One of the regular features of the SEBs manufactured in Volkswagen’s European factories 1970 – 1979 was the replacement of the standard road wheel and chrome hub caps with alternative, distinct pattern, wheels. Like many components (electrics by BOSCH and HELLA for example) these wheels came from and outsource specialist supplier Lemmerz-Werke GmbH (later Lemmerz Werke KGaA), Königswinter, Germany.
Lemmerz (often misspelled Lemmertz) began producing wheels in Königswinter, Germany in 1919 and by 1956 had grown to such an extent that the company had established it’s own sheet steel mill becoming the first automotive wheel manufacturer in the world with its own steel supply.
By 1960 Lemmerz established Lemmerz Espanola S.A. and by 1962 established Lemmerz de Mexico followed 2 years later by Borlem S.A. Empriendimentos Industriais, a joint venture established to manufacture steel wheels in Brazil. (Again as with Bosch, Hella and other component suppliers this pattern of opening supply manufacturing plants close to Volkswagen factories wherever they were established around the world became a familiar pattern.)
Lemmerz Holding GmbH was acquired in 1997 by Hayes Wheels to form Hayes Lemmerz International, Inc. which itself was acquired in 2012 by Iochpe-Maxion to create Maxion Wheels from Hayes Lemmerz, Maxion, and Fumagalli.
By 1969 Lemmerz had become a longstanding, well established, supplier to Volkswagen and Porsche amongst others: their 5 bolt pattern standard and more particulaly their Sports style wheels had become well recognised and sought after by both Volkswagen and Porsche owners.
Lemmerz supplied three styles of wheel into the 1970 – 1979 era of SEBs. As with Beetle badging and paint colours what they were known by different descriptions depending on which side of the Atlantic you lived.
Wheel sizes are catalogued in a standard data format that comprises of the rim width in inches (J) x rim outside diameter in inches together with an ET in millimetres. The ET measurement of a wheel is the distance in millimetres from the bolt face of the wheel to the centre line of the wheel. ET is an abbreviation of a German term Einpreßtiefe literally meaning “Back Spacing”. A further set of data is that which describes the number, diameter and arrangement of the centre hub hole and wheel bolt holes. On all Volkswagen Beetles of the 1970 – 1979 period this was a consistent 4 x 130mm.
Volkswagen increased standard wheel size in March 1972 from 4J x15 to 4½J x15 and introduced the 5½J x15 Sports rim in 1973, originally for the Yellow and Black Racer and Sports Bug, with an initial ET 26 and soon changed to ET 34 . The ET of standard wheels depended on the Beetle type to which they were fitted. All SEBs fitted with 4.5J x15 Lemmerz wheels had an ET of 34mm.
All Volkswagen and Lemmerz wheels are stamped with information by several stampings found variously on the wheel which usually include size, date of production (mm/yy), ET, and source (VW, Lemmerz etc.,) It is particularly important when undertaking restoration of an SEB to original equipment (OE) standard to check that the wheels have the correct ET.
The first – the Lemmerz Sport or Sprintstar style was available as a factory orderable accessory and marketed widely by Volkswagen dealerships in the Super VEE accessory range introduced in 1971. Certainly in the UK new stock Sprintstar wheels could be purchased from Volkswagen dealerships as late as 1974. This wheel does not appear in the Volkswagen standard replacement parts catalogues and presumably therefore only carried a VW accessory part number.
The Sprintstar and it’s very attractive pattern were, in addition to the Super VEE image, essential ingredients of the EMPI look. Various sizes were made and the wheels needed a plain, chromed, trim cap to the wheel centre.
The next Lemmerz pattern was one originally introduced as part of the Weltmeister/World Champion/Marathon/BAJA Champion Edition. It was used again on some “export” (S716) Jeans 74 series and later appeared for a while in the Volkswagen de Mexico home market accessory range during the late 1970’s early 1980’s. This does appear in the Volkswagen standard replacement parts catalogues but with a part number starting 000 indicating a general, or accessory, application.
Two ET widths appear to have been made but reference to the Volkswagen parts catalogues have revealed a number of only the ET34 version. Research by members of the Special Edition Beetles Facebook Group has unearthed Lemmerz catalogue numbers: 1511 for the seemingly more common ET34 version and 1510 for an ET46 version.
