I’ve long believed that the wheels you fit to your car make the entire look. You really have to get the wheels right, and sometimes stumbling on an unexpected wheel can completely change the direction you’re going with it. That’s what happened to me. In my search for new wheels for my cheap-ass Nissan Leaf, I stumbled upon these glorious three-spokers and instantly the car’s final form manifested itself in my mind’s eye.
The first four times I saw this eBay listing in my search for Nissan Leaf wheels, I opened the ad, dreamed for a while, and ultimately closed it to continue the search elsewhere. Two weeks later and I still couldn’t get them out of my head. My wife was the one who convinced me to pull the trigger on this purchase, because I was clearly obsessed with the idea if I hadn’t been able to drop it in all that time. She’s a smart woman. I should listen to her more often.
Tire choice was relatively simple. I wanted to go with a low rolling resistance tire, for obvious reasons. I know the bigger wheels and tires will reduce the car’s range a little bit, so I wanted to do everything I could to make that happen. The stock Bridgestone Ecopias were worn and cracked, because they’re ten years old! I wanted to try to keep the overall height of the tire as close to stock as possible, and initially ordered the Hankook Kinergy PT in a 205/50-17 to keep that rolling diameter, and because it was significantly cheaper than anything else in that size, like over $200 per set cheaper. Unfortunately, that size was out of stock with several months of delay, so I had to resort to the 215/50-17 Kinergy ST with a 2 percent longer rolling diameter. I won’t be spending much time in the Leaf above 50 mph, so the speedometer difference won’t be too noticeable.
People don’t often spend $1,512 on wheels and tires for a $2,000 car, but the feeling that I had when I ripped the packing tape off of the box and unearthed these wheels from their cardboard and styrofoam made all of the agonizing worth it. I am obsessed with weird and obscure wheels, and these are no exception. My heart leapt with joy inside my chest cavity, and they weren’t even on the car yet.
The Suzuka Sangyo Super Longchamp brand is essentially the street brand of Speedstar Racing (SSR wheels) with a focus on style instead of race track competency. Based on what little I could find about these wheels, they are actually the second generation of XR3 wheels from Super Longchamp, as the first gen was a directional design with a very 1980s blender blade look to them. It’s very clear that my wheels were produced in the late 1990s or early 2000s based on the font choices, and the clear design influence from the iconic split-spoke Super Advan wheel.
From the moment I ordered them until I received the package on the slow-boat from New Jersey was an agonizing 12 days. I’d already had the replacement Hankook low rolling resistance tires — picked up directly from the Tire Rack warehouse just outside of Reno — for a week by the time the wheels came in.
Because I’m an obsessive weirdo, I felt the immediate need to visualize what the wheels would look like on my Leaf. A plank of wood helped with that immediate need. The Tesla Model Y I am borrowing right now was throwing a shadow on the wheel, so I used Summon to back it up three feet to get the below shot. I hope you like it.
I dropped the whole shooting match off at a local tire shop chain and they were ready to pick up the following afternoon. An interesting point of pride for my Nissan Leaf is that it can carry its own wheel and tire package deconstructed. The deep rear hatch swallowed a pair of tires.
The back seat housed all four wheels, kept isolated from damage by a blanket. A third tire rode on top.
And the fourth and final tire called shotgun.
Once I got the wheels on the car it was exactly the outcome I was looking for. It’s just ridiculous enough that I completely love the look. As daily commuter and grocery getter cars go, I don’t think I could be any more satisfied. Between painting the taillights, and giving it a thorough de-badging, the car now looks a thousand times better. It brings a little bit of levity to the world, and I hope it makes people smile.
This is far from the Leaf’s final form. I need to lower it significantly to get rid of the massive wheel gap. There’s still a bit of chrome to be heaved into the ocean, because we all know how much I hate chrome. There’s still a noticeable dent in the left-rear quarter panel that needs to be amended. Then it’ll get a color-change wrap to really make it pop. I hate grayscale cars, so black just won’t do it for me. I think I know what color I want, but suggest some that you think might work in the comments if you feel like it.
When I bought my cheap-ass Nissan Leaf as a daily commuter, I knew in my heart that I wanted to treat it a little less seriously than I have my other cars in the past. It’s not a sports car, it’s not a track-ready machine, and it’s not particularly luxurious, but I still wanted it to stand out and have a little more spirit. It was supposed to be something of a lark, almost a joke that only really made sense to me. Then something happened; I fell in love with it.
Nissan didn’t build the Leaf for people to fall in love with. It’s a cheaply made wrapper for some impressive-for-the-time electric drivetrain tech. It hasn’t aged particularly well, but as cheap ass beaters go, this thing kicks all kinds of ass. It’s really fun getting these quick projects with immediate results done, as it provides that hit of dopamine that I need right now. And really, that’s all I can ask of it.
As erstwhile Jalopnik contributor Toni once tweeted, ‘Tri-spokes ‘til I die-spokes.’ Indeed.