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Ultimate Wheel Post - Part Two
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 7:44 pm    Post subject: Ultimate Wheel Post - Part Two Reply with quote

First off, I want to thank everyone who participated in the first “Ultimate Wheel” thread. Even though that thread is filled with some really intense information, it allowed me (and others of course) to gather information that would be difficult to come by on my own. Not only that, but it also showed the benefits of wheel upgrades in terms of looks, handling and increased tire options.

Instead of adding to the VERY long winded original thread, I decided that it would best to start a new one. This thread will hopefully contain the best information from the old thread combined with some new information all rolled into one easy to follow list of wheel requirements.

For this thread, I will be trying to keep things as simple and to the point as possible. If anyone is still unclear on certain wheel terminologies, please see the following sites for some very clear explanations.

The Tire Rack
RS Racing

So here are the facts as I see them:

Bolt pattern:
The Vanagon bolt pattern is 5x112. This is shared with Mercedes, many Audis and many VWs. Other bolt patterns can be used on a Vanagon through the use of adapters. In order to use adapters, the offset of the wheels should be 50mm or more (at least for the front).

Offset and wheel size:
Wheel size and offset go hand in hand in most cases. The ideal offset for the front of a Vanagon is 30mm through 39mm. A little more or less is sometimes okay, but it really is best to stay as close to the ideal as possible. The following is a list of wheel sizes and their recommended offsets in relation to the FRONT of a 2wd Vanagon (Syncro front applications can usually get away with slightly more offset):
[list]15x6 - ET30 through ET35
15x6.5 - ET30 through ET35
15x7 – ET30 through ET32
15x7.5 – ET25 (not recommended)
15x8 – ET18 (not recommended at all – wheel will be outside the wheel opening)

16x6 – ET30 through ET35
16x7 – ET30 through ET35
16x7.5 – ET28 through ET30 (Tire width is critical in this application. The narrower the better)
16x8 – ET17 (not recommended at all – wheel will be outside the wheel opening)

17x7 – ET30 through ET42
17x7.5 – ET30 through ET36
17x8 – ET30
17x8.5 – ET23 (not recommended)

*Note* - For wheels 15x7 and wider as well as 16x7.5 and wider, tire selection is super critical as it is the tire that will make contact with the upper control arm before the wheel ever hits the upright/spindle. For the above recommended offsets, 205's should be just fine, 215's should be okay at the lower offsets but really check them for the higher offsets and 225's will definatley need to be inspected closely to ensure that they don't rub on the upper control arm.

Below are a series of illustrations showing how the Vanagon suffers from a height versus width issue when it comes to fitting wheels onto the front. The illustrations, although slightly exaggerated, clearly show how simply changing the diameter of the wheel can have a profound impact on the fitment.

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***Please see the notes at the end for more information***

Centerbore:
Mercedes wheels have a 66.56mm centerbore. Audi/VW wheels have a 57.1mm centerbore. Due the large diameter of the Vanagon’s front grease cap, a centerbore of at least 64mm is required. Obviously the Mercedes wheels will fit just fine but the Audi/VW wheels must have their centerbores enlarged in order to fit. I recommend that the Audi/VW centerbore be opened up to the same inner diameter of the Mercedes wheels, 66.56mm. The reason is that this gives good clearance for the grease cap as well as allows the owner of the wheels to install a 66.56 to 57.1 hubcentric ring adapter should they ever choose to sell or use these wheels on an Audi/VW again. It’s nice to have options and if you are having the centerbores opened up anyway…..

Lug nuts, lug bolts, wheel studs and wheel thickness:
Mercedes wheels that originally were designed for use with 12mm lug bolts must be drilled to accommodate 14mm wheel hardware. Although a 9/16” drill bit will work for this, I recommend a 37/64” drill bit for a little more clearance around the lugs. Make sure you debur the hole after drilling.

12mm lugged Mercedes wheels and Audi/VW wheels use a small ball seat lug. Original Vanagon lugs are too big to seat properly. See the following picture for the difference.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


How do you know if your wheels require the small ball seat lugs or if the stock Vanagon lugs will work? Simple! If you had to drill out the lug holes of your factory Mercedes wheels (not aftermarket) for 14mm wheel hardware, you need the small ball seat lugs. If your wheels are factory Audi/VW, you need the small ball seat lugs.

