Firebird Rims

Partially just showing off the rims, but more help for anyone that buys later factory rims for their early 4th generation firebird.

Before

Firebird Rims Before

After

Firebird rims after

I won 3rd place in a bet/pool with some buddies from work to lose weight. I did 33 lbs in 6 months. 3rd got $150 (entry fee was $100) So I have this $150. I am spying a set of Trans Am rims for sale on Craigslist. They are the 5 spoke polished chrome type. Much better looking than the stock '95 "Salad Shooter" rims

Craigslist ad for rims

While at work one day I saw a set of the same rims on a black TA in the work parking lot. Wondered who drives that? Turned out to be a guy that works in my department. Normally he drives a Chevy Avalanche.

After calling the owner of the rims, not getting a reply and then see the ad disappear, I thought that the owner had sold them. 5 days later I got a call today from the owner saying he had not checked messages and was going to repost the ad. I'll pick them up Friday!

Reflection from the freeway in Concord
Driving to Antioch

 

OK, got the rims. $160. Not too bad, one has a bit of gnawing around one lug nut where someone tried taking one off without the lug nut key. Still even with that flaw and a ding or two they have less wear & tear than the 'salad shooter' rims that came with the car. I drove from San Jose to Antioch Friday after work. Was a nice drive up until the last leg, when commuters going home mixed with big rigs taking loads east. Met the seller. He has a real nice looking 3rd generation Camaro in the driveway. Says he bought the rims and tires for the Camaro but the offset was not right. He kept the rubber and installed it on another set of rims.

Rims going home

We talk cars for a bit, exchange $$ for rims. Tucked the rims in the back and started home. Over the weekend I cleaned them up a bit more, took all the weights off and got ready to find a shop to swap them. Find one and arrange to drop car off Monday morning after the morning rush at the warehouse. Monday gets here and (surprise!) I have people from corporate on site. No sneaking off to drop off the car, so I enlist one of my staff to get it there. Guess how many on staff can drive a stick? One. And the poor guy is short so he has to pull the seat all the way up. Great staff I have, give them credit for taking on anything - even driving the boss's car over to the shop.

Rims in back waiting to be installed

OK, later in the morning I get a call from shop. Rims don't fit on the back they say. Front's OK, but no go on the back. WTF? It's too busy to break away and consult the interwebs for help. Tell shop to put old ones back on and I get back an pick up the car. Next day rolls around and one worker asks if the corporate suits are gone yet, tell him yes thank god. He's the one that has the black TA. Tell him my story of woe. We discuss the matter and I am impressed with his mechanical know how on the subject. Summarize that the rims must be for a 'bird with 4 wheel disc brakes.

He comes back a few minutes later with a printed forum page from an F-body forum explaining a slight size change in the rear axle hubs on 93-96 models and that it's very slight. A dremel roto-tool can grind off enough to make them fit.

Maybe this weekend I'll get out the drum sander bit and a drill and see if I can mod the rims. But got to have the car here to test fit. Remember the deal made with my son - the car is often gone from 4 am Saturday to 9pm Sunday. We'll see how it goes, he spied the rims and was excited (normally this kid does not get excited over mechanical improvements. He likes the style, sound and experience, but he's still coming up a bit on improvements.

Until the next week the shiny 5 spoke rims sit and wait.

As mentioned on the last entry, a worker in my warehouse tipped me on how to get the later factory wheels to fit the early fourth generation Firebird. I got a few pictures of the progress. Not knowing what to expect I bought a couple of grinding wheels as a backup, I had a drum sander kit for a drill press. Then wrestled the car away from my son on a weekend, some of us know that can be difficult to accomplish. Got the car down the driveway and pulled off a rear wheel. This was the first time I'd removed a wheel from the $1500 Firebird, for sharing's sake I'll tell you to stop turning the lugnut trim caps sooner than say - 50 turns. They are captive in the center cap. Then pry the cap off.

Old Rim Removal



Five easy to remove lugnuts later, I saw what causes the issue - in the middle of the lugs is a round flange like portion of the axle shaft that is a tiny bit too big to let the wheel mount flush. Here's the portion of the hub/drum that will not fit into a 97 & up stock rim.

Brake drum & axle


Here is one of 1997 TA chrome rims. Only that lip at the opening needs to be trimmed so that it can fit over the axle. See, it's not a huge mass of metal to remove.

New rim

First try was a oxide wheel on a metal shaft. It did the job. Slowly. Plus it clogged up frequently. I switched to plan B . .

Oxide Wheel

Next tool of choice - Craftsman 3/8 drill & a sanding drum. Simple.

Drill


A coarse grit sanding drum of a bit larger in the girth. Larger girth, lower speed. Circle around the edge a few times in one direction then the other. If the surface starts to clog, move the drum in and out

Sanding drum

That made for a fast trim that fits the wheel to the rear axles. Do remember to do all four. You do still rotate tires, right? I did all four wheels in less time that it took to get the jack out of the stash bin. The 11 year old in me always laughs when I read the safety label that says "Jack Instructions".

Modified Wheel

Now it fits like it should
Test fit rim on car

Now back to where I was last time, get the tires switched, find some lugnut caps and put the old rims up for sale.

Used Rims for Sale