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Sorry for the delay in getting these photos posted but no longer am I able to 'pop into the garage' as I used to do! Here are some photos of the wheels. One

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  1. Sorry for the delay in getting these photos posted but no longer am I able to 'pop into the garage' as I used to do!

    Here are some photos of the wheels. One of the wheels still retains 2 weights. What I hadn't realised until I got them ready to photograph was there was a corresponding raised lip on the inner side somewhere near the centre of the wheel. Had it been any nearer the inner edge, the caliper would have clipped the weights as the wheel rotated. You will see that tubeless 5.20 x 10 Michelin XN tyres were fitted. Although they must be at least 40 years old they appear to be as new. I guess they look good because I have never used them in the 30 years I have owned them and they have been in the dark in my garage for virtually all of that time. The Minilites themselves have some superficial pitting but other than that they look to be in good condition. However given that they are magnesium alloy and over 50 years old I have no idea if they would still be serviceable. Two of the wheels still have a chromed centre cap although the chrome is now well pitted. The 16 wheel nuts are all there as you can see from one of the photos.

    The wheels are 5.5' (14cm) across from one edge to the other externally. Does that make them 4J or 4.5J, I'm not sure? Perhaps someone can enlighten me.
    I'm taxing my memory here but am I right in saying that the early Minilite wheels were a sand-cast magnesium alloy and that later ones were a die-cast aluminium alloy?
    I've just Googled on Minilite wheels and by chance came across this on a Porsche 911 forum. It was posted in 2012 and makes interesting reading:

    [I]It is quite important to understand what you buy with Minilite these days.

    Minilites were originally made by Sterling metals who had significant experience in casting Elektron Magnesium Alloys and were based in Coventry.

    The wheels were sand cast and relatively light compared to their strength and importantly their stiffness.

    The sand casting technique made them very difficult to balance from time to time as the porosity that some times occurred was irregular and unevenly distributed.

    The paint finish was not wonderful and as has been said they were fundamentally a competition wheel.

    At some time the Birmid Group which owned Sterling Metals merged with another foundry group called Qualcast who made cast iron parts and lawn mowers.

    Some parts of the group were sold off and around this time Tech-Del emerged and continued manufacture of the Magnesium wheels.

    I believe it was during Tech-Del's ownership that the Minilte Sport – Aluminium Die Cast Wheel was developed. This was clearly a much cheaper wheel and also had a better surface finish than the Mag wheels. The style was slightly different but was still braodly an 8 Spoke wheel.

    Unhappily Tech Del couldn't sell enough wheels to survive and I believe became insolvent and ceased trading.

    When historic rallying started to become popular in the UK (late eighties – early ninties) a group of individuals bought the name Tech Del and associated trade marks from the Receiver and started remanufacturing wheels labelled as Minilites.

    There were a couple of court cases with regard to the use of the name resolved in favour of the new owners of Tech Del.

    At this time Tech Del was based in Somerset and had no foundry or manufacturing facilities.

    The casting of wheels was subcontrated to KN Wheels in Telford who used to manufacture (and I believe they still do) a low cost replica called the Minator.

    This was an aluminium wheel but was not heat treated and hence not very strong.

    I bought a set of Minilite Wheels at around this time – for a Series 3 Lotus 7 and they still had KN cast into the rear.

    It looked to me as if the Minator Dies had been modified to produce a wheel that looked more like a Minilite.

    I have to say that the standard for finish and paint was poor and I had the new wheels stripped – re-worked and re-painted at my own expense.

    The wheels currently being sold by Minilite, who are now based in Telford at the KN Foundry are sold as a 'Magnesium Style' wheel but are die cast Aluminum and are, as stated, relatively heavy. The finish doesn;'t seem to have improved much over the years.

    KN Wheels now own the name Tech Del and the Trade Mark Minilite for all of the Aluminium Wheels that they produce.

    The owners who revived the brand sold this name to raise the finance to start to remanufacture a range of magnesium wheels which were to be sand cast in the traditional style.

    Unfortunately this mission didn't work out too well and resulted in the rights to use the Minilte Brand name for the Magnesium Wheels to yet another Preparation Specialist.

    They have produced a two sizes of 911 Wheels in Magnesium – 6 x 15 and 7 x 15 and I had a set of Protoype Wheels to test out for fit and size about 3 years ago. The finish of the wheels was very good but they came to me in Black Chromate finish and unpainted.

    I have been trying to buy wheels ever since but without success and I don't think many wheels have ever been produced which is very sad.

    In the meantime KN continue to sell the 'Magnesium' looking Aluminium Wheel but it just isn't very good.[/I]

    Graham Robinson

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