When it comes to starting a new company, people generally try and find a part of the marketplace that isn’t being served or isn’t being served very well. The automotive industry is huge when you consider all of the different categories (Domestic, European, Import, Truck, etc) and within each category there are hundreds of subcategories (wheels, tires, engine parts, body kits, lights, etc). Then once you have everything sliced up into its own category, there are different pricing levels generally associated with quality. Bottom line, there is a good reason that there are thousands of companies building and manufacturing parts for the automotive aftermarket. When it came to American Force Wheels, they saw their chance to strike within the market. We take a look into how they make their premium, custom wheels and bumpers.
When Ray Shadravan decided it was time to close his import business because he was tired of selling imported plastic parts from overseas, he knew he didn’t want to get out of the automotive industry. It was just time for a change. “So, when I shut down the other company, I really wanted to manufacture high quality parts right here in the US,” said Shadravan. He wasn’t 100% sure what market he wanted to serve but he knew he was going to be the manufacturer and it was going to be top shelf parts.
“We wanted to get into a business that would be better quality to fill a gap that wasn’t there and that didn’t exist,” says Nick Chin, Marketing Director for American Force Wheels. That market was the aftermarket truck and SUV wheel market. In 2003, there were only a few companies offering wheels. “Everyone would just get Alcoa’s and throw them on and that was basically it. There were not too many options for designs and sizes, so that’s what we were going to do.” So, Shadravan established American Force Wheels based in Miami, Florida.
American Force Wheels
Ultimately, we wanted to make the best frickin’ wheels possible – Nick Chin
Once the base material was chosen, then comes the manufacturing process. In the wheel industry, the vast majority of wheels are cast, but according to American Force Wheels, cast wheels aren’t as strong as forged. Thus, American Force Wheels forges every single wheel they sell.
Forging is a process of shaping metal in a solid state. The forging process is generally done at elevated temperatures, but the material isn’t melted; think of a black smith, they heat up the part and form it with a hammer. Since the material remains a sold, the grains are still intact during the forging process. These grains are “shaped” but more importantly, they are continuous throughout the forging process. So, the part is very strong.
A round slug of 6061 aluminum is heated up to a specific temperature and then placed into a die. A hydraulic ram slams down on the die multiple times shaping the slug. This is done many times in different dies to create the finished raw shape, which is called a blank. Unlike many popular forged wheels, all of American Force Wheels are Monoblock wheels or 1 piece wheels.
“Our Engineers come up with multiple designs when we start looking at introducing a new wheel. From there, we choose the designs we like and they design them using their CAD program. Once the wheels are designed, we use the latest FEA (Finite Element Analysis) software to test the wheel. This ensures that the designs are sound and will hold up to the real world situations our customers encounter on a daily basis,” explained Chin.
After all of the computer testing is completed, they then put a blank in the CNC mill and machine the wheel to do some real world testing. Next, they are then put through the ringer to ensure that the wheel preforms as well as it did in the software. After all of the tests have been passed, they sign off on that design and it is ready to go into production.
When a customer is ready for a new set of wheels, they cannot just walk into a store and buy a new set of American Force Wheels. “For us, it makes more sense to custom build the wheels for the customer. That way we know we will not have issues with shaking and poor fitment. It is one of those aspects where you have to weigh the pros and cons. If it’s on the shelf, the customer will buy it quicker and it’s also cheaper because they are mass produced. The con is, you tend to have problems like shaking because it’s not hub centric and other things that go into play. So, for us, it takes about 10 days for American Force Wheels to custom make a set of wheels specific to our customer’s vehicle,” explained Chin.
When someone decides to order a set of wheels, it isn’t like you simply point to one in the catalog and say here is my money because that isn’t really custom. Custom means that they take into account the year, make, and model of the vehicle. Then they take into account what type of suspension you have and the tire size you will be running. With this information inputted into their system, they are then able to start.
The machining process starts with the forged billet of the right size (whether that is 19.5, 20, 22, 22.5, 24, 26 or their soon to be released 18’s). The blanks are put in one of 10 CNC machines that they have at their main production facility (American Force Wheels has multiple locations). Then the automated machine goes to work and creates the wheel.
