Published on July 5th, 2020 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Watanabe Alloys Finally Found For My MX5
Have you heard of this brand of alloy wheels? Have you seen them on classic old school cars?
This has got to be the most sought after aftermarket alloy wheels for ‘old school’ rear wheel drive car owners. Watanabe old school rims can be seen on the iconic KE70 Toyota Corolla, the iconic AE86 and some rather well restored classic Nissan sedans like the 180K and Mazda 808 and RX coupes.
Theses wheels are designed to evoke a sense of nostalgia and this is just what we felt when we took ownership of our Mazda MX5 NA some 15 years ago. Riding on stock 14-inch Mazda factory wheels, we needed some ‘deep dish’ classic looking alloys. Our immediate search started with the many specialist alloy wheel suppliers around the country and when we saw the asking prices and the condition of these wheels (used second-hand wheels), we decided to lower our needs (as we had just been blessed as a parent for the second time).
The need to have our dream wheels was put into cold storage and we decided to instead take a trade from a fellow MX-5 NA owner who wanted his car to be back in showroom look with 14-inch factory alloys and we got his 15-inch wheels which were quite tasty at the time.
The 15-wheels were a little heavier and so our MX-5 lost a little bit of a weight advantage, which was its design function to start with. Well, we managed to still enjoy our ‘behind the wheel’ experience over the many years and we never failed to make sure the balancing and alignment was done every 5,000 km’s or so to keep the drive enjoyment at its best.
Then good news came. A fellow car enthusiast who has been on the lookout for a decent NA MX-5 for some time located a unit for sale and started his restoration process with the car. He was eager to get a hardtop for his ‘project’ used MX-5. We had an unused hardtop sitting in our storeroom for years (with the wife grumbling about its existence for years) and he had a set of 15-inch Watanabe alloys which did not suit his fancy. Lady luck was smiling on us. A trade was initiated by us and agreed and we delivered our hardtop and collected a set of used but in good condition 15-inch Watanabe alloy wheels.
Without wasting any time, we took our newly acquired wheels and MX-5 and got them fitted at our regular tyre fitment shop. We have been going to the same ‘tyre man’ for 20 odd years and he is still the best.
Immediately we could feel the lighter weight of the Watanabe wheels when carried side by side with our older wheels.
After installation, even our tyre man remarked our MX-5 had a better balance and steering feel as he felt on his test drive whilst working on our alignment. Well, on our drive back we could immediately feel the steering difference and with the lighter weight our MX-5 felt like it received a new lease of life. Mazda MX-5 NA owners please take note.