…Well, almost everything. I’m sure there is other information out there. The Supreme story is still being written with companies folding and others taking on production. I’ve received a couple pm’s asking about different Supremes available and about the history of the Astro Supreme. The wheel, the name, the original company, the reproductions, differences, quality, etc. This has been my favorite wheel for quite some time. I try to learn as much as I can about it’s history and current status. I’ll attempt to convey what I know with this thread.
First off, I don’t like to call them “Astros”. Unless I’m actually talking about Supreme wheels made by Astro, which is hardly ever. It’s just personal preference. Supremes haven’t been made by Astro for over 30 years. But that’s kinda the popular nomenclature nowdays because Astro was the first company(arguably) to make them. I find that most of the hotrod/custom guys are more in-tune with the Astro name because of their exposure to old ads and other Astro wheels like Astro Slots. Astro was a popular company, especially in the hotrod and drag racing scene.
Astro Enterprises was the name of the Gardena, CA based company. They started manufacturing wheels in the early 60’s. They had chrome oe style wheels, slots, mags, and steel/alloy combos. They first introduced their “Supreme” in 1964. It didn’t look like the Supreme available today. It had straight, cylindrical spokes that were shorter and less angled than today’s Supreme spokes. The center was also much larger. Overall, this first incarnation from Astro was a much less attractive wheel than the Supreme we all know and love. It was only produced for a short time. I’ve never seen one in person.
Here’s the first wheel named “Supreme”, manufactured by Astro. Taken from Car Craft, April, 1964.
The Second incarnation of the Supreme took design elements from American Racing mag wheels. The spokes resembled early mag wheels in their shape and contour. But the center hub section and center cap were completely different. The hub face was less cluttered due to there being no bolt-on center cap like the Torq Thrust. Also, the wheel rim didn’t have a wide, flat lip like the TT. Many people still credit Astro Enterprises for creating the all chrome wheel we now know as the Supreme. But I beg to differ. A couple different companies introduced wheels with the same design. One of which was Wheel Centre Co. They released their alloy/steel composite wheel at the same time Astro released their first (ugly)Supreme. In fact, both wheels came out in the same April 1964 issue of Car Craft. The Wheel Centre Co wheel had no name and was given a very small cutoff photo down in the corner of the page. But it looks way more like the Supreme we know today than Astro’s first version does.
Here it is. Possibly the first Supreme style wheel ever made? Maybe.
Here’s Astro’s second and final version of their Supreme. This ad is out of a 1966 Car Craft. Dig the knockoffs.
Regardless of who actually created the wheel first, the fact remains that Astro was the company that mas produced and popularized it in the mid to late 60’s, so you have to give them credit for that. Astro sounds better than Wheel Centre Co anyways. Astro Enterprises continued to make wheels into the early 1970’s. I’m not sure what date the company closed, but my best educated guess is between 1972 and 74.
As is true with most popular wheel styles in automotive history, public demand leads some other company to carry the torch either by copying or actually buying the rights to re-produce the same wheel. And that’s what happened to the Supreme in the late 70’s. Astro still made them till they closed and even a couple small no-name companies reproduced a few. But with little demand, it fell from the graces of the hotrod/custom crowd for a few years. Supremes did make they’re comeback due to the demand of the ever-growing lowrider community in the mid to late 70’s. I have yet to learn what company was the first to officially start re-producing Supremes during that time. Some say it was Pete Paulsen, but I haven’t come across anything to substantiate this claim. I do know that Pete’s ‘House of Wheels” stores were one of the first to carry the newly re-introduced Supreme wheel. They took out a couple ads in a few of the very early issues of Lowrider magazine, as did a couple other northern California accessory and wheel shops.
Here’s a great ad out of a 1977 Lowrider magazine announcing the triumphant return of the Supreme and proclaiming it’s legendary status as “The original lowrider wheel”.
Here’s another ad from LRM. This one appeared in a few different issues from 78-79. Take note of the kickass Supreme 3-bar knockoff. I’ll get to that later.
If you notice, there is never any mention of a specific wheel company in either of those ads. It could have been that a major company re-produced these in their factory, but didn’t put their badge on them. They were just sold as “Supremes”. Which is why alot oldschool lowrider guys don’t always accociate the name “Astro” with these wheels. By the time these were popular again, Astro and any mention of it was long gone. It wasn’t till the next resurgence of the Supreme in the 90’s that people started referring to them as “Astros” again. I think the whole 60’s custom revival thing brought back many of the old names, with people digging through old 60’s custom magazines and whatnot.
The first wheel company to re-produce supremes on a large scale in the late 90’s was US Wheel. They offered they’re “48 Series Supreme” wheel with a unilug bolt pattern, which was different from most of the old ones. They sold their Supremes with the standard shaped snap-in cap. I’m not sure about the first Supremes from US Wheel, but the ones in more recent years have lacked the reinforced spokes. Alot of the ones you see at swapmeets for cheap are US Wheel. Also, I believe the ones with black spokes are made by US Wheel. US Wheel Supremes seem to be the cheapest at about $100-140 a piece.
