If someone was to ask you to think of a Japanese wheel – any wheel – chances are the Volk Racing TE37 would pop into your mind. There is no doubt that this particular six-spoke, one-piece forged rim has come to be a defining detail in the JDM aftermarket scene. Its ageless design has stood up to the test of time, slowly but steadily evolving through the years, boasting better and stronger construction and spawning off a variety of other versions that, to this day, continue to be desired.
So I thought I’d take a little step back in history and see how the TE37 came to be. Having owned two set of these wheels – the latest soon to be fitted to Project GT-R – the TE37 is a wheel I have always appreciated and liked, and also photographed on many cars over the years.
RAYS launched the TE37 in 1996 with the idea of creating a wheel for both motorsports and street applications. The name itself “Touring Evolution” emphasized the direct link with the racing world and RAYS continuously developed and advanced this particular model with the feedback and data it received from teams that used the wheel.
The two main aspects that were focused on were ultra-light weight, and maximum rigidity. The TE37’s six-spoke design would give the best possible stress dispersion over the whole inner and outer circumference and efficiently take the abuse of competitive racing. If you are wondering where the ’37’ comes from, it was the target weight of the entry-level size: 3.7kg for the 15x6JJ.
To say the wheel was an immediate hit would be a gross understatement. Enthusiasts loved the fact that they could fit a wheel that was being used in the N1 Taikyu (now known as Super Taikyu) series, on their own street cars.
Tuners across Japan jumped on the TE37s and it quickly became the demo car standard. The wheel could be seen at paddocks across Japan and in gymkhana trials that were quickly becoming popular in the mid to late ’90s. Some tuners like Top Secret collaborated with RAYS to make its own special versions of the TE37, as seen above fitted to its legendary gold BNR34 demo car in a shot I took back in 2002 at Tsukuba.
RAYS was always trying to come up with innovative ideas and one was to use a matte bronze finish for the TE37 that would not require any paint so as to keep the weight of the rim at a minimum. The satin finish was to become one of the most recognizable factors of the wheel and its maker.
The TE37 was an especially big hit with the GT-R crowd who literally went crazy for the lightweight design. RAYS offered what quickly came to be known as ‘GT-R size’ or 18×9.5J +12 – a perfect mix of width and height that would allow 265/35R18 tires and get the most out of the RB26-powered generation of Skylines. This is still true today, except more and more people are experimenting with wider rubber and therefore wider rims. RAYS offered (and still does) the possibility to customize the coloring for a small fee of ¥3,000 (approx US$30) per rim, allowing you to go color-matching crazy!
The Top Secret Z33 was one of the first new-gen Fairlady’s I saw wearing the TE37s.
The above shot was taken at a Top Secret organized soukoukai at Tsukuba around 2002.
In the early 2000s RAYS launched the 19-inch version of the TE37, and I recall shooting my friend’s R34 just after it was fitted with a custom-painted set in that size.
The TE37 dominated the field in the JGTC series with countless top level GT500 teams running the center-lug version of the rim. From epic cars like the Denso Supra…
… to the Raybrig NSX…
… as well as the Arta NSX.
Of course these wheels were actually the Forged MAG – magnesium alloy versions that, thanks to the addition of the lighter metal into the mix, boasted an even lighter weight. A street version of the TE37 MAG was on sale for a few years at around a 60 percent premium over its regular aluminum alloy counterpart and was only offered in a deep blue hue.
When Keiichi Tsuchiya set the record around Tsukuba with the #8 Arta NSX – a 51.875-second lap…
… the car was of course running on TE37 Forged MAGs.
RAYS pretty much made the TE37 available for any sort of application – creating convex versions to be used with smaller cars like the Nissan March in the March cup, to large PCD versions to be used on 4x4s, as well as catering to import and exotic cars like Porsche and Ferrari. An example is the T&E Vertice Design F360 Modena that was shown at the 2003 Tokyo Auto Salon, riding on big 19-inch, flat-face, matte bronze versions.
But the TE37 will always be a performance wheel…
… used in time attack…
… as much as drifting and any other discipline!
With the unveil a few years back of the ‘Vintage’ version of the wheel, the TE37V, owners of older more classic cars have been able to tap into the whole ‘Touring Evolution’ look beautifully with some awesome, smaller diameter deep-dish offerings, like those fitted to the Rocky Auto RB30-powered S30 above.
With the popularity of time attack continuously growing, the Super Lap version has quickly become one of the most popular special versions. With a reduction in weight of about 400 grams per wheel…
… it’s a good way to lower unsprung weight without any negative trade-offs.
The red ‘SL’ spoke has also become an instantly recognizable feature, or instant kudos shall we say!
RAYS has no intention of stopping the TE37 evolution and this year brought out the Rigid Tune variant, boasting six percent stiffer construction without impacting on the SL’s lightness.
It’s only offered in Burning Red to emphasize its performance oriented application. Tuning shops and enthusiasts alike have really embraced the RT with more and more sets turning up fitted to demo and customer cars.
Hence why I can’t wait to get mine fitted to Project GT-R!
RAYS recently released a new size for the TE37Vs – a 17-inch version specifically for the new 86/FR-S/BRZ/GT86, sporting a PCD of 100 and either an 8JJ or 9JJ wide rim. This will be the choice for those that can’t live without a deep-dish look! RAYS is currently working the next, or third, generation of the TE37 taking what they have learned with the SL and RT and pushing the boundaries of lightness and rigidity even further. Plus we hear some interesting R35 GT-R applications are coming soon too. Here’s to the next 17 years of the TE37!
Many thanks to RAYS for providing information and pictures for this post.
Dino Dalle Carbonare