This wheel was made in two finishes: with and without black painted centres around the wheel bolts. Both styles of finish needed a VW embossed, chrome, trim cap to the wheel centre.
The third and final style SEB Lemmerz wheel is the Volkswagen “Sports” known variously as the VW Sportfelge/Sport/GT and by far the most common Lemmerz wheel used by Volkswagen as both a factory orderedable, accessory, SEB and late series fitment (on standard US model Beetles and Karmann Beetles Cabriolets). It was also used on just one (the final 1985 Jubi’) Mexican made SEB exported to Germany and by Oettinger on their Mexican based “Special Bug”. Some of these style wheels have been found stamped with the logo of another long established and well known (originally) German wheel manufacturer -Kronprinz.
This wheel style came in 4 sizes 4½ x 15 ET 34, 4½ x 15 ET 46, 5½ x 15 ET 26, and 5½ x 15 ET 34. These wheels needed black plastic trim caps to the wheel centre and bolt heads. The centre cap being of a hexagonal style embossed with a VW logo. A lesser known detail – and one now often found missing – is that non-1302/03 Beetles fitted with the upright 4½J x 15 spare wheel needed a special wire hanging bracket to support the pneumatic type windscreen washer reservoir bottle behind the “Sports” wheel as the neck of the bottle would not insert through the “Sports” wheel centre to allow the bottles two fixing lugs to be pegged into the wheel bolt holes in the manner possible with a standard pattern road wheel.
It is worth noting that this Lemmerz wheel style in 5½ x 15 was also fitted to VW Porsche 914s from 1973 onwards – identifiable by their Porsche part number 914-361-016-00 and an ET of 40 mm.
Research suggests that Volkswagen “standard” and “sports” steel wheels were all painted in the same colour between 1969 and 1978: L91 Silber metallic / Silver Metallic / Chrome Silver.
Finally mention must be made of two accessory range wheel styles. Both fell v very distinctly fell within the Genuine OE category particularly in the North American accessory range brochures notably in the Formula VEE (FV) ranges. Although there application is one step removed from the wheels fitted factory produced SEBs the connection with the Formula VEE era makes them as significant in the broader history of SEBs as the Lemmerz “Sprintstar” Firstly the rather angular five spoked “Riviera” that featured in a lot of VWoA literature and publicity material as well as on motor show exhibit cars. Secondly the Superior Industries Volksmag Turtleback Wheels in satin black or aluminium finish that are probably best known in Europe for featuring in the KAMEI colour advert with their co-ordinated alu-silver and satin black decor stripes.
Volkswagen standard replacement part numbers list:
000 071 475 B Weltmeister (World Champion) 4½J x 15 (ET 34)
F 114 2489 588 – – 114 2999 000 (S716) 111,112
000 071 476 A Aluminium centre cap for Weltmeister wheels
000 071 480 Aluminium coloured wheel bolt cap for Weltmeister wheels
111 601 025 J “Sports” wheel 4½J x 15 (ET 34)
F 113 2000 001 – – 113 3200 000 111-114
F 117 2064 467 – – > 111-112
(111 601 025 K “Sports” wheel 4½J x 15 (ET 34) VW typ.3 and typ.4)
113 601 025 “Sports” wheel 4½J x 15 (ET 46)
F 134 2000 001 – – >
F 114 2000 001 – – 117 2064 466
F 143 2000 001 – – 143 3200 000 141-142
135 601 025 “Sports” wheel 5½J x 15 (ET 26)
F 133 2000 001 – – 133 3200 000
F 133 2199 639 – – 133 3200 000 (S714)
135 601 025 A “Sports” wheel 5½J x 15 (ET 34)
F 134 2000 001 – – >
111 601 171 Black plastic centre cap for Sports wheels
F 113 2000 001 – – > 111-114
F 143 2000 001 – – 144 2999 000 141-144
111 601 173 Black plastic wheel bolt cap for “Sports” wheels
111 955 949 Wire hanging bracket to support the pneumatic type windscreen washer reservoir bottle in the spare wheel when a set of 4½J x 15 “Sports” were fitted as part of the SEB package
Copyright Stephen Paul Hardy