Think of the Porsche 911 and you are likely to see such images as the
whaletail spoiler, flared wheelarches, the Porsche badge, the five dial
instrument dash, and the car’s unmistakable side profile.
One more visual element present on many classic 911s were the Fuchs
alloy wheels. In addition to looking great, as can be said for the rest of the
911, Fuchs combined light weight with great strength both of which are
highly prized on a sports car.
So, how did the Fuchs come to be? Well, as is usual, there is a story.
Until their introduction on the 1966 911S, Porsche equipped the 911
with pressed steel wheels that had polished hub caps. Such were a
fairly good looking wheel but not very cutting edge.
Porsche thus went to the Otto Fuchs Forging Company located
in Meinerzhagen, Germany to inquire about a more fitting wheel
for its future sports car. Porsche had previously done some work
for the German army in developing a strong light weight tank that
had its track rollers made out of aluminum. Thus, the auto maker
knew about the benefits of using alloy in production. Porsche thus
asked Otto Fuchs to design and develop the new wheels.
The benefits of using forging over casting were considerable.
Casting involves pouring molten aluminum into a very precise mold
and allowing it to cool and set. The mold is then broken and very little
finishing is needed to complete the wheel.
However, on the other hand, forging involves using intense heat and
pressure to impact a lump of alloy and form it into a wheel. The heat
and pressure of forging causes the grain structure of the alloy to be
forced from the center of the wheel outward to the outer edge. Thus,
a forged wheel is usually three times stronger than a cast alloy wheel.
and since the wheel is so strong, less material is needed to make the
wheel and it weighs less. Thus, the Fuchs wheels weighed about 5 lbs.
less per wheel and the weight savings was even greater as the wheels
While the weight was lower, the cost of forged wheels was not. The
wheels were up to five times more expensive compared to steel wheels.
This played a part in the expense of the 911. Although the cost was higher,
Porsche stuck to forged wheels because they were easier to manufacture
and the finished product was more accurately round than steel units. Thus,
forged wheels would have a huge impact on the automotive world.
Porsche was satisfied with the quality of the Fuchs forged wheels.
However, their high cost led then to seek alternatives. A company named
ATS was used by Porsche to make a cheaper cast aluminum five-spoke
wheel that was known as the ‘cookie-cutter.’ The design was offered from
1973-1983 on 911s. However, must consumers opted to pay more for the
During the 1980s, the 911 was available with another alloy wheel design
that was like those found on the 928 in 1977. These wheels were known
as the ‘telephone dial’ wheel. However, they did not have the impact that
Porsche intended and the Fuchs again returned as standard 911 equipment
in 1988. During the fashion conscious 1980s, the center sections of the
Fuchs wheels were color coded to match the rest of the car.
In addition being used on the 911, the Fuchs appeared on the Porsche
914-6, the 924 Carrera GT, and some of the 944s.
The Fuchs connection to the 911 ended with the 964 car. This upset
enthusiast worldwide, however, it was time to move on as the four-wheel
drive system, ABS and the offset of the Fuchs wheels were not compatible.
Otto Fuchs is the only company in Germany who continues to forge wheels.
And although Porsche has not found it fitting to return Fuchs to the 911, you
will find them on the Austin Martin Vanquish, the Maybach, all new Audis,
and the VW Lupo.
Fuchs wheels played a big big part in helping to define the Porsche 911 over
the years and they are highly sought after by Porsche enthusiasts worldwide.
Without the Fuchs wheel, aspects of motoring as we know it would surely
Fuchs wheels represented a great leap in car design. This is of no
surprise as Porsche was the one who started it in the first place!
Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price…” He
welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site: