How to Select the Best Aftermarket Steering Wheel

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Steering Wheelin’ — Selecting the best aftermarket steering wheel for your car’s interior design

By: Jim McGowan —

The two most “in your face” parts of your classic vehicle are the instrument cluster and even closer to you, your steering wheel. Let’s face it (pun intended), as much as you love your vehicle, the factory steering wheels from the 60’s and 70’s are not the most stylish or attractive, and many times are shared by several models within the same manufacturer. When the car or truck was new, that wasn’t much of a consideration, but as street rods, muscle cars, sport trucks, hot rods, street machines, etc. were being customized, one of the first items to go was the original steering wheel.

Many times an enthusiast, without doing any research, would go to the local speed shop or a large auto parts vendor, select a wheel, listen to the sales person tell them how great it will look in their car, and happily take it home. Now the problems start. In the store that plastic wood rimmed steering wheel looked great, but holding it in the car, not so much. The wood really doesn’t go with the black dash pad and instrument cluster, and the dish is too deep for comfortable driving. Plus it’s an inch less in diameter than the factory wheel. All things that weren’t thought about on the way to the store, but are bothersome now on the way back to return it.

Selecting the right style, color, diameter and dish (depth from rim to horn button) can be a problem without having the wheel in your car or truck to check out before installation. Plus quality aftermarket steering wheels are designed for specific kinds of vehicles. Example, a beautiful Banjo style wheel definitely doesn’t belong in a ’69 Camaro, but it’s perfect for a ’30’s street rod or custom. The wheel must fit the interior design AND the age and style group the vehicle fits into. Also, you want a wheel design that won’t interfere with clearly seeing your gauges. You wouldn’t put an early model Mustang wheel into an 80’s Fox body. It simply doesn’t work. It wouldn’t look or feel right. So selecting the RIGHT wheel for the look, feel, year and style of your car or truck is vitally important for the whole package. We couldn’t tell you how many vehicles we’ve looked into at shows and instantly thought “that steering wheel definitely doesn’t belong there!” Another thing to consider is if your original factory wheel is still in good shape, take it off and put it away for safe keeping when you eventually sell the car. Good original 60’s and 70’s factory wheels command premium prices.

The dish of the wheel also comes into play. If the dish is too deep or too shallow you might not like it. Some vehicles have limited driver’s seat adjustments, so you might wind up too close or too far for driving comfort. Consider the dish and wheel diameter carefully when making your selection.

Obviously, you can be more prepared to make a decision on the right steering wheel for your car or truck by doing the following research first. Measure your existing wheel diameter and dish so you know the new wheel will be comfortable when installed. For non-power steering vehicles a 15-inch diameter is recommended. Check to insure your gauges will be easily readable through the spokes. Be sure the style, color and wheel finish goes with your existing interior, and will fit your stock or aftermarket column.

We recently stopped by GT Performance Products in Burbank, CA to check out their new line of steering wheels. We found them at the 2012 SEMA Show and were impressed with their products. They are concentrating their design efforts on cars and trucks from the 60’s into the early 80’s. Currently they have a great selection of freshly designed steering wheels, innovative new style mounting hubs and horn buttons that are secured using a unique O-ring concept. This results in “no more horn buttons popping off in the middle of the night”! They have a 21st century approach to steering wheel design for classic cars and trucks. They even have several models, designed specifically for racing, with quick release mounting hubs.

Lets take a look at a few wheels designed for specific vehicle styles. Mounting hubs are available for most factory and aftermarket steering columns. For more information visit or call them at 818-847-9611.


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