In 1970, two German car enthusiasts named Heinrich and Klaus opened a manufacturing plant that would go on to become one of the world’s most well-known and revered wheel companies. Heinrich Baumgartner and Klaus Brand, who both hailed from the tiny town of Schiltach in the Baden-Württemberg region, took the first letters of their family names, as well the name of their home, and named the company BBS.
Initially the pair produced plastic parts, but after a couple of years their focus turned to wheels. But not just any wheels; lightweight wheels specifically for motorsport applications. The first product – a 3-piece mesh wheel – was a BBS-Mahle collaboration, but within the short space of a decade, BBS were supplying wheels to OEM car manufacturers.
These days, anyone with even a passing interest in cars will recognize a classic set of BBS RS wheels. The filigree cross-spoke design is as iconic and timeless as a Fender Stratocaster guitar or a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers.
Over the years, the popularity of BBS RS wheels in the custom car and tuning world has become so big that some say they’re predictable and played out. I don’t agree. The 3-piece design and construction of these BBS mesh wheels allows for endless combinations. Different sizes, different color combos for the lip and centers, different lip widths, step-up lips, different hardware and caps, and different fitments provide limitless personalization options.
To continue the sneaker analogy, there are hundreds of versions of the Chuck Taylor, Vans and Jordans, but you don’t hear anyone complaining about that. Like these shoes, BBS RS wheels are timeless.
Of course, BBS have made other designs as well, but most of them exist around the familiar Y-spokes.
Of all BBS’s Y-spoke wheels, I feel like the LM is the most legendary.
Popular BBS designs that don’t use a Y-spoke include the RD Design 5000 (mono-block) and RF (3-piece modular) models.
It’s always a treat to see BBS E-series wheels – which were produced for motorsport – incorporated in a build. Earlier models like the E16, E30, E49, and the E50 pictured above.
The E87 is a more modern forged wheel that BBS manufactures, and it’s pretty popular considering how many sets I spotted at Ultrace 2021 in Wrocław, Poland a few weeks back.
Around four or five years ago, BBS wheels seemed to be less prevalent at car shows – at least in Europe – but their popularity soon bounced back. There are sure to be a few reasons for this, but one of them likely had to do with BBS’s former financial troubles. I think a lot of people thought if they didn’t buy a set they might miss out altogether if the company folded. As we now know though, BBS’s future is in safe hands having recently been acquired by the good folk at KW.
As my father had BBS RS wheels on his BMW E30 back in the 1990s, seeing a set always brings back great memories. The BBS design is one that I’m sure will continue to stand the test of time.