‘Your UPS driver Gavin will be with you before 4:00pm on Wednesday’
Gavin has no idea who I am. And Gavin also has no idea how much pressure I’m putting on his shoulders today. To him, I’m delivery number 62 of 74. But to me, Gavin is the bringer of hope, joy, peace and unity. Unless he doesn’t turn up.
Because every hour that passes is another hour closer to receiving those soul-destroying words: Your Parcel Is Delayed. And if that happens, I’ll go straight to Google and research ancient voodoo spells while eyeing up the neighbour’s cat for one of its limbs.
Nobody deserves that. But c’mon, Gavin. Gav. Gazzer. What’s the delay? It’s been 18 minutes since the last tracking update. These numbers aren’t stacking up. You’re going to run out of time. Alexa, order me a cast iron cauldron just in case.
It’s not Gavin’s fault. For all he knows my parcel could be a load of DFS furniture samples. But they’re not, because today is a big day; new wheels day. Actually, it’s more than new wheels day. It’s new TE37s day, the greatest day of all.
In case you haven’t guessed, I am – like many of you – a complete fiend for RAYS wheels. My first ever Skyline sat on Volk Racing TE37s. So did my second, and nearly 11 years on so does my current R34. In fact, just last week I swapped them over from white OG TE37s to bronze ones, both in the holy grail GT-R fitment of 18×10.5-inch ET15.
I’ve gone down the Gram Lights 57DR route with an old RX-7 along with TE37s and ZE40s. I’ve tried (and failed) to fit 17×9.5-inch SE37s on an even older EK Civic, and now I spend most days posting Volk wheels in the group chat until someone caves in and buys ‘em.
I can’t decide if it’s worrying or impressive, but I can decipher most TE37 fitments simply by their spoke design and PCD. It’s like the weirdest badge of honour which serves zero purpose outside of the internet. Doesn’t stop me enjoying it, mind.
Let’s push that aside for a moment, because rightfully so the Volk Racing TE37 remains one of the most sought-after and versatile wheel designs ever produced. Even more so than the equally-as-awesome BBS RS and LM designs.
New or old car, luxury sedan or track monster – there’s something about this six-spoke wheel which always works. Maybe it’s how beautifully simplistic it is, yet its purpose has always been with performance in mind. Fast never goes out of fashion after all, even on a not-so-fast vehicle.
It doesn’t help that Speedhunters is an environment which actively encourages this behaviour too. Over the years we’ve seen TEs pop up on almost every make and model imaginable. My favourite? Impossible to pick just one, but a standout has to be this Suzuki Alto Works sitting on 14-inch TE37s finished in Burning Red.
What you might not be so familiar with is just how long the TE37 has been in existence. Launched back in 1996, the TE part stands for ‘Touring Evolution’ (on account of its motorsport link) whereas the 37 refers to the weight achieved by the entry-level 15×6-inch design – just 3.7kg.
That format has carried across into other Volk Racing wheels over the years, not least the CE28N, but what made the TE37 so desirable was its direct involvement within racing. That and fundamentally it’s a properly good-looking design.
It’s the late ’90s and you’re watching the Super Taikyu race series (formerly N1) race on TV. That R34 looks really good, doesn’t it? Well, you’re in luck. Those exact wheels it’s running can be bought and fitted to your own R34 Skyline road car. No street variation or weight change – just a genuine motorsport wheel for the road.
Naturally, during the past 25 years there’s been a huge variation of TE37 models released, including (ironically) motorsport-only applications like the TE37 MAG found in the world of Super GT. But for road cars in 2021, there’s never been so much choice before: TE37V, TE37 SL, TE37XT, Sonic, Ultra, TE037, Saga, Gravel and Black Edition to name a few.
Yet I’d argue the majority of us are most familiar with the OG TE37 design from the ’90s and ’00s, usually found tucked under some tuner car desperate to lap Tsukuba in under a minute. As a design, its appearance has always stayed true to form. But it’s the engineering and manufacturing process which has changed massively over that time, something Dino covered brilliantly back in 2018.
With so much variation, it does mean we now get to enjoy the TE37 on cars previously not catered for. And if you thought this design looked good on domestic cars, I reckon they’re even better on non-Japanese cars too. That’s why, unsurprisingly, when it came to finding a suitable upgrade for this Ferrari 360 Challenge race car, there was only ever one solution.
If I’m trying to disguise myself as an anorak, I could say these TE37 Sagas are lighter than the OEM wheels and considerably stronger. Not least because 20-year-old wheels on a race car will have likely experienced some truly terrible things. In reality, they’re an absurdly cool wheel design and nothing says ‘I grew up obsessing over Japanese car culture’ than bolting TE37s on an Italian sports car. Maybe.
The obvious thing to do on new wheel day is to bolt ‘em up as soon as humanly possible. But here’s where it gets even more anorak; the whole unboxing process just adds to the experience, doesn’t it?
Look at those material wheel covers; I’ve seen animals transported around the world with less consideration. Then there’s the little RAYS sticker documenting the size, finish and fitment of what lurks inside, alluding to what kind of wacky car they’re going to be fitted on.
In the case of the 360 Modena Challenge, I’ve kept the rears as close to OE as possible measuring 18×10.5-inch ET30, mainly due to clearance being minimal on the current setup. For the fronts, there’s a bit more space to play with. That means a jump from 18×8-inch ET38 to 18×9-inch ET27 with a little bit of fettling.
I’d love to say there’s a performance benefit in mind here, but the reality is I wanted the more concave ‘Face 3’ design rather than the OE-sized ‘Face 2’. This was fantastic news to Paul at ICS Motorsport, who now has to modify the front brake ducting and geometry to suit… But that’s why he’s good at his job.
TE37s have become a bit of a collectible item now – almost like a pair of Air Jordans but with more purpose – so that does mean tracking down good sets is becoming harder and more expensive. But on the flipside, it’s a testament to just how respected these wheels are 25 years after their launch.
So long as they’re still being used and not squirreled away like a low-mileage classic I see no issues with a TE37 world takeover. But what about you guys; is the TE37 still the king of tuner wheels? And if so, what’s your ultimate spec and finish? Let me know in the comments below (pictures are a must).