Mercedes wheels that originally came with 14mm lug bolts can be used in conjunction with the stock Vanagon steel wheel lug nuts (ball seat).

Each wheel measures slightly different from the base of the lug seat to the wheel mounting face. See the following illustration for an explanation. The area in question is depicted as the lighter blue arrow. This measurement must be known in order to make an accurate assessment as to the necessary length for wheel studs and lug bolts.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Measuring for rear wheel studs:

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2wd and Syncro Vanagon rear wheel studs are 34.4mm long overall. 23.4mm protrudes from the hub/brake drum.

Syncro front wheel studs are approximately 45mm long overall. Approximately 23.4mm protrudes from the hub/brake rotor.
(I say approximately because I have not measured this myself. I have had to rely on others for this information)

Lug torque will remain the same no matter what wheels you are running. Lugs should be torqued to 123 lb-ft.

Centercaps:
Due to the long hub/grease cap of the Vanagon, fitting centercaps can be a challenge. If you are overly concerned about having centercaps, try to choose a wheel that has the flattest face possible. The more that the wheel is “dished” in toward the center, the less likely it is that you will be able to fit a centercap. Even with a flat faced wheel, the mounting style of the centercap may still prevent it’s use.

See the following illustration to help you determine if a particular wheel’s centercap might fit.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Keep in mind that there are two sizes of grease caps that came on Vanagons. By far the most common is 35mm in height. The taller version is 43mm in height. It is possible to shorten the 35mm grease cap by approx. 5mm if needed for centercap clearance. The 43mm grease cap could be shortened by 13mm.

The following photo shows the tallest grease cap on the left, the most common cap in the center and the 5mm shortened version on the right.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Note for those either running or contemplating Van-Café (SA) big brakes:
The SA big brake kit uses a hub that has different dimensions than the original Vanagon brake rotor/hub. They also use press in studs like the rear instead of lug bolts. Here are some critical specs from the SA big brake that one should be aware of when using them in conjunction with various wheels.

The SA hub tapers from approx. 60.1mm at the grease cap to 65.86mm at the mounting face of the brake rotor. This information is critical when it comes to enlarging the centerbores of Audi/VW wheels as well as the use of hubcentric spacers. I still suggest that Audi/VW wheels have their centerbores opened up to 66.56mm.

The SA hub also positions the track width (measured from mounting face to mounting face) 5mm narrower than the stock brake set-up. This means that a given wheel will mount 2.5mm (2.5mm per side) further inboard when using the SA brake kit as compared to the stock Vanagon brakes. If you’re current wheel or wheel/spacer combination is really close to either the upright, upper control arm or both with the stock Vanagon brakes, it is possible that you could run into clearance issues when switching to the SA brakes.

The SA hub uses press-in studs that are 51mm in overall length. 29.7mm protrude from the hub once the rotor is installed. This information is critical when it comes to knowing whether or not a particular wheel or wheel/spacer combination will leave with enough threads to properly install the lug nuts. The knurl (spline) diameter of the SA studs is 15.1mm.
Porsche spec studs can be used as a replacement, but a tack weld at each stud head may be necessary to keep the stud from spinning in the bore under extreme conditions.



Additional notes:
Note: When installing spacers, adapters or even just changing wheels, it is usually necessary to remove the two 11mm headed bolts from the rear drums. These bolts serve no practical purpose and it is perfectly fine to discard them.

Note: Keep in mind that the higher the offset, the less clearance you will have to critical suspension components. If you plan on running a wider than normal tire, check your clearances very carefully.

Note: Spacers can only be used to correct a wheel’s offset if it is too large. Spacers will not help you if the wheel’s offset is too small. Only machining of the wheels can help you there.

Note: The offset does not need to be the same front and rear on a Vanagon. Sometimes it is actually better to have different offsets front and rear. The rear suspension is much less dynamic than the front and therefore is not nearly as sensitive to offset changes.

