Gallery: Catch Dodge Fever with Cragar S/S Wheels at Classic Industries

In 1968, Dodge initiated the Dodge Fever advertisement campaign, and for many, the fever was severe. A prospective buyer could walk into a Dodge dealership, check off the desired performance options, agree to terms with a comfortable down payment and monthly installments, and drive out with a bumblebee striped Dodge.

The new owner now had one of the “five from the hive” Dodges, including the Swinger 340, Dart 340 GTS, Coronet R/T, Super Bee, and the Charger R/T. Usually, one of the first upgrades to a new muscle car was the correct wheels to give it a race car performance look, which were often Cragar wheels.

As described in the March 1968 Hot Rod Magazine ad, the highly contagious Dodge Fever with Cragar Mag-itis required special medical attention to have any chance of recovering. Cragar S/S wheels were the go-to wheel in the ‘60s and ‘70s; however, it all started in 1930 when Bell Auto Parts owner Crane Gartz established the company.

He combined the first three letters of his first and last name to develop the Cragar name. The company initially sold aircraft engines and Model A cylinder heads. In 1933, George Wight purchased the Cragar Corporation, and in 1945, Roy Richter acquired Bell Auto Parts from Wight; a decade later, Richter bought Cragar, which was renamed the Cragar Equipment Company.

In 1956, Richter founded the Bell Helmet Company after initially designing superior motorcycle helmets for professional racers. The company expanded its line beyond the street and track motorcycle helmets to helmets for auto racing.

By 1964, Richter and his engineers developed the Cragar S/S wheel, which became the most iconic wheel of the muscle car era. In 1965, the S/S wheels were found on many drag race vehicles driven by the biggest names of the time.

Above Left: The Drag-On-Lady, Shirley Shahan, launches her ’68 SS/BA Dart riding on the popular Cragar S/S wheels. Above Right: While a bit blurred due to speed, the famous Chrysler factory-backed Silver Bullet was piloted by Jimmy Addison in the Detroit area in the late-’60s and early-’70s. Addison’s wheel of choice? You guessed it, Cragars.

During the ‘70s, the Cragar S/S wheels were found on more cars than any other aftermarket manufacturer’s wheels. In 1971, Wynn Oil Company obtained Cragar and Bell, and Richter was appointed president of both companies.

Through the ‘70s, Cragar continued to excel. In 1972, Cragar was named the “Manufacturer of the Year” by a racing poll. Richter, a founding member of the Speed Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (SEMA), now known as the Specialty Equipment Market Association, was named its president.

Also, in 1972, Cragar developed the five-second club for the first sixteen Top Fuel drivers to run an elapsed time in the 5-second range. Three years later, Cragar had another 5-second club, this time for the Funny Cars.

Above Left: “Akron Arlen” Vanke purchased the four-speed 1965 Plymouth Belvedere A990, but the success with the Plymouth occurred after Ed Miller paired with Kip Guenther. Miller and Guenther won the 1967 Super Stock Championship with the A990 Belvedere. Cragars found their way onto the Plymouth from nearly day one. Above Right: The Rod Shop cars of Gil Kirk and Jim Thompson always ran strong and ran on Cragar S/S wheels.

After Richter retired in 1978, Cragar continued to grow with licensing agreements in the ‘80s through the 2000s. In 2014, The Carlstar Group acquired Cragar and continued the Cragar legacy while adding new wheels for late-model muscle cars. With over 90 years of history and a view to the future, Cragar wheels will continue to be “Built for American Muscle” for years to come.

In 1976, Classic Industries began selling small, hard-to-find restoration components for generation one Camaros. The company continued to grow, and now Classic Industries has a showroom, a parts production area, multiple warehouses with a large inventory of parts, a call center, and corporate offices.

Above Left: Everything about this photo is correct. A fat positive offset Cragar S/S has a Firestone Drag 500 slick wrapped around it. 3-inch studs protrude through the open-ended lug nuts—the ’70s rocked. Above Right: Even the exhibition cars like the Hurst Hemi Under Glass ran Cragars.

In 2017, Classic Industries purchased California Mustang, California Muscle, and Highway Classics, making Classic Industries the largest and most reliable supplier of restoration and performance parts for the automotive enthusiast.

If a new set of Cragar S/S wheels are on your list for your Mopar, Classic Industries has several versions of the wheels. The wheels come in several diameters and widths, and Classic Industries carries the center caps, spinners, mounting washers, and lug nuts. Regardless of your wheel requirements, consider Classic Industries for restoration and performance parts for Mopar A, B, and E-bodies.

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Although this is a recent advertisement, it represents everything that '70s drag racing was. A shirtless crew member has spilled bleach in front of each rear tire, and as the burnout starts, he "holds" the Cuda in the bleach. The Cragar S/S wheels look great, and the large Firestones fit just inside the jacked-up chassis. Also, notice the etched rear glass—all very cool.

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Chris Holley

Technical Contributor Chris has been a college professor for 25 years; at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. for the last 20 years. Chris instructs automotive classes in HVAC, electrical/electronics, and high-performance, including using a chassis dyno, flow benches, and various machining equipment. Recently, he added a vintage vehicle upholstery class to his teaching assignments. Chris owns a '67 Dart, a '75 Dart, a '06 Charger, and a '12 Cummins turbo diesel Ram, and he is a multi-time track champion (drag racing) with his '69 340 Dart, which he has owned for 34 years.

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