As with vintage muscle cars, for many 5.0-powered Fox Mustangs the factory wheels were often the first things to go. Why run a set of 15x7-inch 10-holes or turbines when you could spring for a set of 16-inch ponies, Weld Draglites, or 17-inch Cobra Rs? And as for five-lug conversions — well, you can say goodbye to your four-bolt factory rims forever.
As a result, for many years, turbines and 10-holes were sold, junked, or dumped in the back of the garage with the pile of other unwanted parts.
Ford literally made millions of these wheels, so even today, more than 20 years after the last 5.0L Mustang rolled out of Dearborn Assembly, they’re still relatively plentiful used. They can frequently be sourced online, via swap meets, or even garage sales across the land, often for pocket change.
However, most of them have seen better days. A combination of 20-plus years in circulation and neglect means often, if they’re not bent, the finish is either dirty, damaged, or both. If you’re embarking on a restoration of your favorite Fox Mustang, there’s no question that a nice-looking set of factory wheels is the icing on the cake. Yet if your car originally came with 15-inch rims, in most cases you’ll have to salvage the originals or other used examples to get the desired results, since reproduction turbines and 10-holes in the stock size are not available and N.O.S. examples are hard to come by and very expensive.
Thankfully, the task isn’t as difficult as it might seem, with a growing number of aluminum wheel refinishing services able to assist. Follow along with FOX Mustang Magazine as our set of classic 10-holes are transformed from sad to showroom.
Our Fox wheel restoration started out with a complete set of 15x7-inch, cast-aluminum, 10-hole wheels, acquired in a swap. With a set of discount, hard-as-rock, and slightly dry-rotted 225/60/R15 radials mounted, these wheels have clearly been in storage for a long time.
One of the biggest problems with these wheels is the clearcoat finish. Chips and nicks from road debris, as well as previously ham-fisted applications of wheel weights on the outside edge of the rim (for balancing during tire installation), have created cracks in the clearcoat. Moisture, air, along with brake dust and road grime have caused corrosion between the clearcoat and aluminum. In addition, it looks like an animal of some kind has relieved itself on one of the wheels. As you can see, the result is pretty nasty.
The back is just as bad. Maximum funk. The only way to get rid of it is to have the wheels blasted, painted, and machined.
To bring our 10-holes back to life, we enlisted the help of Oliver Arpagaus at Carcone’s Auto Recycling in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. Carcone’s is one of the premier facilities of its kind in North America and has been refinishing aluminum wheels of all shapes and sizes for 16 years. With state-of-the-art equipment, Carcone’s is able to restore just about any OEM or aftermarket alloy rim to as good as new.
The first task being the removal of the tires, Oliver sprays on some tire lube to make the process easier.
Next, the wheel is placed on a balancer to ensure it’s straight. Carcone’s will repair aluminum wheels with minor damage but avoids rims suffering from buckles or cracks. “Some shops will repair bent or broken wheels,” says Oliver, “but when you have that kind of damage, the structural integrity of the wheel is compromised, and it will eventually fail, even if repaired.” Carcone’s regularly ships wheels to OE manufacturers for stress and radial testing; time and again, cracked wheels that were repaired have failed during the tests.
Apart from the soiled finish, our 10-hole didn’t show any signs of damage, so the next task is sandblasting to remove the grime and old paint. Because aluminum is softer than steel, aluminum-oxide powder is used to blast the wheel, allowing paint removal without damaging the metal surface. At Carcone’s, the process takes around 30 minutes per wheel.
Once the wheel is finished in the blaster, Oliver sprays it with an air gun to remove loose aluminum-oxide particles, in order to prevent contaminating the paint finish.
It’s time to paint. For spraying smaller parts like wheels and other components, Carcone’s uses a cross-draft spray booth. The paint we’re using for this application is STAND-OX water-borne aluminum paint to replicate the factory color. Gentle strokes with the spray gun on both the front and back result in complete coverage of paint on our 10-hole.
Compared to older, solvent-based finishes (most of which have now been banned by the EPA), water-borne finishes take longer to dry, especially in hot, humid weather. Carcone’s has helped deal with this problem by rigging up an old wall-mounted air conditioner to a cabinet. By placing the wheel on the shelf inside, the A/C helps speed up the drying process. It normally takes about 15-20 minutes under these conditions for the paint to dry.
Once the paint is dry, it’s time to machine the surface to achieve the polished lip and hub outer surface these wheels had from the factory, which means mounting the wheel on a computerized lathe.
The CNC lathe operates on precise coordinates for each wheel, which are found in this Hollander Wheel Interchange Manual. As you can see, there’s even a listing for our beloved 10-hole.
Having input the data into the lathe’s computer (which is only required once and then stored in its memory for future use), the machine gets to work. It uses a diamond-edge tip to smooth the surface of the wheel and remove as little material as possible. To prevent friction and damage to both the surface of the wheel and the tip, a special coolant is injected onto the edge of the tip as the wheel rotates on the lathe.
After the first go on the lathe, a file is used to remove any burrs or other imperfections on the outside edge of the wheel, particularly the 10-hole spoke inserts, which are notorious for blemishes.
The wheel is rotated on the lathe a second time, using a slower feed rate to ensure a nice, smooth finish.
A good old soap and water rinse is absolutely critical to remove any contaminants, such as remaining coolant residue and metal particles from the lathe. If not removed, these will damage both the aluminum and clearcoat once applied.
Now it’s time to apply the clearcoat for that Original Equipment look. The clearcoat goes on as a powder but turns clear during the curing process.
After the clearcoat has been applied, our 10-hole is delicately placed into an oven, heated to 352 degrees Fahrenheit (178 degrees Celsius). Oliver recommends a curing time of 23 minutes for best results. Once the wheel is removed from the oven, Oliver also recommends allowing the wheel to sit overnight before handling it to ensure the clearcoat has cured completely.
And that’s it. Compare our newly refinished 10-hole to one of the other ratty examples we brought in. Looks better than new, doesn’t it? And all for much less than the cost of a N.O.S. piece.
FOXMustang Magazine would like to extend its thanks to Oliver Arpagaus for his assistance with this article
CARCONE’S AUTO RECYCLING
1030 Bloomington Rd.
Aurora, ON L4G 0L7
(800) 263 2022