photos by: the author
Giving Project Redrum New Rollers, Courtesy of CTW Motorsports and Falken Tire
Whenever you’re building a car for the autocross or road course, it’s always best to keep the perfect balance of handling, grip, braking capabilities and power in check. It’s about building a car that’s well-rounded. As you can probably guess, it’s completely different from building a street/strip vehicle; as the focus of the build is geared towards the wheels, tires, brakes and suspension. In an autocross, you can be competitive with a 300 hp car, just as long as the rest of your components are compatible and your driving ability is up to par.
With everything we have planned for our 3rd-Gen (including a complete drivetrain conversion), Project Redrum, the factory 15-inch wheels just aren’t going to cut it. At all. So the first thing we’re doing is ditching those unsightly things, to help pave the way for our next round of modifications. Plus, this will provide a better baseline for our suspension upgrades that we have planned soon.
With so many options on the market today, we weren’t even sure where to begin for our Trans Am. Considering we paid less for the car itself than what most aftermarket wheels retail for as a set, we didn’t feel that it made much sense at this stage to go high-end. We wanted something that was affordable, looked right at home on an 3rd-gen F-body and would clear our Baer brake upgrade that’s coming up soon. We wanted something in a larger diameter and a wider width than what our factory 15x7s turbine wheels could offer.
Reaching out to our friends in the 3rd-Gen world, we stumbled upon CTW Motorsports. Based out of Hillsborough, New Jersey and specializing in 3rd-Gen aftermarket wheels, we gave the owner and founder, Paul Huryk, a call. He ran us through the specs and the specifics, and assured us that these will clear our upcoming massive Baer rotors and 6-piston calipers.
Believe it or not, they’re rather modestly sized 17×9.5 wheels, that weigh in at 20 pounds and 4.4 ounces. Ditching the plastic center caps will drop an additional 1.6 ounces off each wheel, if you’re looking for the absolute in weight savings.
In case you’re wondering how it’s possible for 17-inch diameter wheels to clear 6-piston calipers and brake rotors as large as 14-inches, the attention is in the details, or rather, the design. If you look closer at the spoke in the wheel, each one is arced out, allowing for additional brake caliper clearance without having the enthusiast pay up for a larger diameter (and more expensive) wheel and tire upgrade. We think it’s brilliant, and wanted to know more about the company in which they’re spawned.
So we spoke to Paul himself, and picked his brain about the company and the wheels. We asked him about his wheels, what his company was all about, what his long-term plans were and what the heck “CTW” actually stood for. So in an attempt to allow Paul to provide you with the insight directly, we let him put into his own words as to why the average third-gen owner should not only consider CTW wheels for their own car, but how they’re beneficial for road racing and autocross applications.
“First, I should probably point out that CTW is an acronym for Cheat The Wind,” he tells us. “Originally, I started the company to produce aerodynamic [body] kits for domestic cars. I’m referring to actual aerodynamic enhancement, not products that make a car ‘look fast’ – something that was popular in the late ’80s.”
“Our wheels are made with the flow-formed method of manufacturing… The process allows a much stronger, lighter, and thinner (allowing more brake clearance) wheel barrel – the strength is very close to forged wheels as a close-to-cast price point.” – Paul Huryk, CTW Motorsports
The plan was to make a complete body kit for the 3rd-Gen Camaros, including; a new nose, vented hood, new front fenders, new ground effects, new rear bumper, rear spoiler (or wing), and a complete under tray for the underside. My original calculations gave a street-trim car a CoD of 0.25 with a wide tire and the ability to crack 200mph with under 400hp. Unfortunately, we weren’t at the level necessary to manufacture the composite molds, and there is still a lot of R&D to be done. It is on our radar and is something we will do in the future.
So we went to our backup plan of offering 17×9.5-inch wheels that were light, strong, fit really large brake kits, and are affordable compared to anything else that’s custom-built. We achieved the goal, and more, and have been selling our signature wheels since May of 2012. Our wheels are currently available in silver and satin black – we may add gloss black in the future, as it has been requested for quite some time.”
