Going Gold

I’m a huge fan of the gold wheels Ferrari’s prototype racers used in the 60s, like those on this 1969 312P currently on display in the Museo Ferrari in Maranello.

1969 Ferrari 312P

The gold colour was a side-effect of the ‘Dow 7’ chromate process used to protect the lightweight magnesium rims Ferrari used back then.

Ferrari wheel dow 7 chromate

As part of this winter’s (yes I know I am already late) suspension overhaul I wondered how my car would look with gold wheels. I fired up photoshop, loaded a photo of 26359 I took a few years ago and retinted the wheels. I quite liked the mocked-up combination of rosso chiaro and gold:

Ferrari 308 gold wheels mockup

The 16″ wheels pictured above are not original to the car so I don’t have an issue changing their colour. They are French-made 3-piece Etoile 455 wheels originally made for Porsche’s 911 that have been rebored to fit the Ferrari’s 5×108 bolt pattern. Sometime in the car’s past, a previous owner chose this path to provide the car with 16″ wheels in order to fit more modern tires.

Etoile 455 wheel for Ferrari

One option would be to permanently spray paint the wheels or even powder coat them a gold color but these days there is a reversible alternative called dipping. the ‘dip’ is a flexible, air-cured rubber coating that can be sprayed on, left to cure, used and then peeled off when done. Think of it as a durable, temporary coloured coating for your wheels. Handily, it comes in an antique gold formulation to recreate the period gold colour of the magnesium racing wheels.

Plastidip Antique Gold

As with painting any wheel, it’s important to mask the conical wheel bolt clamping surfaces to avoid any possibility of bolts coming loose because the paint underneath them comes loose. You can buy specific masking plugs for this purpose… or you can use quarters; which works out a whole lot cheaper and quicker (here you can easily see the obvious off-center rebore from Porsche blank to Ferrari spec).

Masking wheel clamping surface

According to the instructions, the first step in applying the antique gold finish is to apply a dark grey undercoat. I don’t know if I got a bad batch, but mine did not go on very well. It was a bit lumpy and a bit frothy. As with any spray can, I found multiple thin coats got a better result than fewer heavy coats. This is contrary to the instructions on the can which call for a heavy wet coat.

Grey plastidip base

I masked the valve but did not mask the tyre. We will see why later. After four coats of the grey base coat, I started to apply the antique gold.

Ap[plying gold plastidip to Ferrari 308 wheels

The gold colour when on much more evenly than the grey coat which is what makes me think I got a bad batch of grey. After four coats of the gold, the finish was actually looking pretty good.

Ferrari 308 gold wheels

The colour is not bad but not quite yellow enough to match the exact shade of the old race wheels. The default finish is matt so since I wanted some shine, I added two coats of ‘glossifier’. Once everything was dry, the overspray on the tire can be removed. It’s perhaps simpler than you imagine…

Removing plastidip Ferrari 308

The rubber coating does not stick to the tyre because the tyre is somewhat slick. I thoroughly degreased the rim before I started. The rubber coating also does not span the gap between the rim and the tyre either. The result is the overspray simply peals off leaving a crisp line between the rim and tyre!

With the tyres cleaned up, redressed and the center caps refitted, the finished rims look surprisingly good.

Antique gold Ferrari 308 wheels

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