV006 is definitely not for the average car owner. Both the style and the price set these wheels apart, making them an unreasonable purchase for most consumers.
Yet if you do purchase these luxury wheels, you’ll stand out at local car meets. Your car will shine above the rest. This increases their value among car lovers; it may also justify your decision to spend an extra grand for these beauties.
Modern Concept Wheels MC-10
Modern Concept Wheels has multiple designs that fit Japanese cars well.
The MC-10 is a wheel that looks like a huge plate rolling down the road. This wheel is an homage to VIP or bippu style cars and is commonly found on customized luxury cars in Japan.
In the Modern Concept Wheels catalog, a tuner owner will find a wide array of wheel styles to suit their car.
Just one more thing: Modern Concept Wheels are so exclusive, every wheel is custom-built. No off-the-shelf wheels here folks, only bespoke fitment. The problem is that this high-quality wheel comes at a high price, and that price is not for mere mortals.
Three-Piece Steel Wheels
One of the crowd favorites is a three-piece design built by Gedeichselt Custom Wheels in Germany.
Based on the humble steel wheel of a Mercedes Benz W108 sedan, this type of wheel is popular in the European stance scene. It has fresh body-color-matched paint and a deep-dish chrome lip.
These beautifully crafted wheels make steel wheels look common by comparison. It’s safe to say, there are not many cars out there rocking the same style. Why? Because these wheels are custom-built, and not plucked off a shelf.
Bespoke Wheel Manufacturers
Gedeichselt Custom Wheels is just one of many custom wheel fabricators in the aftermarket scene. Custom wheel manufacturers cater to one of the most difficult consumer categories, producing a one-size-fits-all wheel that matches everyone’s budget and cars.
Well, maybe that’s going a little too far. Truthfully, there is no such thing as that kind of wheel.
Every person has their own unique personality and taste. It’s this uniqueness that determines one’s personal preference. It may also cause one individual to scoff at a wheel that another person loves.
And it’s that uniqueness that makes the car scene what it is today: There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to building your ride. You only need to choose the mods that best reflect you. With this in mind, some choose to custom-build their own three-piece wheel.
How to Choose Your Three Piece Wheels?
These days, it’s hard to justify purchasing wheels that can easily get damaged. It just breaks your heart to see curb rash on a polished set of wheels. Even with easy access to lip and barrel replacements, buying three-piece wheels will cost you at least a thousand dollars.
As enthusiasts, it’s important to know how much we can spend. We come from all walks of life, and this hobby is a way to connect with other car enthusiasts and escape from our humdrum routines.
We bond over our keen sense of style and the builds that are trending in the motorsports world. But it is the sense of fraternity (and not the fact that we drop thousands of dollars on mods) that makes the community great.
DIY Wheel Fabrication
There are a few creative car owners who cut up old wheels, be it steel wheels or single-construction cast wheels, and mount them on three-piece barrels to create one-off wheels.
With this method, they create completely unique wheels. The finished product rarely resembles the original wheel or any other wheel on the road.
Although the average car owner may not possess the skills to craft a completely new wheel, they may be able to conceive of their “dream wheel” and convey their vision to a trusted machinist. They may also find parts online or through wheel refurbishers.
This project may sound expensive and labor-intensive, but the tradeoff is that you can design your own wheel — from the spoke style to the type of fasteners used to join the three pieces together.
Three-Piece Models: Not Your Ordinary Wheels
Anyone who rolls up with three-piece wheels knows that they get instant street cred.
Whether you’re sporting a classic Benz on custom three-piece steelies or a Bubble Era JDM legend on Volk CV Pros, the right wheels will turn heads. Three-piece wheels give the impression that you’re ready to race the streets tonight and rule the track tomorrow.
Three-piece wheels are composed of more parts than ordinary wheels. For this reason, they offer more fitment options than their monoblock counterparts.
Their interchangeable components can be swapped in and out to ensure the best size and offset for your build. If you need a larger diameter wheel or a different offset, you can simply replace the outer barrel (rather than throwing out your current set). This makes them very appealing in the fitment scene.
Their versatility also makes them popular with car enthusiasts, especially those who love older cars. And retro car enthusiasts aren’t the only ones buying three-piece wheels.
Pulling Off Three-Piece Wheels
So which car can pull these off the best? It’s important to choose the wheel that suits your vehicle.
It’s possible to put a set of wheels on your car that doesn’t match the design. For example, the Kia Stinger can look great on a set of Modern Concept MC-10s. But you can’t say the same about Hyundai’s Veloster, which looks better on single-piece wheels.
More often than not, these three-piece wheels stand out on stylish stance cars, as the polished lips glint in the afternoon sun.
Three-piece wheels are also perfect for Euro stance cars. Whether you’re driving the latest BMW M5 or the humble Volkswagen Golf, these wheels will elevate your vehicle to rock star status.
In the JDM scene, Work Wheels and Speed Star Racing still reign as the most popular aftermarket wheel brands. They are a nostalgia trip for those who love the ‘90s-era race wheels.
These three-piece wheels find themselves on just about everything – Subaru Imprezas, Nissan Skylines, and even the ubiquitous Honda Civic. They work so well that just having them on can be enough to get you into car shows.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing or building a wheel. Find one that makes you proud and that suits your style and personality.
It’s wise to consult wheel enthusiasts and fitment experts who can guide you to the different options. But ultimately, you will have to choose the wheel that is right for you. Your car is an extension of your personality, and no one has the right to tell you what it should look like. The choice is yours.
It might sound like a daunting task. But you’ll soon realize that those who mock your build will never know it as intimately as you do. Shrug them off and just have fun doing your own thing.
The car world is built on mutual respect for hard work, dedication, and superb craftsmanship. It’s not a matter of purchasing the priciest mods to impress people. Take extra care in choosing each aspect of your vehicle, and your car will be noticed and appreciated by peers who likewise value excellence.
Other people’s suggestions are meant to help you pick the right set of three-piece wheels. Use this article and expert advice to help you on your hunt for the best wheels.
In the same way that car show judges are confident in their sense of style, you should have that same level of confidence in your car.
The car world has a lot of inspiration stored for you. Build your car the way you want.