Carroll Shelby Once Peddled A Minilite Replica Wheel For Saab Owners


There are not many people that embody the abstract ideal of “America” more than Carroll Shelby. Following his quite successful racing career, Shelby was the consummate salesman, constantly on the hunt for some business opportunity he could slap his name on. We all know about his successful foray with Ford in the 1960s, but he also pushed everything from deodorant spray to chili powder under the Shelby trademark.


In the 1970s Saab worked with the Minilite wheel company in the UK to produce a “sport” wheel option for dealer installation on their 99 model. The wheels proved popular enough that Ronal in Germany was also contracted to make a similar wheel for mainland Europe. Both types were exported to the US in varying availability for dealers to install for their customers Stateside. As so happened, the wheel was popular enough worldwide that there was a shortage and Saab North America had to look for a third manufacturer to meet demand. Shelby stepped in and manufactured this wheel design for the Svenska automaker.


This wheel is perhaps not the most unique design ever, quite derivative of the iconic Minilite shape. It’s a simple 1960s design that works well on many sports coupes of the era. The style was popularized by the owners of little Brit cars like MGs and Triumphs, but were later adapted to almost everything sporty of the time, including Datsun 240Zs and Porsche 911s. It’s quite possible that this is the most replicated wheel design ever, as a number of manufacturers still make a derivation of this wheel today.

Finding a nice set of Carroll Shelby Saab wheels isn’t an easy task. There always seems to be some for sale, but you really have to know where to look. I found this set on eBay by a stroke of luck, and they appear to be in pretty nice shape, which is rare decades later.

Sometimes known as the “Shelby Metalux”, this wheel was offered in silver, gold, and black finishes. Primarily designed for 99 fitment, though they also worked on later 900 models, the Shelby wheel came in 15X5.5 and 15X6 widths. There was a later 6" width wheel (with a different offset) built for the 1980s design Saab 9000, as well.

Bradley C. Brownell
Bradley C. Brownell

This isn’t the only wheel design Shelby ever made, either. I took this photograph at the “Shelby American Collection” in Boulder, Colorado earlier this year. In it you can see stacks of new old stock Shelby wheels of various designs and fitments.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

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And while this is a great article-I like spending Sunday learning about this stuff while deadlines loom-it’s precisely because of this:

“This wheel is perhaps not the most unique design ever, quite derivative of the iconic Minilite shape. It’s a simple 1960s design that works well on many sports coupes of the era.”

...that this wheel should not be sought out for your Saab. Caroll Shelby designed or not.

There is only one wheel design that truly matches the Saab Mojo: the tri-spoke.

See it here on the mighty Saab 900:

Even looks good with a windshield sun shade.

The tri-spoke should have been the mandatory starting point for every new Saab design. But it wasn’t, and I think that made it harder for Saab to hold on to their mojo. Not to say it would have saved Saab, but they might have avoided the 9-7:

Tri spokes make that badge-engineered zucchini loaf look like a plastic pull-back toy. Or a GMC Blazer. Weird...

Wheels, not just front fascia, are what makes a car part of its marque, even if badge engineered. Wheels are automotive genetic markers.

Look, see a tri-spoke on a Mercedes! It looks like someone photoshopped a Merc onto a Saab. Not tight. No Mojo.

Should’ve mounted AMG monoblocks.

I’m not saying Saab designers all endured a mandatory rite-of passage: “You will each sweat for the entirety of the longest Swedish night in a tri-spoked, circular Trollhättian sauna made of only the finest alloy. Only the worthy will survive!” But Saab held on better than most car companies, and I suspect the tri-spoke was their bellwether. Their soul. Their muse. Their mojo.

They even updated it several times, and while not as amazing as the original, they were pretty Saab-ish:

How about the last Saab? Did it have Mojo?

Every Jalop I know loves that 2011 9-3 and would buy one if given the chance. It’s a good looking car:

And it has Saab mojo:

I like it!

Skip the minilite knockoffs. Get tri-spokes.

But only for the Saabs.