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Picture of Building a Custom Automotive Wheel From Scratch

Problem; I needed a set of custom wheels not available from any commercial supplier

I just completed a life-long dream project of reproducing a famous but long lost show car from the early 1960s. I fell in love with Ed Roth's Mysterion show car as a kid in 1963. Ed built the fiberglass car in 1962 and showed it around the country until around 1965 when he destroyed the car forever. It had such a poorly designed frame that it kept breaking just riding around to shows in the transport trailer. It has been a bucket list thing ever since to make a reproduction.

A key part of his creation is the custom made front wheels. At first they look like commercial 'mag' wheels. On further inspection you see they are actually custom built, one-off wheels.


tape measure

drill press

jig saw

hand drill

220 amp welder

7" angle grinder

table saw

drawing tools, pencil, compass, straight edge

assorted metal files

60deg taper counter sink

Step 1: The Design

Picture of The Design

I first found the black and white profile picture of the wheel so I could extract the dimensions. The car existed for such a short time there isn't much documentation on it. Revell Model Co. made a popular plastic model kit of the car but it isn't very accurate when it comes to reverse-engineering parts.

spiderbear1 year ago

TOO COOL!, Man those wheels make the car. I am a composites designer so, I would really love to hear how the body build went.

Willys36 (author)  spiderbear1 year ago

OOPS! sorry I missed this post, it's been 7 months. The body build went pretty smoothly. I have played with fiberglass for many years so knew the basics pretty well. In fact my prior largest project was to build a 'glas mold and 'glas 1-piece front end for my '36 Willys coupe 'gasser' probably 25 years ago. I had a little trouble with wrinkling gel coat in a couple places, getting too anxious to lay up but not bad. All the parts of the molds and the car were done in one try so I consider that a success. The only flaw that showed up (AFTER the car was painted of course) was a void just under the gel coat on the front side of the body. For some reason I allowed a quarter sized air bubble to stay in place under the first layer of mat leaving a soft spot on the body. The whole body building process is discussed in detail in my book about the car.

hood 2.jpgP5290002.JPGbODY LAYUP 3.JPG

please post more about the car, this thing looks awesome

Willys36 (author)  fons-Z-mille1 year ago

I wrote a book all about it. It's available on Amazon.

big Final McFarland.jpg

cool I might order it, not much of a book reader but this seems worth reading n.n

Wow. It's amazing!

Thanks so much for the huge look inside preview of the book. I had planned on reading the "To Win" series by Caroll Smith, but I think your book just pushed "Tune" and "Prepare" down one slot.

Willys36 (author)  sammyscrammy1 year ago
I am humbled.
button561 year ago
If you're picking apart hotrodding projects using modern concepts of "safety", then you're not a hotrodder and will never understand!!!!!
Willys36 (author)  button561 year ago

Couldn't have said it better!! 'Hot Rodder' was a much more pejorative term in the 50s than 'Gang Member' or 'Terrorist'. Hot rods by definition are rebellious, not following the rules.

You’ve got my vote for the ‘Wheels Contest’... I can’t imagine a more awesomely executed wheel project. Good luck sir!
sundy581 year ago

I rarely comment but I must say something. Do not make your own wheels for driving on the street. If I missed that caveat in this Instructable I apologize. Home made wheels are not safe not and not approved for street use.

Not DOT approved clearly, but that’s not synonymous with unsafe. There isn’t necessarily any difference between say a Foose custom wheel and this wheel, aside from the DOT endorsement. If your materials and assembly and end result are as good as (or better than) a big manufacturer with the DOT label, how is yours less safe? It’s not. This is the creation of a master craftsman with exacting standards and skill- there is no caveat involved. (Did you see the car? Not exactly an amateur project) I’d trust his wheel over a Chinese tuner wheel with a DOT on it, any day.

Put your family in a car with wheels like this. I will not.

If you can fit your family in this car then you and your progeny are Lilliputians and likely needn’t be concerned about wheel safety. I would think just existing in our ‘full-size’ world presents enough dangers as it is without getting into a car.
Willys36 (author)  SirCooksalot1 year ago

It is a misnomer to call the Mysterion a car. It is fine sculpture in automotive motif.

Willys36 (author)  sundy581 year ago

This may be a concern but it is quite a stretch form the intent of the instructable showing construction of a decorative wheel for a strictly show car to making wheels for the Wagon Queen Family Truckster! This car will hopefully drive a short distance and be filmed doing so but it will be at idle speed and a very short distance. It will never conceivably be a street driven car for a myriad of reasons. That being said, I would have no qualms putting a similar wheel on a hot rod that is street driven. This of course assumes the builder has good welding skills but the finished wheel is rock solid, true and balance. I see no danger in it.

Disclaimer for EPA/OSHA/CALOSHA/NTSA/NAFTA/SSI/APCD/TSA/DOE/NASA, and any other governmental agency that might throw me in jail; I deny ever saying the things in this post!!!!!!!

