After qualifying fourth for the 1948 Indy 500, Jimmy Jackson
shows off the pristine Dayton Wire Wheels on his Howard Keck-entered Deidt-Offy. Dayton’s wheels first ran at Indy in 1916.
WIRED FOR THE BRICKYARD
long with the 100th running of the
Indianapolis 500, 2016 is also the 100th
anniversary of Dayton Wire Wheels.
As the name implies, the Dayton,
Ohio-based company manufactures wire
wheels, and in 1916 many of the cars
making their way from Gasoline Alley to
the start line for the “500” rolled on their
creations. In subsequent years, not only
were Indy cars riding on Dayton Wire
Wheels, so too were the Wright Brothers
and Charles Lindbergh, as well as cars
from the likes of Duesenberg and Packard.
But despite flying high in its early days,
Dayton Wire Wheels was facing closure in
1970, when Jim Schardt stepped in.
“I raced SCCA in the late Sixties, and if
you ran a foreign car, wheels were hard to
find,” says Schardt. “So I began importing
some of the better brands as well as built
and repaired wire wheels myself. When
Dayton Wire Wheels ran into trouble, I took it
over with two employees and lots of debt.”
Leap ahead to 1994. Dayton Wire
Wheels had long since lost their relevance
in contemporary motorsport, but Shardt’s
sons Dave and Steve were both avid
amateur racers who, like their father had
three decades prior, saw an opportunity.
There was a growing demand for custom
offset racing wheels, and at that time they
were both difficult and pricey to come by.
With Jim’s help, Steve and Dave
established Forgeline Wheels. American-made, two-piece wheels with custom offsets
were now available to domestic racers of
any level at a reasonable cost. Very soon,
the bulk of the Pirelli World Challenge field
was riding on Forgeline wheels, as were
many entries in other sports car series.
By the mid-2000s, two-piece technology
gave way to three-piece wheels and, again,
Forgeline led the way on the American
racing scene. At the same time, Jim Schardt
sold Dayton Wire Wheels, while Steve and
Dave segued from their “day jobs” to fully
dedicate themselves to a growing Forgeline.
“Car and tire technology were rapidly
From the outset, Forgeline’s success has been based on
developing, so simply having a wheel be
lightweight wasn’t enough,” says Dave
Schardt, who oversees all operations for
the company. “Aerodynamics and tire grip
began making large demands on wheel
performance. Around 2013, we tested a
Porsche 911 GTD car. Our wheel was a
one-piece, and much lighter than the
factory wheel, but the test drivers were
saying it didn’t feel right,
“Stiffness became a bigger issue than
weight. We remade the wheels, adding
some weight – still well below the factory
wheel – but with significantly less
deflection under load. The car immediately
went over a second per lap faster.”
One-piece wheels are now the de facto
standard, and the technology keeps
leading, not following. That’s why its lightweight, forged
aluminum wheels are the choice of so many top racers.