CTW’s wheels are spec’d to fit 3rd-Gen OEM width rearends – and Paul tells us that we could go “a tiny bit narrower, but OEM sizing is optimal.” If you use a 4th-Gen spec rear, the wheels will stick out about 2.25″ outside the wheel wells (due to the 56mm difference in offset from the generations). Paul told us that he has a Strange 12-bolt in his Camaro, and the wheels fit perfectly in the rear.
He also added, “One thing to emphasize is the fact that our wheels are made with the flow-formed method of manufacturing, which has become very popular in the last 2 years – even on high-end wheels. The process allows a much stronger, lighter, and thinner (allowing more brake clearance) wheel barrel – the strength is very close to forged wheels as a close-to-cast price point. As a side note, a lighter barrel is advantageous due to the reduction of rotational mass on the end of the wheel (a lever) – giving better turn-in feel, acceleration, and ride.”
Paul went on tell us that they will be adding a narrower 8-inch and 8.5-inch wide wheel to the lineup (in 17-inch diameter) for 2nd-Gen F-body owners who can’t fit a 9.5-inch wide wheel in the front, although their current our 9.5″ wheels fit the rear perfectly. They will also offer an application for the ’78-88 G-bodies and other GM cars, too.
“We may be coming out with an 18×10-inch version for the 4th-Gen cars – depending on demand, since 17-inch is available in OEM and many aftermarket offerings. It is also possible that we may come out with an 18×10-inch version for 3rd-Gens, as well, which would be under $1,500 a set and weigh about 22lbs – again this will be demand driven.”
“A lighter barrel is advantageous due to the reduction of rotational mass on the end of the wheel (a lever) – giving better turn-in feel, acceleration, and ride.” – Paul Huryk, CTW Motorsports
“The AZENIS RT615K has already been proven on autocross and road racing circuits all over the world and on different types of track cars with its world-spec construction and advanced compound…”
There are plenty of tire choices out there, and while we cross-shopped, compared and analyzed each and every option available, we’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about the Falken AZENIS RT615K. In fact, even Paul himself recommended them to us as his tire of choice, in regards to providing that perfect balance of grip, tread life and handling capabilities and characteristics. We have to concur, as not only do we love the perfect balance of grip and dry-weather traction for the street that they provide, but their relative affordable price point for a tire of its type is perfect for what we plan on doing with our project Trans Am.
The AZENIS RT615K has already been proven on autocross and road racing circuits all over the world and on different types of track cars with its world-spec construction and advanced compound for the street and track. They use proprietary technology found only in these tires, that utilizes a 8/32nd tread design and a solid center rib the provides the traction and sustain grip that we were looking for.
Although we didn’t have a chance to put this car through the apexes on the track before the season closed out, we will be doing a follow-up once Spring weather hits and we take our Trans Am to the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. After all, this throwback Pontiac has some serious hardware in the pipeline.
According to Falken Tire, “The AZENIS RT615K is a championship-winning street tire that is extremely popular for today’s sports cars, performance compacts and sedans. With its world-spec construction and advanced compound for street and track use, the RT615K confidently maintains grip both in street and track conditions. Through its proprietary technology, the motorsports inspired 8/32nd tread design and solid center rib provide significant traction and sustains strong grip in dry conditions. Available in 21 sizes; from 14-inch to 18-inch, the RT615K is the track tire of choice with a UTQG rating of 200 A-A.”
While our car is under the knife for the winter, you’ll be read all about our upcoming upgrades that will make Project Redrum 100% track ready. With incredible handling, immense power and a braking system on par, of not superior to its contemporaries, our old-school Trans Am will certainly be battle ready. With CTW Motorsports and Falken Tire now providing the rolling stock, the foundation is already taking shape!
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.