The Case for Steel Wheels
A practical, and philosophical, argument for putting ugly, old, heavy, rollers on your truck.
Zach Bowman has sold everything he owns, slapped a camper to his high-mileage 2003 Dodge Ram and has taken his family on the road. His clan numbers three, counting wife, Beth, and their infant daughter. They are touring America, working and discovering, and are sending The Drive periodic dispatches from the road.
I bought wheels. That’s not entirely accurate; I was given wheels. And then I spent $200 on them. This is not something the Dodge needs. Of the inexhaustible list of bits and pieces that have decayed, shattered, broken, or vanished over the last 13 years, the five brilliant factory alloys have escaped unscathed. Three of the four center caps look like they’ve fallen from space, but otherwise, my rolling stock’s just fine. So why replace them with hateful, heavy steel?
There are a handful of reasons. Steel’s tough. Smack a rock, blow a tire. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. Odds are you’re getting away with little more than a nasty scratch and a trip to Lowes for some Rustoleum. If you do manage to crack one, any clown with a welder and one good eye can sew it up well enough to get you back on the road. Need to replace it? Fine. A crisp, $100 bill will net you a brand new piece, shipped. Not so with the aluminum.
And they look like trash. A set of used alloys will fetch good money on Craigslist, especially when shod with pricey all terrain tires. I don’t need any help looking like a ripe target for theft. Shitty steelies? Hardly worth the effort of busting loose 32 lug nuts.
But that’s not why I spent $40 getting the old tires off and another $160 having the new wheels blasted and painted. I did it because I hated those shiny aluminum rollers since the day I bought this truck. Gorgeous as they are, they’ve rubbed at me, the simple idea of them worming around under my skin. You don’t go digging ditches or cutting fence in penny loafers, and this truck’s nothing if not a ditch-digging son of a bitch.
I did it because steelies are righteous in the eyes of our motoring lord. Because they’re working class, and one of the last reminders that trucks were once built for purposes other than date nights or trips to the mall. I did it because I missed the heavy, unbalanceable bastards on my old ’78 Scout. Because when the world ends, there will be nothing left but cockroaches, Cummins engines, and steel wheels.