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3D-Printed Turbofans Could Be the Hottest New Wheel Trend

It's early days yet, but who doesn't love the idea of custom DIY aero wheels?
Vonkaracing via Instagram

Turbofan wheels scream performance. An icon of top-level race cars in the 1970s and 1980s, they went on to become a statement piece of street style. Today, getting a set for your own ride can be an expensive proposition, so why not make your own?

The gang at the Vonka Racing drift team has been doing just that, by 3D printing their own turbofan wheel covers. As seen on Instagram, the team has a printer with a build space large enough to print full-sized turbofan covers in a single piece. Armed with that equipment, who could possibly resist the urge to whip up some parts?

Speaking to The Drive, the team noted the project is only a week old, and they have yet to drive with the turbofans installed. Regardless, it’s already netting visually appealing results. The team has worked up a number of prototypes thus far, experimenting with materials and designs. The turbofan covers are connected to the hub using 3D-printed mounts that clamp on either side of the wheel, with the outer turbofan cover attached with a large reverse-threaded nut.

Initial attempts look the part, but there have been some issues with excessive flex and a lack of rigidity. Properly balancing the components will also be important to avoid annoying vibrations. There are also questions as to how the fans will hold up at high speed, as well as in wet conditions when hitting standing water. Designed properly, there’s no reason that a set of plastic-printed turbofans couldn’t work, and they may even prove lighter than traditional aluminum designs.

Fundamentally, a primary goal of turbofans is to help suck cooling air over scorching hot brakes. In this regard, it may be necessary to use high-temperature plastics if the turbofans are to serve in a genuine high-performance track role. In a cosmetic-only duty, though, most 3D-printable plastics would be fine.

It also bears noting that turbofan covers come with a tradeoff in unsprung weight. In many cases, they’re more about looking cool than offering a genuine performance advantage—not that there is anything wrong with that! For a drift team that’s out on track generating copious amounts of tire smoke, a good set of turbofans could be very visually appealing indeed.

Of course, Vonka Racing isn’t the only game in town when it comes to turbofans in the modern era. Belgian custom shop D-Ing Designs has made waves in recent years, taking on custom commissions from eager customers. Ken Block also famously rocked a set of Fifteen52 turbofan wheels on his Ford Fiesta ST to great effect in 2013.

We can’t wait to see where this project goes. Expect 3D-printed turbofans to become next year’s hottest accessory if this experiment proves successful in the coming weeks.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com