Note: If you follow the same fitting guidelines for the front and rear of your Vanagon, you can be assured that the rear will fit properly without any sliding door clearance issues. For example, 16x7 with an effective offset of 30mm (after any spacers) will work both front and rear with no problems.

Note: The offset of the wheels can affect the tire clearance greatly. More offset at the front wheels will give you more clearance to the body but less clearance to the front suspension components. Body to tire clearance is usually not a problem on the rear of a Vanagon but more offset will decrease the clearance between the tire and rear control arm as will a larger diameter. Please keep this in mind when comparing wheel and tire combinations that others have used.

Note: Syncros and 2wd Vanagons have very different front suspension parameters. Syncros can handle a much wider variation of front wheel widths and offsets. However, if you follow the 2wd front wheel guidelines, you can be assured that the wheels will fit your Syncro as well.

Well, I think that about covers it. If I forgot something, please let me know and I will add it in.


Last edited by Christopher Schimke on Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:33 am; edited 11 times in total
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Wellington
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You nailed it, this belongs in the stickies as is.
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This should definitely be a sticky. That other thread is great, but it makes my head hurt.
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolutely awesome, Chris! The go-to page for wheel and tire decisions. Stickilicious!
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

great info, love the pictures

Last edited by Jon_slider on Tue May 27, 2008 10:47 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Applause

We are not worthy...

Chris you summed it up very well, and I'm not surprised. That's always the hardest part, circling back around to sum it all up for the person looking for the pertinent info.

Thanks again.

Applause
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Definitely worth a sticky - I couldn't follow everything in the other thread, but this sums it up nicely.

One question/possible addition that I didn't see mentioned: don't some Mercedes wheels use 14mm bolts? Do these also use the small seat lugs or can they use the large seat?
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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shenan-agon wrote:
One question/possible addition that I didn't see mentioned: don't some Mercedes wheels use 14mm bolts? Do these also use the small seat lugs or can they use the large seat?


Yes, some MB wheels use 14 mm, I think there is a list in the first UWP Part 1 of what models did. I don't know about the seats though. I got wheels that were originally 12 mm, bored them out, and got lugs and nut from Loogy that worked great, but I don't think that answers your question.
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Christopher Schimke
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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys, I try! I have made some additions based on feedback (thanks to those folks who took the time to help make this even better).

I added an illustration showing how to measure for rear wheel studs and a bit about Mercedes wheel that originally came with 14mm lug bolts.

shenan-agon, the Mercedes wheels that originally came with 14mm lug bolts use a large ball seat just like the Vanagon's original lugs.

I have another bit of information to add but I'm waiting for some dimensions to be reported before I can do so.
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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just added an update on South African big brake hub dimensions. They differ quite a bit from the stock Vanagon brakes.
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PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 10:13 pm    Post subject: ET37 Reply with quote

My thanks to you Chris. I am just getting into the whole world of MB wheel swaps, I'll try Audi Later.
I picked up 2 nice sets of ET37's 2002 C230 and 2003 C320 and started to drill out a lug hole. It was not drilling perfectly equal to the stock hole (12mm). Is this going to be ok once all the holes are drilled? I'm thinking the seats of the lugs will center the wheel properly. I do not want to ruin the wheels though or have any funky highway wobble.
I am installing one set on an 87 syncro/westi. So I gather I'll need no spacers and can use the stock lugs?

Can you recommend a great chunky tire for the ET37 but reasonable price (for my 83 westi that will someday be a syncro as well). And I take it no spacers are needed for 2 wheel drive on these wheels?

I am really enjoying my zetec powered vanagon by the way.Thanks again for the very valuable information.

Peace,
Jeff
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2008 10:10 am    Post subject: Re: ET37 Reply with quote

hotrod325 wrote:

I picked up 2 nice sets of ET37's 2002 C230 and 2003 C320 and started to drill out a lug hole. It was not drilling perfectly equal to the stock hole (12mm). Is this going to be ok once all the holes are drilled? I'm thinking the seats of the lugs will center the wheel properly. I do not want to ruin the wheels though or have any funky highway wobble.


As long as the holes are not boogered up too bad, your right, the lugs will center the wheels. The lug holes being "off" just bit won't hurt anything.

hotrod325 wrote:
I am installing one set on an 87 syncro/westi. So I gather I'll need no spacers and can use the stock lugs?