Gofish1 year ago

Ahhh.... The '60's and early '70's when a man could do what he wanted with his ride and we were soon all going to be flying around like the Jetsons.

Great job on the wheels and I love the paint, that Yellow is gorgeous!

Willys36 (author)  Gofish1 year ago

Lime gold candy over white pearl just like Ed had Watson paint the original. That Lime gold candy is weird stuff; paint it over a silver base and it comes out bright lime green. However paint it over a white base and it comes out that lemon yellow.

I guess that the photograph though excellent does not do justice to the view in sunlight. You have done an amazing job. Thanks for the paint info.

Jesus, dude. You are my new hero. I would have had a tough time getting that done right and I've got a CNC mill in my garage. Color me thoroughly impressed.

Willys36 (author)  Peter.Steele1 year ago

This method was pretty much fool-proof. Can't see how it could go wrong! Pretty much made themselves once I figured out the necessary jigs.

Yeah, but you spent more time making the jigs than you did on the cutting, I bet!

Still. Doing it with hand tools? That's damned impressive no matter what jigs you had.
Willys36 (author)  Peter.Steele1 year ago

Actually the jigs wen pretty fast. My shop is 1700 sqft with a welding/metal working bay, a 2-post car hoist, a woodworking bay and a full feature spray painting booth. Just took measurements of what I needed then went right to the table saw/band saw etc., and made the needed part. That grinder holder did take a bit of time to make but comparing the alternative of buying a 36" x 8' metal lathe, vertical milling machine, submersion welder, or paying a machine shop $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to do the work, hacking out my own jigs seemed the more logical choice. Anyway I have more time than money, don't really care how long it takes to finish a project. Hacking on wood or beating on metal is my shrink!

dewey3021 year ago

Willys36, great to see you posting your inventive creations here on Instructables and to catch up with an old Hotrodders.Com friend. Your long time dedication to the Mysterion project has really paid off. What a masterpiece.


Willys36 (author)  dewey3021 year ago

Thanx Cboy. Means a lot coming from Mr. fabrication. Building a T truck from scratch is quite an accomplishment too!

graydog1111 year ago

I compliment you , Willy36. It takes guts to spend big money for some rims, and then cut them in half. I attended the first NSRA drag races at Great Bend, Kansas in 1954 (or was it '55?). Ready made hot rod parts were either "one offs" or shop made back then. Great job on the car & writing this instructable. Thanks for posting it.

Willys36 (author)  graydog1111 year ago

They were bought to cut so no problem!

Must have cost a freaking fortune to have those things chromed.

Willys36 (author)  steveofthenw1 year ago

I have no idea how much I spent building this car. Was going to finish it anyway so why worry about it? I am guessing I have more than $12,000 in chrome maybe? I go with Jay Leno's theory; he says he has no idea how much he makes. He goes into a parts store and says, 'You mean you will take this green stuff for that shiny thing? Great deal!'

NightFire1 year ago

Wow, that's amazing

austinc941 year ago

Well, we'll start with WOW and go from there!!!

Great idea and well executed, you used sound logic and mechanically sound layout to create a very good wheel design. Loved the original car, Roth was ahead of his time. Will be looking for the book. Thanks for posting a great instructable.

Pa19631 year ago

You could have them made by a good machinist on their CNC equipment. I'm pretty sure that they would have to be D.O.T quality. Also, Big Daddy's Orbitron was found sitting in front of an adult bookstore in northern Mexico in 2008 and rescued, and presumably restored by now.

relbatto1 year ago

that your use of tools is the precise thing that i read instructables for is obvious, that your genius in solving a one off problem in an artistic, careful , functional manner is what elevates any readers ambition and accomplishment. anyone who has ever read of the craftsmen who fabricated great works of art in japans edo period has to be struck with the knowledge that we still have their spirits roaming free. thanks for proving it with simple tools. ..

Willys36 (author)  relbatto1 year ago

Me and Harbor Freight - an unstoppable combo!!

I wish I could afford to buy all of the tools that I have in their USA made versions, but Snap Off is usually what is in my budget. They're not just good, they're good enough! Plus, so many formerly American made tools are made in China anyway.

ddoug421 year ago
A thought on cutting the rims apart. I use a lazy Susan for the wheel and a simple brace to hold the plasma torch steady. Minimal or zero grinding needed to weld back together
farna1 year ago

"Homemade wheels are not safe" isn't necessarily true -- it depends on the builder. They aren't DOT approved, but that doesn't mean they aren't safe. This is a judgement call every hot rodder has to make. There are always things that a rodder makes on their car that could be an issue if they failed. That's just part of the rodding culture. There is some risk involved, which is why I do some things on my car I wouldn't do for someone else.

ddoug42 farna1 year ago
Well said farna.
I grew up near a rental yard. I remember as a youth (looking time ago) walking into the shop and the owner had cut the ways on a lathe to accommodate the cutting apart and welding some rims for some really wide tires on a jeep. This was way before such things were available to buy.
The results and safety are always dependent on the Craftsman doing the making.
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