Pontiac's Rally II is arguably the most popular-styled wheel the Division ever offered. Iconic examples such as the cast-aluminum eight-lug or polycast Honeycomb are certainly formidable contenders for the title, but when considering that the stamped-steel Rally II remained on Pontiac order forms for more than two decades, the charcoal-and-argent champion clearly bested them all.
Introduced in 1967 as a way to give buyers a sporty, factory-installed wheel package that mimicked the look of the era's popular aftermarket offerings, the Rally II was produced in 14-and 15-inch diameters, widths of 6 and 7 inches, and with bolt-circle diameters of 4.75 and 5 inches over the years. That diversity allowed Pontiac to offer the Rally II as a regular production option on virtually all models through the early 1980s, and on select models through its retirement at the commencement of the 1987 model year.
The 15x7-inch Rally II was produced in the greatest number. While early versions most closely associated with 1970-1972 Trans Ams are quite desirable and costly, a slightly revised Rally II debuted in 1973, and it was available on a wide array of Pontiacs, including Firebirds, Grand Prix, and Grand Ams. With literally millions produced during the mid-to-late 1970s, you might presume the quest to find a usable quartet for our 1976 Trans Am would be simple. That proved otherwise.
From our hunt's onset, we understood that a complete wheel restoration would likely be required. We planned to completely strip each wheel and then laboriously refinish the set in the correct shades of charcoal and argent. We scoured many local salvage yards and swap meets, but found issues with each potential candidate. Whether rust pitting, road rash, dings and dents, or general wear from mishandling over the years, we simply couldn't find what we were seeking.
On a recent trip to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, we happened across the Wheel Vintiques (WV) booth where we spied, amongst the many single wheels on display, what appeared to be a new Pontiac Rally II.
1. Pontiac's Rally II was a popular consumer option throughout much of the Division's glory years. The stamped-steel 15x7-inch unit could be found on its most popular offerings during the mid-to-late 1970s. With so many produced over the years, used examples can typically be purchased rather reasonably, making them popular hobbyist choices for most any vintage Pontiac. But just how reusable are they?
2. A two-digit code stamped into the rim near to the right of the valve stem indicates original application. Codes such as JW and KR are found on early 15x7-inch units, which had limited usage and today's market prices reflect it. Later units, stamped with HM or HW are far more common, with widespread usage across numerous models. With identical functionality, we sought a set of either for our 1976 Firebird.
3. We found it rather difficult to find a complete set of used Rally IIs at a reasonable price that required minimal restoration efforts. Surface pitting is very common from exposure to decades of Midwest winters. While some of it will blast away during stripping, deep pits and blemishes will likely require body filler and additional prep, adding to the cost.
4. A rusty bead surface is also common. Even after using a wire brush, the deep rust and pitting that remains can prevent the tire from securely adhering to the rim, causing leaks, or worse, total separation.
5. We found a set of Rally IIs that looked to be in excellent reusable condition, but were quickly disappointed to find several deformed lugnut holes. Whether caused by someone over-tightening the lug nuts or by nuts with an incorrect taper, we weren't prepared to gamble that the proper lug nuts intended for the application would retain the wheel onto the hub correctly—a major safety risk. Unfortunately, this otherwise beautiful rim is basically useless.
6. Wheel Vintiques (WV) offers a great solution if original codes aren't important to you. Its reproduction Rally IIs are created from entirely new stampings. We purchased a set of 15x7-inch units, and our thorough inspection found the only difference from a code-HM or -HW original is the backspace. WV delivers its Rally IIs beautifully painted in the factory-correct shades and pattern.
7. The stampings are very clean, without sharp edges and with a uniform appearance. The center is constructed of 7-gauge cold-rolled steel and formed using a 600-ton press. It's then fastened to the rim by five 5-inch welds.