You won't need any spacers, but you will need small ball seat lug nuts as the stock Syncro lug nuts are too large to seat properly. You may also need to install longer studs depending on the cross section thickness of the lug holes. (see description of how to measure this area above).

hotrod325 wrote:
Can you recommend a great chunky tire for the ET37 but reasonable price (for my 83 westi that will someday be a syncro as well). And I take it no spacers are needed for 2 wheel drive on these wheels?


Although a 16x7 ET37 will fit a 2wd front without spacers, the tire will be positioned VERY close to the upper control arm. You mentioned wanting a "chunky" tire. In my experience, even a 205 width tire is too close for comfort on a 16x7 ET37 without spacers. I would decide what tire you want to run first, then we can calculate what thickness of spacer it might take to achieve a decent fit.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just fit the following rim for my spare set-up. I run H&R adaptors that change the Vanagon bolt pattern from 5x112mm to 5x130mm for Porsche rims. The later model Porsches (1987 on) 911, 944 rim ET is typically ET50 to ET55 or around there. The 15mm and or 25mm H&R adaptors fit on the stock Vanagon and then you bolt on the Porsche rims. Only problem is that you will need a Porsche spare rim and proper load range tire set-up.

Here's what I did.

I bought a late offset Porsche 911/944/944S space saver steel rim. Tossed the 20+ year old cracked Vredstein collapsable spare tire and fitted new Nokian WRG2 tire. Purchased rim used from Michael at Autosport Northeast (formerly Foreign Intrigue) http://www.autosportnortheast.com/page/?p=27&sp=24

Here is my set-up (I'll include everything so you can see the details)

Spare tire
- Porsche 5.5 J x 15, ET53 steel spare rim
- Nokian WRG2 205/65-15XL load range 99H tires (this tire size ALSO fits in the spare tire holder space, no mods).

Front
- Van-Cafe SA Big Brakes
- Porsche Boxster 7x17 ET55 rims
- Nokian WR 215/55-17 XL 98H tires
- H&R 25mm, 5x112mm to 5x130 Porsche adapters (see loogy)
- Weitec springs

Rear
- Porsche Boxster 8.5x17 ET50 rims
- Nokian WR 225/50-17 XL 98H tires
- H&R 15mm, 5x112mm to 5x130 Porsche adapter on pass. side, H&R 22mm on drivers side (see loogy)
- Weitec springs

note: with the rear 15mm pass. side H&R adapter, the slider door doesn't hit. For some reason I had to keep the 22mm on the drives side and the 15mm on pass. side which the rims are measured and centered on the vehicle. Monday build?

FYI, these new Nokian WRG2's might be the hot ticket for proper load range and replacement for the Continental Vanco 2s, and similar Michelin's. They come in a nice flavor of 15 and 16 sizes too. All season rated, asymmetrical inside-outside tread pattern. They are NOT pure winter tires and run great in the summer. Very, very trick tires. I've got the older style WRs on the Westfalia and for the last four years have run them on my //S6. Now with this new asymmetrical G2 tread, the spare can fit on ANY corner, any direction, schweet. Purchased from Vermont Tire, Williston Road (802) 658-1333.

WRG2 sizes, sizes
http://www.nokiantires.com/en/tire_wrg2.aspx?season=summer

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Severe Service Emblem UTQG Ratings: 400/A/A

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The Porsche steel spare rim even fits (with the H&R adapters) over the Van-Cafe SA big brake kit too - yaaahhwhoooo !
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


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In summary, with the H&R adapters, proper load rated tires and steel lug nuts (see loogy) you could just run four steel Porsche spare rims and not have to purchase more expensive Porsche alloys and 17 or 18 tires.

Thanks go to loogy for helping me dial this all in.
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TSR53
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

See loogy for all your rim, wheel, adapter and lug nut needs!

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to Loogy and TSR53, this is a great thread.

I actually came about this via a roundabout method. I was investigating H&R Trak+ wheel spacers for my Lancia, and noticed that H&R makes adaptors for VW to Porsche wheels (of course), but they also sell wheel spacer adapters for different center bores (for example converting to a MBZ wheel).

