If you go to any car show and look for hotrods from the late 60s and early 70s, chances are, you are going to see some Cragar wheels.
The classic Cragar S/S is a wheel that took over the muscle car era and has stood the test of time through the modern era, with these classic wheels still being produced and purchased today.
But what exactly is Cragar, and why are so many classic muscle cars outfitted with these S/S wheels today?
This is the story of Cragar, from small beginnings to paving the way for hotrod wheels all over the world, to even having a role in creating the SEMA show.
The Cragar Corporation
Way before Cragar was creating custom wheels for muscle cars all around the world, they were a small specialty shop in California that went by the Cragar Corporation. This small shop was founded by Harlan Fengler and Crane Gartz in 1930. Crane and Harlan came up with the name “Cragar” by taking the first three letters of Crane Gartz’s first and last name, Cra and Gar, making the final name, Cragar.
In this small shop, Cragar sold airplane engines and engine heads for the Ford Model A. Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression, Cragar was not commercially successful despite having quality products and craftsmanship behind its work.
A Change In Ownership
After a few short years, Crane Gartz was already looking to sell the Cragar Corporation, and found a buyer with George Wight, founder of Bell Auto Parts, in 1933. Wight added the Cragar inventory to the Bell Auto Parts lineup and improved the products over time. In 1943, George Wight passed away right in the middle of World War II.
Between 1943 and 1945, Geoge Wight’s widow kept the company alive until a young Cragar fabricator and racer by the name of Roy Richter came along to take the company to the next level. In 1955, Roy Richter incorporated the Cragar Equipment Company, aiming to bring the old legendary company back to the legendary status that it had when it was purchased years prior by George Wight.
Cragar Teams Up To Create SEMA
In the years following Roy Richter’s incorporation of the Cragar Equipment Company, the popularity of the company as a racing equipment staple grew quickly. By 1963, Cragar had enough street credit amongst racers around the country to be a founding member of the Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association or SEMA.
Roy Richter, along with 35 other equipment manufacturers founded this organization that continues to bring automotive enthusiasts from around the world together for the SEMA show in Las Vegas.
The Legendary S/S Makes Its Debut
While Cragar was finding success selling racing equipment, the company was busy behind the scenes looking to fill a need in the automotive market for a quality performance wheel.
Before 1964, performance wheels didn’t have much cosmetic appeal, and wheels built to look good weren’t strong enough to handle high-performance situations. Many hotrodders back in the 1940s and 1950s would modify stock OEM wheels for their cars, because OEM wheels looked decent, but were strong enough for some high-performance driving.
In 1964, Cragar released the S/S. The official wheel of the muscle car era to many automotive enthusiasts. This beautiful wheel not only looked better than most OEM wheels, but it also was stronger than just about any other wheel on the market. According to Roy Richter himself, the average OEM wheel would fail at around 26,000 pounds of pressure, but a Cragar wheel could handle stress up to 41,000 pounds of pressure.
Cragar Takes Off
With the introduction of the Cragar S/S wheel, racing and hot rodding culture was changed forever. The first set of S/S wheels were sent to Hot Rod publisher Ray Brock who installed them on his 1964.5 Mustang, and the rest was history. Roy Richter soon had all 20 of his employees creating S/S wheels before moving to a larger facility just to produce the one set of wheels.
The following year in 1965, just about every serious racer in the country was running on a set of Cragar wheels, and many fake copies were attempted, but none held up to the same quality and strength of the legitimate S/S.
In 1970, Cragar developed the “mag” wheel, made out of magnesium for high-performance use.
This “mag” name in the automotive marketplace today not only refers to wheels crafted from magnesium but also wheels that carry the “mag” cosmetic look. In the same year, Gary Gabelich’s rocket engine-powered Blue Flame car rocketed to 622 MPH on a set of Cragar wheels.
In the years following the height of Cragar’s popularity, many brands have sold products through a license with Cragar to use their name on products. Cragar is still alive and well as a company today, even after the passing of Roy Richter in 1983.
The Cragar company still produces the S/S wheel today, just as strong and beautiful as they were in 1964, along with a whole catalog of other striking wheels and accessories. So as you shop for your dream muscle car, keep an eye out for the famous five-spoked S/S wheels from Cragar. With an authentic set, you’ll be driving the strongest and best-looking wheels on the planet.
Just like some people collect sneakers or watches, we want a collection of cool rims for our cars.
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