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  • Custom Steering Wheel Manufacturing and Install - Black is Back

Custom Steering Wheel Manufacturing and Install - Black is Back

Budnik's Newest Steering Wheel Option

Calin Head
Nov 1, 2007
Photographers: Calin Head
Remember back in the day when you could get a factory black interior in just about every truck? We do, but long gone are the days of the dark interior, unless you buy a Harley-Davidson Edition Ford. The manufacturers still give you options, and that is great if you like tans or grays. With some stitching and dying, you could convert any interior to black, but would you still have to contend with the steering wheel. You can dye the wheel, but eventually, you will wear it off and that will look crummy. You could do what a lot of custom truck builders do and chuck on a billet wheel, but what if the rest of your ride is devoid of billet?
Alan Budnik, founder of Budnik Wheels, has a pretty cool option to feed the nostalgic bug. He now offers the option to have steering wheels powdercoated, which means the color options are only limited to what powders are available.
We have been working on a '68 C10 with a musclecar theme. Because we are sticking to an era-specific build, a shiny billet wheel would look out of place, and the factory Camaro wheel we have in the truck just doesn't pop. We like the size and design of the Camaro wheel, but it won't be helping us win any awards, so we are glad Budnik has given us another option.
We opted to use his Dragon wheel from the Split Grip-series, because it features the same four-spoke design that the Camaro wheel has, but this one is billet and cool. The spokes of the Dragon wheel also feature small round holes that will match the instrument cluster of the C10. If you are not into the Dragon design, Budnik has 24 different wheels in its arsenal. All of the steering wheels come in either 13-3/4- or 15-1/2-inch diameters with nine different leather wrap colors and two different horn button options, so you can build the wheel of your dreams.
We went to the Budnik facility in Huntington Beach, California, because we were curious on how a steering wheel was actually made. Alan was nice enough to let us in the manufacturing bays to watch as the CNC machines whittled away at huge pieces of 6061 T6 forgings to create these new steering wheels. The following photos will show the process of how the wheels are made and how we installed one in a '68 Chevy.
Photo 5/19   |   custom Steering Wheel drawing
Part One: In The Beginning
Here is where it all starts. Before any billet is cut, Alan's ideas are drawn up in a computer program to produce a digital rendering that will then be fed into a CNC machine. The CNC will read all that information and cut out a steering wheel. The wheels start out as a 6061 T6 forging (below, left) that is close to the shape of a steering wheel. By having specific forgings made, Budnik can cut down on waste and, in turn, keep the products reasonably priced.
Photo 12/19   |   custom Steering Wheel finished
Part Two: The Install

Now it's time to put that sucker on the truck. Here is the Camaro wheel we got at the swap meet. Functional? Yes. Cool? Not so much.
Photo 19/19   |   custom Steering Wheel mocking
The Final Word
How's that for bitchen? The wheel matches the interior, perfectly, and because of the black powdercoating it doesn't look out of place. The 13-3/4-inch diameter is small enough to give us ample legroom in our non-tilt truck, and because the steering wheel connects us to the truck we think this was totally necessary. One perk of the powdercoating is the maintenance: No more polishing the wheel for a show.


Budnik Wheels


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