Corvette America has been offering Knock-Off, Bolt-On and Direct Bolt Knock-Off Wheels for nearly four decades. Corvette America felt it would be a good time to share the history of these wheels as many of you will find it an interesting read.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A KNOCK-OFF WHEEL?
It has been a point of common confusion that the term “Knock-Off” wheel means “Replica” wheel. The reality is it just describes the mounting style of the optional factory aluminum wheel upgrade offered in 1963 for the introduction of the C2. All true Knock-Off wheels featured a racing inspired central hub design that allows a single large diameter spinner to hold the wheel to the vehicle. Originally GM even supplied a lead hammer to actually “Knock-Off” the spinner, hence the name Knock-Off. This allows for quick wheel and tire changes during competitive driving, and the basic concept is still used today on many high-performance cars. The Knock-Off wheel option was originally offered from 1963-1966 with no major design changes aside from color. The Knock-Off option was replaced for 1967 when Chevrolet introduced the Aluminum Bolt-On Wheel with a starburst center.
C2 WHEEL DIFFERENCES BY YEAR:
1963 – 1964 – Natural aluminum finish between the fins, with a chrome center cone.
1965 – Charcoal Gray Metallic finish between the fins, with a chrome center cone.
1966 – Charcoal Gray Metallic finish between the fins, with a brushed finish center cone.
1967 – Charcoal Gray Metallic Finish between new thinner fins, with a Special “Starburst” Center cap.
IN THE BEGINNING:
From the late 1970’s until the late 1980’s Western Wheel was the manufacturer and produced only the original style 1963-1966 Knock-Off (KO) and 1967 Bolt-On (BO) wheels. For a while they supplied the hardware too. When Corvette America was given the exclusive distribution rights to the wheels Western decided they only wanted to supply wheels and turned over the hardware suppliers to Corvette America. It was at that point that the KO spinners and adapters were modified to accept anti-theft pins. This was done because at that time a C2 Corvette could easily be purchased for $3000 – $5000. Since the wheels were being sold for just under $1000, or roughly 25% of the car’s value, wheel theft became a serious concern for owners. Over the years the concept of the pins has been misconstrued as a safety feature which simply is not the case. If the KO Wheels are installed and maintained properly the pins are not even necessary if an owner did not want to use them. Their only real purpose is to impede theft.
THE SECOND GENERATION:
In the late 1980’s KMC Wheel took over the project since Western Wheel no longer wanted to manufacture the wheels. So, the tooling was moved to KMC in Riverside, CA and they were produced there for the next decade. However, in the early 90’s it became apparent that unless the wheels were manufactured by a method other than being gravity fed, KMC would have to discontinue the wheels as well. The decision was made to convert the manufacturing process to low pressure and new tooling was developed in Germany to do so. It was around that time that Corvette America also introduced the concept of Direct Bolt Knock-Off Wheels (DBKO) that install like the original steel wheels, but once the hardware is installed, have the appearance of the Original Style Knock-Off Wheels. The DBKO Wheels were developed to give C2 owners who wanted the look of the KO Wheels but were leery of the KO Wheel concept. Despite their virtually “identical” appearance to KO wheels once installed, DBKO’s are not original in any way in the eyes of judging bodies.
By the late 90’s KMC, like almost all USA wheel manufacturers that were still operating, had shifted most of their manufacturing overseas. As most of you are aware, the Big Three USA automakers had been importing wheels directly from Asia for some time, so the manufacturers here in the States had no choice but to follow suit if they wanted to survive. The KO, DBKO and BO wheels were still being produced by KMC in California but once again the cost to do so became prohibitive. None of the remaining wheel manufacturers stateside wanted the project for the same reason. So Corvette America adopted GM’s manufacturing philosophy and began manufacturing the wheels overseas. However, because of the age of the molds, the tooling had to be refurbished and slightly modified. Unfortunately, as the molds continued to age, this caused changes in the appearance of the wheels. Production of the Original Style KO Wheels was then stopped as a result. Around 2005 production of the DBKO and BO wheels were also halted.
THE MODERN GENERATION:
It was at that time that Corvette America set out to improve the now aging designs and molds used for manufacturing the wheels. The decision was made to produce all-new molds for these iconic wheels. Before Corvette America turned their engineers and mold makers loose, a concerted effort was made to determine exactly what the wheels should look like based on the original Kelsey Hayes Wheels. With the help of some exceptionally knowledgeable individuals throughout the Corvette aftermarket, Corvette America was able to obtain original GM blueprints as well as a number of original wheels for this purpose. It was an extremely painstaking process, but the information gathered revealed some surprises about the differences in the original wheels. The sample wheels were reviewed by some of the best restoration minds in the Corvette industry as well as numerous NCRS judges for accuracy of dimensions and appearance. With their help, Corvette America now produces the best replica wheels of their kind available anywhere in the world.