Building another bridge.
It might be weird that I never got around to comment this behemoth.
That’s even weirder because i broadly use it to introduce my ever consuming passion to non-car people “Felgen ? …wheels ? BBS, basketweave. You follow ?” And they generally say yes while waiting for me to stop talking.
Yes, the BBS RS.
Seminal South of France
I Bought my first set of RSs from some larger-than-life clothes retailer loosely based in South of France. I remember the few meetings we had. He had the best parts and was very vocal about it.
All caution was rapidly tossed aside, and I bought myself a piece of dream for an incredible amount of money. In the end I didn’t even fit them on my cossie, as the clearcoat was starting to peel and I knew I would not stand that view.
I ended up selling them for what accounted to a small loss.
So that’s it ?
Let’s take a step back.
France is a relatively small market. High quality parts are few and far between, and gifted sellers with not so good products will always thrive, like my sempai from Cavaillon.
RS’s in 4×100 application warrant big premiums, sometimes tipping the 2000 EUR scale (which is quite a lot on Leboncoin, the French craigslist equivalent, which is geared toward giving more power to buyers)
In Japan however supply is plentiful. Coming from France, it is, not an Eldorado per se, rather a place where good quality products abound and are priced accordingly.
An Eldorado without asymmetry of information, where the natives know precisely what they are selling.
I will have the opportunity to expand on this. I use to write about the bubble era as a vague chronological economic marker, but this glitzy imagery of profusion and heightened competition is ever so valid for the Aftermarket parts : in the 80’s every big name of the wheel game wanted in on Cipango.
BBS, OZ, Speedline, Heck even French iconoclast Gotti Wheels pushed a licensing agreement with Rays Engineering before being swallowed up by Ronal group (in 1986).
Now back to the RS.
Most were forged in West Germany. However we know BBS had forging capacities in Japan since 1985.
In a counterfactual history making fashion, I am rooting for the BBS Japanese plant in Toyama*.
Some were made for the Japanese market with 4×100 PCD (or rather as they say on yahoo auctions “PCD100”). Cars like the Toyota Celica, MR2, Honda Del Sol, Eunos (Mazda) Miata had this so European attribute.
Nowadays what’s driving the demand for those wheels domestically are the kei cars, as the leading brands (Suzuki, Daihatsu) have cars sharing the same bolt pattern.
Of course in Europe and North America Mk1 , Mk2 and E30 reign suprem.
Strike of luck, specs and center bore are mostly compatible (except for the RS189 who needs a good re drilling) with them.
But my point is the following: the BBS RS in Japan, as beautficul as it is, this is a wheel made not for Japanese cars.
They belong elsewhere. This reflects on their value.
How else explain the discrepancy between a wheel in EURO PCD (100, 112 or 120) and a JDM one ( the ubiquitious (114.3) ? Even for rarer cars, one that have seen their value appreciate tremendously demand is lagging behind. A set of bespoke RSs made for the NSX only (16 inch in the front 17 in the rear) in barely used condition is selling from the price of a set BBS RA for a Mk2 golf.
This is not how the BBS nomenklatura is supposed to work!
We might say then wheels are sticky, that is they belong to the car, to the environment they were made in.
After all car owners are still kids deep down, they are looking for that natural and homely feeling of knowing that, for instance on a baby benz, ZF took take of the transmission, Mann of the Filtration, Fuchs of the wheels and Pirelli of the tires. I am sure a Japanese reader will be able to replace the names mentioned by their Japanese equivalents.
But then how come tuning shops like Carlsson or Lorinser invested the Japanese market, and rather successfully so ? The land of Cipango is full of mysteries.
Familiarity for car people is paramount, it’s a crowd naturally biased toward conservatism.
We are just looking for things that will stand the test of time and wont need to be replaced.
It was said that Carlos Ghosn, with his swashbuckling attitude helped Nissan get rid of the supplier system or “keiretsu”. The rationale behind this rationalizing move was that it prevented healthy competition.
After all you won’t innovate as much if you know you’ll get the contract anyway.
It’s all very innovative, western like and rational. But from another perspective, it could destroy that sense of familiarity, one that seems so important in Japan.
And now Mister Ghosn is no longer a resident of Cipango, and the BBS RS, well it’s still not for a 240Z, or a first gen Skyline. Or even a Honda Prelude. It’s for the others.
Featured set of RS on sale here.
6,5 x 15 ET 34
4 x 100
Weight 6.8 kilos
Center bore 57 mm
* let’s start a good felgen conspiracy theory. Some BBS RS were stamped « BBS Germany » on the centers, but how come it is simply written « Germany » while at the time two Germany coexisted ? It must have been produced in a country not so aware of tiny ideological differences in a landmass far away. Case in point : They were made in Japan.