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– Words: Devin Yaltirakli. Photos: MJ Digital.

Try this one for nostalgia – how long has it been since you first opened up a brand new Hot4s Magazine and spent the first 20 minutes browsing, say, Taleb Tyres’ advertisement on the opening page? I remember I’d have a look at all the ‘in’ wheel brands like Alba, Verde, Dolce, Incubus & Zenetti and think.. These are the absolute business; when I get my first car, this is exactly what I’m gonna have it sitting on. Cut springs, fart cannon, clear taillights – the lot.

Nowadays, the trend of dinner plate chromies has very nearly succumbed to extinction and is only being kept alive by people that are arguably stuck in the late 90s/early 00s period of car modding culture. Today’s buzzwords include fitment, genuine, unsprung weight and the most controversial of all, stance. I love me some serious wheel porn, so when names along the lines of O.Z., Volk, Work, SSR, Rotiform, BBS, Ronal or CCW are mentioned – well, I go a little weak at the knees and have that same fizzing feeling in the groinal region James May keeps mentioning, much to Clarkson’s disgust.

One of the most common and proven adages is that wheels make or break a car; the right selection transforms what is otherwise run of the mill into something spectacular, astonishing and even game-changing – when, before the All Stars/ZEN Maloo, did you last see Professor SP1s on a Holden? Not to mention, pulled off so goddamn well? Exactly my point. The wheel industry of the world acknowledges this by continuously pumping out wheels of the prettiest design, best technical specifications and highest strength/quality imaginable. Wheels have become the hottest commodity in the aftermarket parts world and rightly so; when done right, their impact is second to none.

So when it comes to the retailers of the wheel industry, I have to commend those involved on a stellar job. There’s a sense of pride involved when you operate a business which does nothing but serve the absolute best in these drool-worthy goodies to folks that are eager to represent their amazing advancements. Outfits like Garage 88, who now have the widest range of Japanese wheels on display in Australia, are the medium between a wheel being produced, sent over here, shod in rubber & hitting the road. It’s good for the manufacturers as it means their products are obviously attractive, it’s good for the retailers as it reinforces their status as a company with value, and it sure as hell is fantastic for the consumer because their car ends up looking ridiculously schmick. (I vow to never say ‘schmick’ again.. I’ll let this one slide, so you can laugh at my impeccable word choice.)

That being said, and I’m only going to be touching on this briefly for now, there’s another dilemma that needs to be addressed: fake stuff verse real stuff. The long-standing dispute between paying the price for genuine quality and being able to indulge in replicated versions for a fraction of the money has always plagued the car scene, but in recent years a massive emergence of replica wheels has sent keyboard-bashing levels through the roof. While both sides of the argument do have their pros and cons, I need to focus on this clash of interests from a very particular point of view. Hear me out, if you will, and decide for yourself whether my moral compass is pointing in the right direction or not.

I, as a Management graduate and long-standing vital part of my family business, am conditioned to approach the great debate with the scrutiny of a business minded person. That means having to consider the great care a certain business takes into either manufacturing or retailing a high quality product and the subsequent damage that a cheaper copy can have on said business & their reputation. When you see a set of VORK RAVS on a car and think to yourself “this looks acceptable enough to buy into, rather than paying double the money for a genuine set”, it hurts the guys that make sure us enthusiasts are being served properly. While I have long defended the position of folk who rock replica wheels (i.e. why should they be excluded from the car scene if their passion is still the same as ours?) it is also undeniable that there’s a bunch of collateral damage done in the process. Personally, I know that my own little insignificant opinion isn’t going to bring about any transformations, so I’m not trying to swing the debate in either direction. I just don’t want to see too much more irreversible damage done to an industry which has an endless amount of potential to thrive off.

Despite imitation being depicted as the sincerest form of flattery, we as a unit need to do our best to maintain our support for the guys that do it properly. The insane hours and funds put into R&D alone make the real thing just that little bit worth the price tag over the copycat item. Not to mention supporting the crowd that puts in an equal measure of time making sure this stuff is even readily available to us here in Australia, a land we have long known to be 5 steps behind most of the world in every regard, ever!

As an end note I’d like to reiterate the point that I’m a car enthusiast and modifier to the bone; it’s been that way forever and no matter how much strife the VR6 gives me, it’ll stay that way. I do my bit to support every part of the community (another buzz word really, but I’ll allow it) and this includes the guys that make parts availability even slightly possible. It’s a headache and a half for me, and I can’t begin to imagine what it’d be like having to organise this stuff multiple times a day, on a day to day basis. Big ups to everyone involved, if I was enough of a douchebag to wear a fedora it would be tipped in your direction good sirs!