If You're Wondering What Those Ben-Hur Wheel Spikes Are And If They're Legal We're Here To Help

A video posted yesterday is getting a good bit of attention online because it shows a late-model Cadillac sporting wheels that have massive protruding spikes looking like they came off the chariot race scene in Ben-Hur. What are these things? Are they legal? It’ll be okay. We’ll explain.

First, here’s the video, in case you haven’t seen it:

Yes, yes, it’s in portrait mode and that makes you so very angry. I know. Let’s just let it go.

If you can’t watch the vid at work, it is basically just some guys going “wtf lol only in Houston” while the Cadillac rolls through traffic.

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Sure, those giant, spinning death-blades sure look scary, right? The truth is they’re not there to mow through tightly-packed crowds. They’re a signature part of a (mostly) Houston-area car-modification scene called Slabs.

A “Slab” is typically taken as an acronym for slow, low and bangin’ or slow, loud and bangin’, both of which accurately describe the speed, style and volume of these customs on the street. Slabs are almost always large American cars (and sometimes trucks) from, ideally, the ‘70s and ‘80s, but it’s not hard to find late-model cars like Buick Lacrosses or Cadillac ATSs, too.

Slabs are somewhat related to Lowriders and Donks, but have their own style and culture that’s diverged from these siblings pretty dramatically.

Screw it, here’s the chariot race scene, why not?

They often have glorious candy-colored paint jobs and a wildly overdone aesthetic that grows from the exuberant and flamboyant American car design of the 1970s, with ornate wire wheels being the most noticeable and obvious trait.

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These wildly exaggerated wheels, swangas, have a quality known as poke, which is, basically, how far out the spokes poke from the car. As you can see in that video, sometimes those wheels can poke way the hell out from the car.

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You can pay a lot of money for some really dramatic swangas, if you want, and if you do, you can drive anywhere you like, because they’re completely legal.

What actualy matters to the law is the overall width of the car; as long as the width of those elbows poking out from you wheels don’t put you over the limit, you’re fine. Really, most duallie trucks are closer to the limit than an old Caddy with swangas.

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And, sure, while they look alarming, there’s no real evidence they’re posing a huge hazard to anyone on the road. If you’re close enough to those spinning wheels to be injured, you’re probably too close to the car as it is.

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Sure, there’s issues involved with driving cars like this, and you can’t forget that your car is a solid foot wider than normal, but most of the damage caused by these happens to the car itself, with the swangas occasionally hitting a curb or lamppost and causing axle damage.

Honestly, I’m not sure it’s any more dangerous than driving any number of other customized vehicles, like ape hanger motorcycle handlebars or a heavily stanced car or even an all-original ‘57 Bel Air with crappy drum brakes.

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If you want the freedom to have a car any way you like, you pretty much have to accept cars any way other people like, too.

So, sure, those crazy spinning blades sure get attention, but that’s the whole point. They’re not illegal, and, unless you’re doing something really moronic, they’re not going to kill us all.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)