The options are for 5, 8, & 10mm thicknesses; with center bores enlarged from 57.1 mm to 63.3, 64, 68, 72.5, 84mm (assuming hub-centric).

I don't know if the enlarged wheel spacer adapters with enlarged center bores will help people convert to MBZ wheels easier - what do you think Loogy?

Also I don't even know if H&R USA imports them.

My question, is that I do wish to go with Porsche cast spare wheels. I am wondering if the ET offset is the same ET53 as TSR's steel spare wheels? It seems that the center hole large enough to pass the center cap:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


With the H&R adapters there shouldn't be problems with bolts, and with a 5.5 or 6 Porsche Spare, I should have clearance issues with the suspension or inner fenders (with a full size tire), should I? (I have a doka so no sliding door issues by design!)

Keith Walker
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TSR53
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keith,

Here is a photo showing the clearance on my passenger front:
17x7 ET55 Porsche 996 / Boxster rim
H&R 25mm spacer adaptor
Nokian WR 215/55-17 tire
Weitec springs
Van-Cafe SA big brake kit

Photo taken with Westfalia on the ground, suspension sitting normal, full tank of petrol. As you can see there is a ton of clearance.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Note: Even though I like the look and compactness of the red Porsche 996 / Boxster cast 17" spare rim I couldn't see driving on that. Looks like the weight of the Vanagon would take over. I would recommend going the steel spare rim route, then you have a strong rim, proper sized and load rated spare tire. Maybe paint a steel Porsche spare red?
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Still working on fitting my 16" AT Italia S5's and think I need to shorten the grease caps for a perfect fit. They seem to fit ok after having the centerbores enlarged but that grease cap is still too tight a fit for my peace of mind. I went for a test drive this evening and all went well but it looks like the drivers side (with speedo cable) fits tighter than the passenger side, almost like it's bulging out the center and preventing a perfectly flush fit. I think they're the 35mm version so I know 5mm is about all I can do and I just want a little more space to work with. I had it up to ~50 mph without any issues but since this is my first attempt with a wheel upgrade I want to know it's 100% before going any real distance. Has anyone tried those heavy duty rubber grease caps like they have on trailers? I think that would work if it weren't for the speedo cable. Any suggestions or tips for cutting down the stock caps?
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am gonna give the 5.5 Porsche spare rims a shot. The standard Vanagon rim is 5.5 inch, so with proper load rated tires, I don't believe that anything is given away.

I may be able to get a set of 15 or 16 inch rims for a good price and then get them cleaned up and powder coated.

Seems that the Porsche spare rims are popular with the 356 and early 911 crowd for a nice cast wheel alternative. That gives me a vote of confidence.

So unless there is a restrictive speed rated cast onto the wheel (the limitation is usually the tire), then the wheels should hold up.

I believe most Porsche spare rims have an ET30, so even with the thinnest bolt adaptors there shouldn't be a problem.

TSR53 wrote:

Note: Even though I like the look and compactness of the red Porsche 996 / Boxster cast 17" spare rim I couldn't see driving on that. Looks like the weight of the Vanagon would take over. I would recommend going the steel spare rim route, then you have a strong rim, proper sized and load rated spare tire. Maybe paint a steel Porsche spare red?


What lug nuts did you use for the Porsche wheels, TSR?
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use Porsche alloy lug nuts for the Boxster alloy rims and saved five steel lug nuts that came with my H&R spacers for the Porsche steel rim.
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Jason condie
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 1:59 pm    Post subject: Mercedes Rims Reply with quote

I'm an idiot, but also i'm broke and trying to fix up my 1990 vanagon GL. I have the oppertunity to buy these cheap. But i don't want to waste my money. Will these work, and what do i need to buy to make them work. I'm not going for bling, I'm going for a better ride, My wife gets really nervous driving down the road and having the van drift in corners and in the wind. I have read the posts and still just can't figure it all out. what ET # do i need to make it work. spacers? lug nuts, etc
Thanks for hte info.
Jason
http://binghamton.craigslist.org/pts/770063391.html
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