Unique Wheel followed soon after with they’re own Supreme wheel. It as pretty much identical except for the cap said “Unique” in the center. I think Unique Wheel offered more sizes too. Unique has been a weird company. Hit and miss with quality depending on when they were manufactured. They changed they’re Supreme design twice since they started. The first were just like US Wheel brand. Then they changed to this strange design that had the spokes molded to a ring or thin rim that was then attached to the wheel. It looked funny. The spokes even had a slight peak in them. The hub face also changed. It became less clean and was also molded into the spokes with soft rounded edges like webbed toes. The cap they used was ugly too. Pete Paulsen sold these for a while. He still has the pics on the website, but I don’t think these exact ones are manufactured anymore, thank goodness. More recently(couple years) they changed back to the original design. I do believe they are reinforced and they come in direct bolt pattern. (Some people don’t like uni-lugs. I’ve never had issues with them on Cragars, Rockets, or Supremes. As long as you torque them down right and check them regularly, they’re fine.) Unique Wheels have since been bought out by Cragar. Cragar is distributing this wheel as the “Cragar Series 167 Super Supreme”. But the photo they give still says Unique on the center cap. I wonder if Cragar will re-badge it or keep the Unique name. Summit has started taking orders for them at $175 a piece. The quality should be good, but Allied Supremes are proven to be good quality and less money.
Here’s the ugly design that Unique had for a short while.
Here is the new pic that Cragar has of it’s Series 167 Super Supreme.
Allied Wheel Components started making their “Series 67” wheel sometime after 2002. AWC has been a growing wheel company for 10 years and they have lots of dealers. With their classic line, they’ve reproduced oe smoothies, cragars, rallys, and supremes. The AWC Series 67 Supreme is probably the best quality supreme on the market. It has the reinforced spokes that are more desirable than the non-reinforced ones. The last 3 sets of Supremes that I’ve owned have been AWC. And I just special ordered another pair from San Fernando Tire for a project of mine. Esajian used to sell these ones too. Depending on who you buy from, they come with either a snap on cap like the US Wheels or the metal push-thru kind with no logo on it. Ken at Esajian used to sell his with the push-thru bullets.
I know people have been rolling on non-reinforced Supremes for years. I’ve talked to people who have had no problems with them what so ever. And then there are case like Ryan’s in Arizona. His actually cracked. Most of the time the problems are with the wheel flexing too much. You can tell when that happens because a gap starts to form where the spoke meets the wheel. I’ve actually seen some brand new, never been mounted Supremes that have that gap. No thanks!
Here’s the gap I’m talking about on some non-reinforced Supremes. Big enough to stick a knife in. Gap courtesy of the bunk Supremes on Gooz’ wagon. Plastic knife courtesy of me. Pic taken by Rasputin.
Here’s a shot of the back of an AWC Supreme. Notice the pieces welded behind each spoke where it meets the wheel. They’re welded to the spoke and to the wheel itself. Doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a difference.
Now for caps. There have been a few different caps that have been commonly run on Supremes. Everyone has seen the bullets I’m sure. I think they look best on a 15″ wheel. They’re not a traditional thing, but still pretty cool. Not my fav though. And then there’s the snap-in centers that say “supreme wheel” on the center chip. I like the shape of these the best. If you go way back you will find many examples of aftermarket 3 bars that people ran on Supremes back in the 60’s. One of the coolest ones was the one pictured in the Astro ad I posted. The ones with the holes in the prongs and the checkered flag centers. I dig those. Very 60’s dragstrip! But hands down my favorite most coveted Supreme cap of all time was the 3 bar knockoff that had “Supreme” cast into the center with six little stars around it. When I first saw those I was floored. I had seen them in those old ads in 70’s LRM that I posted. But I thought they were just one-offs. They are definitely real. Rare, but they’re out there. They were only produced for a short time in the 70’s by an aftermarket company out of Long Beach called Pacific Wheel Company that was repopping Supremes and Supreme caps. They even had a wire wheel similar to a crosslaced Tru-ray or large bellhub starwire that they called the “Supreme Wire Wheel”. It had a wide 7″ round cap(similar to Mclean cap) with the same font and little stars as the cast 3-bar spinners. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a wire wheel that had a “Supreme” cap. I believe they also made their own wheel chips/decals with the same blue Supreme logo that could go on plain caps and centers. Very rare stuff indeed. But cool as hell!!!
Here is one of my precious Supreme 3-bars. I only have 3 of them. Still looking for a 4th. Locobomber has a set. I think Harry still has a set. At least he used to. Cholo’s Customs in Japan runs them on their silver and candy 54 Chevy. Mine will get mounted one of these days.
I mentioned earlier that a few companies have reproduced Supremes or Supreme lookalikes here and there since the 60’s and 70’s. Rader Wheels was one such company. I believe their version is polished, not chromed. It’s one of the best looking cousins to the Supreme, especially if you dig polished wheels. And paired with the Rader/Radir hollow pronged 3-bars…winning combo for sure. The Supreme is very much like the Cragar SS, in that there have been so many variations but they’re all still unmistakably derived from the original design. Some might have different wheel lips, different hubs, variation of the spoke design, or even a different finish. But when you see one you can’t help but know that its just another wheel influenced by the tried and true Supreme wheel design that was perfected decades ago.
One such wheel is this one that was posted earlier on this board. It was on a 56 Bel Air from France. So far, the manufacturer remains a mystery. But it’s still very interesting nonetheless. A cool looking wheel. It’s just proof that something can always be added to the Supreme story. Whether it’s new incarnations, new or old repops, or vintage gems that pop up out of nowhere. Good stuff