Jeff Harris profile picture Jeff Harris 5 years ago


#wheelwednesday - Tuning

Shelby-SAAB “Blackspoke” wheels. I searched a very long time for these.

Some history on these - (Yes they where really made by Carroll Shelby’s company for SAAB specifically)

“” “Minilites. Made by Minilite in the UK for Saab, these are the earliest version and are the original designer of that style of wheel I believe. They have an aluminium centre cap. I have a set on my 99 GL at the moment. They use the same wheelnut type as the inca wheels.
Ronal wheels made in Germany for Saab. These use the same centre cap as the inca’s but the later conical wheel nuts.
Shelby’s. Someone somewhere put the story of these - the original Saab wheels were so hard to find in the US that someone in Saab America commissioned Shelby to make wheels of a similar (but different enough to avoid legal action!) wheels, think they were snactioned by Saab America and sold through them?” “””

“” minilites were first, shelby’s second and the cheap ronal knock-offs last.

From the horse’s mouth (at the time a higher-up of Saab USA and eventual CEO of Saab USA, Bob Sinclair):

“David and All:
The “original” Gold Vane and Silver Vane wheels were from Carroll Shelby’s small operation on Figueroa Street, suburban Los Angeles. I know, because I personally flew out to meet with Carroll and set up the deal. It’s my impression that Saab (Trollhättan) contracted with Ronal for similar wheels a few years later, and I strongly suspect this was because the made in America wheels were such a success. The parts and accessories guys at the parent company weren’t exactly delighted when from time to time something like this blind-sided them and “stole” what they felt was their business. :-) It is reasonable to expect that Ronal, a much larger operation, would deliver a somewhat better finish. My deal with Shelby was focused on a) overall cosmetic appearance when on the vehicle, b) strength, and c) price to the car owner; as compared with Minilites when were at that time costing Saab Cars USA, Inc. well over $100 each landed in our warehouse! My first approach was to try negotiating a much lower price in exchange for a volume commitment. Standard procedures required that I source from Trollhättan, not the manufacturer. Failing several times to achieve my goal (i.e., much lower retail prices for genuine Minilites), I finally said to hell with it…and worked out a deal with Carroll for wheels that were stronger than genuine Minilites (no small task, that), and far cheaper. I hope this explaination helps.


In the interest of accuracy, I said “I worked out a deal with Carroll for wheels that were stronger than genuine Minilites” (and also, in my view at least, better looking and more durable cosmetically than Minilites, since I specified that they be clear-coated). See final sentence of my earlier statement below.
I don’t actually know if they are stronger than Minilites, but I do know that they passed “with flying colors” when subjected to Saab’s rigorous test procedures at the Trollhättan factory. That, of course, is a bit of a story in itself. Obviously I didn’t dare launch aftermarket wheels without being certain of their strength, etc., and I could hardly expect my boss Sten Wennlo to accept some third party test results when I was…er…going around the Trollhättan parts and accessories department, which considered this to be their business.
So, more or less swearing the guys in the testing unit to secrecy, I more or less smuggled a couple of pre-production Shelby wheels into the Trollhättan testing room (accompanied by a couple bottles of fine American Bourbon…in the interests of friendly relations, of course). A month or so later, test results in hand, during a Board meeting in Connecticut I announced to my Board that I was launching a new design of road wheels…and put one on the Board Room table.
There was a bit of an explosion, of course, as I full anticipated and
sort of looked forward to. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was forbidden to do any such a thing. The Saab Car Division was responsible for approval of all safety-related components, and wheels were a critical safety-related item…blah, blah, blah.
I simply smiled, and handed the Trollhättan test sheets to my boss, Mr. Sten Wennlo, CEO of the Saab Car Division. He didn’t exactly look pleased. The other Board members clearly were amused. Sten quickly realized he’d “been had.” And we sold thousands of Shelby Gold Vane and Silver Vane wheels over the ensuing years.
Business can be fun, if you don’t forget to keep that as an objective. :-) My friend Mr. Shelby was even more amused than my Board when I related the story a few years later.


James - owner of over 60 shelby rims! “”