Once all of the machining has been done, the wheels are then treated (polished or coated) and packaged for shipment.
American Force Wheels have a ton of different styles of wheels. The reason they have such a wide offering of styles is because they machine the wheels from blanks. This means they aren’t limited to what their molds are and they don’t have to spend a ton of money creating new molds to produce a new wheel. Basically, there is an unlimited amount of styles they can produce.
This diversity also has a huge advantage for those of you who want a specific look. “If you called in and said I want to get a custom set of wheels but I don’t like anything in your catalog. For a little extra you can give us a drawing or an idea of what you want. We then will design and test it to ensure that it is sound. If everything checks out, we will make a one off set for you. That is the major thing that makes us different,” said Chin.
Before going to that extent, their catalog is full of some pretty cool wheels. One of the hottest new wheels in the market is American Force Wheels’ Faceplate series. These wheels just exploded onto the market. The base wheels feature some pretty cool designs, but then there are aluminum inserts or faceplates that you can have painted, coated, dipped, or what have you to any color you want. These faceplates then bolt to the wheel to set them off like nothing else. The Fallout specifically has been one that people have gravitated to. These inserts make it look like thousands of dollars’ worth of pin striping was done, but in fact, these are just plates stacked over each other with a very specific offset. Drive to a show with all three faceplates on, take one off to give the truck a different look for when you go out that night. There are just an unlimited amount of combinations associated with these.
Other wheels that have been gaining popularity are the Burnouts, with their clean sleek look. These wheels have a subtle beauty about them that can just set a truck off. For the dually guys, their 10 lug Weapon series and 8 lug Classic wheels are extremely popular and certainly something that shows off their attention to detail.
We, also, offer translucent clears in an array of colors that are special order- Nick Chin
With this much attention to detail, the end product truly reflects Shadravan’s decision to build high quality American Made wheels. The end product that someone purchases has been custom made for their specific application (year, make, model, suspension, intended use, etc). There are a number of custom designs, but someone can also have custom designs made for them. Custom isn’t just a slogan they have, every aspect of the product is specific to that customers wants.
In addition to offering premium American Made wheels, American Force Wheels just introduced a new line of Jeep and Truck bumpers. They are taking the same approach to bumpers that they took with their wheels. They aren’t just building some generic bumper. They are using the latest in CAD software to ensure fitment and quality. In addition, they are taking an interesting approach. They realize that there are two reasons people upgrade their bumpers. The first aspect is what usually comes to mind. The person upgrading their bumper is looking for something rugged and durable that is very functional.
The second aspect or mindset of why people upgrade their bumper is because they like the way it makes the vehicle look. They have no intention of actually putting the bumper through its paces; they just want something that looks big and bad. Therefore, American Force Wheels is offering aluminum and steel bumpers. Yep, you read that right, ALUMINUM bumpers!
The aluminum bumpers will have the same styling as the steel bumpers (more details below) but offer a significant weight savings over the steel bumper, which helps to offset of load on the suspension as well as the negative effect the increased weight has on fuel economy.
Unlike the wheels, these bumpers will be an item that is stocked in select retailers. Initially, availability may be scarce as they are just now going into production of these bumpers. All of these bumpers will be direct bolt up and “They come with pre-cut slots of all OEM sensors & lights, trailer hitch plug, as well as pre-cut LED Light bars,” explains Chin.
In addition to the standard features, they are being offered in three exterior finishes; textured black powder coated, flat black powder coated, and the aluminum will have an optional brushed finish. They are currently focused on the most popular applications; Late model Jeeps and full size trucks.
We will be offering an optional Gun Rack for the front bumpers-Nick Chin
To ensure that these are premium high quality bumpers, they are all manufactured at their main manufacturing facility and there are a number of quality checks during the production of these bumpers. In addition, American Force Wheels is offering a structural lifetime guarantee on all of their bumpers.
Perhaps not the biggest and most well-known wheel company in the marketplace, this American Made company is a very healthy company that has been setting a new standard for premium custom wheels for over a decade. As they continue to release trend-setting wheels and introduce their new take on bumpers, we are sure that they will continue to be an aspirational brand that many hope to own.
For more information on American Force Wheels, be sure to check out their website and Facebook!