SIMMONS RETRO REVIVAL
SIMMONS RETRO REVIVAL
Photos by Jason Gynn and EMG Archives
Simmons wheels are iconic in the Australian modified car scene and have been for over 30 years, especially when it comes to the classic Aussie muscle cars. Recently we had a chance to visit Retro Wheels, the workshop currently responsible for the production of these gorgeous rims. Coming along for a sticky beak was The Aussie Muscle Enthusiast’s editor Matt Ludgate and once the day was done, we had a quick chat to him about the brand and what it is that makes Simmons wheels so special.
Performance Garage: Why are Simmons wheels so important in the Australian modified car scene?
Matt Ludgate: Simmons wheels were always, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Australian wheel design and being that they are custom made three piece wheels, they are available to suit just about any car.
As you can see, regardless of how big an area you have to fill a Simmons wheel can be made to fill it.
I can’t think of a bigger rear end than what there was on the XA-XC Falcon coupes which are just crying for a set of ten inch Simmons to be bolted into place.
PG: As the editor of The Aussie Muscle Enthusiast, I’m sure you’ve owned a set or two of Simmons in your time. What’s your favourite Simmons wheel?
ML: My all time favourite is easily the V5 style followed closely by the five spoke B45. You just cannot beat a set of 15x8 and 15x10 inch Simmons fitted to a Falcon coupe or a flared Torana for that in your face, tough appearance.
The V5 is my personal favourite. The mesh design just screams old school cool!
Following a close second easily has to be the B45, another classic old school design that still looks great today.
PG: Why is it that they were so popular back in the day and have continued to be such a sought after wheel?
ML: Back in the 1980s there was just not a lot of aftermarket wheels available to suit the old school muscle cars that could accept a deep dish wheel. Back in the ‘70s we had wheels like the Hotwire and US Racer however once the ‘80s hit those wheels slowly disappeared from the range and were largely replaced by Simmons.
Try getting a set of modern one piece wheels to suit a ‘70s classic like the V5 Simmons fitted to this HQ coupe.
Colour coding your Simmons was a very common practice during the ‘90s, as you can see on this XW GT.
Gold V5 Simmons on a white SS Torana hatch just looks perfect all these years later.
A polished centre can be a nice alternative to a painted centre and really set this Torana off.
PG: Looking through previous issues of The Aussie Muscle Enthusiast, it seems that Simmons are the wheels to get for a period correct look. Why do you think that is?
ML: That’s easy; because they are a custom made three piece design and can be made with huge dish which is just the thing for an old school muscle car.
Also, their timeless styling just goes hand in hand with classic Aussie muscle.
PG: How did the Aussie muscle car scene react to Tony Simmons retirement?
ML: I guess it was a shock as the Simmons brand has been a household name for car guys for many years.
When I found out I remember thinking “what are we going to do for wheels now?”
PG: Genuine Simmons are still attracting a decent price second hand but many of the styles are still available brand new, why do you think that is?
ML: It was weird because it was not that long ago you could buy a second hand set of Simmons for reasonable money however once it was revealed that Simmons was no more, prices began to sky rocket. We all know that Tempe Tyres took over manufacture of Simmons Wheels, the FR and OM styles in particular, but we were unaware at the time that Retro Wheels were producing the classic styles in the smaller sizes.
The FR style Simmons is a classic style that is suited to the modern muscle car and thankfully Tempe Tyres can still make these for you.
It’s not just the modern cars that suit the look of the FR Simmons wheel though as you can clearly see on this SL/R Torana.
I don’t think there is anyone out there who would disagree that Simmons wheels are the perfect enhancement for your tough old school muscle car.
PG: What was your first impression walking into the Retro Wheels workshop?
ML: Retro Wheels is like stepping back in time into an old school wheel shop and it’s a buzz seeing all the old style wheel components stacked into the racks.
PG: The owner of Retro Wheels, Richard Watts, is quite the character. Can you tell us a little bit about him and how he got into the wheel business?
ML: He is certainly a man who is not afraid to have a go at anything from starting Whiteline sway bars, owning a motel to building Australia’s most iconic wheels. The story of how Richard became involved in Simmons is pretty simple; he went to Tony to find out about buying a set of wheels for an open wheel race car and ended up buying the moulds so he could make them himself!
PG: Was it a bit of a blast from the past seeing so many of these classic wheels in the one place?
ML: It sure was, especially the old 13 inch stuff that I had not seen in probably 20 years. He also has a lot of old race car wheels with a lot of history behind them so that was a real experience.
Check out these rare 14x10 inch polished B45s mounted to the rear of this LX Torana SS.
It really was an exciting experience taking a walk through a workshop that we previously didn’t know existed, examining brand new examples of wheels that we thought were a dying breed. For now this is all we can show you guys but keep an eye out for our full feature on Retro Wheels. For your Simmons fix in the meantime, grab a copy of The Aussie Muscle Enthusiast, with the issue on sale on the 6th of July featuring three sets of Simmons on the cover!
For those of you curious as to how you can get your hands on a set for yourself, give Richard a call on (02) 9570 3033 and we’re sure he’ll sort you out.
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