Wheels. Arguably the biggest focal point of the exterior of a build. (For a harlekin this may be a two-way tie with paint). Essential to the flow of design in a car- especially a modified one. Attention to this detail is important for the aesthetic of the car, and can greatly steer the direction (no pun intended) of the build. Era appropriate? Shock and awe stance? Performance/track based? OEM plus?
Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely loved the Borbet Procasts that the Polo came with. Super era appropriate, fit the aesthetic of the car, and three spokes are obviously an always elite choice- but sometimes- there’s a wheel that you could swear was just designed specifically for your car.
Enter- the BBS BT-011. These wheels were in the BBS design line series of after market wheel options in the early 90’s with branding from the Benetton Formula 1 team- who throughout their remarkable tenure as a Formula 1 constructor were grazed with greatness from Formula 1 legends such as Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi, Jenson Button- and the one and only Michael Schumacher. The benetton group brand is a global fashion brand based out of Italy, with one of the sub-brands being the “United Colors of Benetton” featuring the colors red, yellow, blue, and green in their marketing and products. These colors made for some of the most remarkable and striking liveries in Formula 1, including Michael Schumacher’s B194 driver’s championship winning car, featuring the United Colors of Benetton. The BBS BT-011 features the United Colors of Benetton paint streaks on one of the three tri-spokes, as well as Benetton Formula 1 center caps. The sibling wheel, the BT-202 features a multi-spoke design with the Benetton flag on the center cap, as well as the Benetton Formula 1 center cap. Both of these wheels came in various sizes, with 15″ being the largest the BT-011 was offered in, and 16″ for the BT-202.
Anyone who has spoken to me prior to getting these wheels, knew how much I loved the 3 spoke look on the Polo. It just works. It naturally made me gravitate to an awesome group on Facebook called “3 Spoke Elitist Jerks“. After posting my Polo with the borbet’s a few times and getting lots of love from the members in there (appreciated as always), I had been scrolling through and save the above wheels posted, with quite possibly the best three words you could find as descriptors: New. Old. Stock.
As I kept reading, it got better. Never mounted. *chills* Center caps and and valve stem caps for three of them still sealed in BBS packaging. One used as display wheel, almost no imperfections. And the design? Couldn’t be better for a harlekin. I commented something along the lines of “Dude, if you ever sell these, PLEASE, let me know. These would be perfect for my Harlekin.”
Well guess what.
“They’re actually for sale, I run a wheel company and we just got these in- shoot me a message.” I spoke with Yannick a little bit and told them to hold them for me as I was not planning on buying wheels any time soon- he was more than accommodating and reasonable, with both questions I had as well as the price. This couldn’t be better. If you need wheels- head over to Felgenfetisch and look at what they have.
Now the part no one tells you about when you get rare wheels in NOS condition- the paranoia. What if something happens? Enter- Justin Howell (@jhowell1337 on instagram) with the ceramic coating! Justin lives a few hours away from me, and when I got the wheels, I knew I needed to protect them. Lucky for me, Justin does some serious detailing work. He swung by and laid down some AMMO ceramic coating on these to set it up for success when I got them mounted.
No stone unturned, he got the lug holes, the back pad, the barrels, faces- anywhere where brake dust could possibly find its way. The difference was night and day- these felt slippery as seals when the coating set.
Now the hard part- tires. Having not owned a car long enough to buy wheels/tires under 18″, I had mistakenly assumed finding 15″ tires wouldn’t be a problem. My mind was stuck in 2010, when cars with smaller wheels and tires were more common- not so much in 2022, when the average wheel size is 17″ or larger on most cars. My options were incredibly limited. Knowing eventually I’d want to possibly get air, I attempted to get some 165/45/15 Achilles ATR-K economists. I soon found out, these tires did NOT stretch easily, and could risk damaging the wheel itself. Having gone through the trouble I did to protect and procure them, this is not a risk I wanted to take.
I eventually conceded and went with a more era appropriate tire size/fitment- 195/45/15 Toyo Extensa HPII. Thanks to a connection through a local dealership with a brand new tire mounting machine with plastic guides- I was able to get some tires finally mounted with no fuss. But the final boss was yet to be known- hubcentric rings.
Being stuck in an apartment and not really ever working on cars, access to a jack was difficult. Luckily, my new found friend was willing to help me out. This was when the final boss appeared. This ultimately was my mistake for not measuring, but no less frustrating- BBS had included PFS (Precision fitment system) rings (Hubcentric rings) with an inner diameter of about 52mm. The center bore of the 6n1 Polo is 57.1mm. I ended up foregoing mounting the wheels at that point, as I didn’t want to risk running them lugcentric vs hubcentric. Ultimately, I did end up mounting them for a short period of time until I was able to get the 57.1mm ID PFS rings for them, with only slight vibrations at around 100km/h. Fast forward a few days, and I was able to throw the hubcentric rings on, and viola! The BBS Benettons are on for good.
The ride height couldn’t have worked out better. The overall diameter increased by 18.1mm, filling in the wheel arches nicely. The fitment was perfect right out of the box. Maybe a 5mm spacer in the rear down the road, but so fitting to the car.
Best yet? My first set of aftermarket BBS. I had originally wanted something rare and motorsporty- like some RS’, E50’s, or even some RA’s. I had never owned RS’ and felt them to be a right of passage wheel for most german car enthusiasts. I’ll own some one day- but I’m not so sure I’ll ever replace these. The Harlekin is just not that serious. It’s too fun, it’s got too bright of a personality. If this were a pistachio green (entirely) polo, then some full polish RS’ would of course look wonderful. But these? These wheels are lifers. I don’t see a circumstance where I’d ever get rid of these, save being a make or break for a 911 or some other crazy hypothetical that would never happen. These are THE wheels.