Let’s start by clearing up the issue of pronunciation – Fuchs is a German word (the translation is ‘Fox’, by the way!), and is NOT pronounced ‘Foosh’ – it should sound like ‘Look’, albeit with an ‘F’ at the start. Oh, and, the ‘s’ at the end isn’t a plural reference – i.e. you may have one Fuchs wheel or a set of four Fuchs wheel etc etc.
OK, now we’re clear on the language front, let’s look into the history of the most legendary Porsche wheel ever produced…
Otto Fuchs Metall (und Armaturenwerke Meinerzhagen) GmbH and Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH first worked together back in the 1940s. Porsche was involved in the design of the Tiger tank, and Otto Fuchs was responsible for the forged alloy rollers (the drive ‘wheels’ within the tracks), which were required to handle the extreme conditions endured by the armoured vehicle (and also weigh less than steel parts).
Therefore, when Ferdinand Alexander Porsche called for a lightweight, forged alloy wheel to debut on the ’66 (’67 model year) 911S model, he turned to Otto Fuchs for technical assistance.
Prior to this point, the 911 range had been fitted with steel wheels, but the new ‘S’ (sport) model would be fitted with a lightweight aluminium wheel in order to reduce the unsprung weight/mass and therefore sharpen handling/response. In short, the goal was to lose 3kg per wheel/corner, whilst also adding the visual impact of a new, lightweight ‘sport’ alloy wheel.
However, the Porsche engineering team knew that a regular, cast alloy rim would not withstand the high loads imposed by a ‘serious’ sports car (without exceeding the all-important weight reduction etc).
Otto Fuchs suggested that the solution would be to opt for a high-strength/lightweight forged-alloy wheel. The concept of a mass-produced, forged-alloy wheel was a radical idea back in the 1960s, but Otto Fuchs went on to design a whole new manufacturing technique to produce a one-piece wheel from a forged aluminium ‘blank’.
Porsche designer, Heinrich Klie, was assigned the task of styling this new ‘Fuchs’ wheel, which he shaped and formed in modeling clay before presenting his design to Ferry Porsche in May of 1965.
The minutes from the meeting (courtesy of the Porsche archives) read, ‘In contrast to our proposal, Mr Porsche Jr. changed the shape of the five connecting pieces between the hub and the rim for reasons of style and appearance’. The notes continue, ‘While our design was well-adapted to the shape of the series of vehicles now being retired, the shape developed by Mr. Porsche Jr. appears to be more harmonious with the new vehicle’.
Klie’s original ‘cloverleaf’ design was updated, before being passed on to Rudolf Hoffman (suspension design team), who mapped-out the technical and physical requirements. Hoffman then handed his drawings and calculations to Fuchs top engineer, Karl Heinz Ochel.
Ochel went on to finalise the design/specs, and mapped out the 58-step process required to manufacture the one-piece wheel… (And yes, ‘58-steps’ made the Fuchs one of the most complex mass-produced wheels ever!).
The manufacturing process began with a pressed section of high-grade aluminium stock, which was forged to produce a blank. Drop-forging this ‘blank’ punched the holes between the spokes and deburred the flange, while a secondary drop-forging process formed a split flange (which was then rolled-out/widened to complete the one-piece rim). This complex manufacturing process resulted in a wheel, which was ‘machine-formed/finished’ on the inner-/back- side, too (unlike a cast wheel, which would typically be ‘rough-cast’ on the inner side). In short, the high-quality, forged construction process resulted in an incredibly tough (yet light-weight) wheel, which was far better balanced ‘out of the box’ than a regular, cast wheel.
Special lathes were used to finish the front of the rim and a special anodized finishing process was created, which involved polishing, anodizing and sometimes painting. The result was an incredibly hard-wearing finish with superb resistance to weathering and corrosion.
And so, the first Fuchs cloverleaf/5-spoke wheels appeared on the ’66 (’67 model year) 911S model. Measuring just 4.5-in wide, these rims are now incredibly rare, and can be identified by the minimal black-painted detailing (the size/date is stated on the rear for confirmation).
Porsche and Fuchs went on to develop 5.5 and 6-in wheels (note there are different offsets and design details between early and late wheels) and there was also a 5.5×14-in version, too. Rarest of all is the 7-in wide ‘deep’ (i.e. early) Fuchs, which was fitted to the rear of the 911R.
The early 5.5s and ‘deep’ 6s are incredibly collectable, however there are also several replicas available now (none of which are forged, of course – replicas are cast).
Through the 1970s and ’80s, the later (flat) Fuchs were supplied in 15- and 16-in diameter and in new 7-, 8- and 9-in widths.
The Fuchs wheel design was finally killed off with the launch of the 964 range (in 1989), which marked the release of the Design 90 rim as a standard sports wheel (i.e. replacement for the Fuchs). More recently, Porsche released a limited run of 19-in ‘Fuchs-styled’ rims and, of course, there are many aftermarket replicas (and tribute wheels, too). Incidentally, we should point out that some Fuchs rims can still be ordered new, but not the early/rarest, of course.