There’s more to the name COR Wheels than you know
Story | Phillip Pratt
Photos | Phillip Pratt & Gerry Burke
Have you ever picked up a car magazine and found yourself staring at the finished product of someone’s blood, sweat, tears, and money? Letting the finely crafted lines of the metal beast just envelope your every thought? Of course, you have, we’ve all been there. Heck, we probably frequent there more than we do our jobs (which isn’t a good thing if you want to build one yourself…). A lot of work goes into completing a project, some would say it’s never really “done”. One of the biggest components of such a build is the rolling stock that’s chosen for it. The size, width, offset, color, style, and even the number of spokes; it all matters. It can make or break any set up, and not just in terms of looks, but how the car responds and even moves down the street or track.
With that said, how often have you paused for a moment and thought about where and how on earth these are made? The time that’s put into CAD designing it, choosing materials, and testing stress levels. So much more goes into making a set of wheels beyond choosing the color and size. For partners Christopher Robles and Robert Herrera at COR Wheels in Miami, Florida, the process has been ongoing for more than 20 years. Starting their careers with notable wheel companies such as AVUS Wheels and OZ Racing, Chris and Robert took their experience and passion and created COR Wheels. The name COR came from a collaboration of their two minds as they tried to figure out what described them best as a brand.
From a machining standpoint, the term “core” refers to the center of rotation, but that’s not exactly where it came from “We were always at the center of other wheel companies we worked for in the past, that we helped build” Chris remembers. “We went through a series of horrible names, but we kept coming back to say that we were always at the core of things. That’s when we looked at each other and agreed on ‘core’”. Of course, that got shorted to simply ‘COR’ before everything was finalized. They wanted a streamlined approach to their brand and that’s also how they decided on their logo. The three hexagons; “its car related because it looks like a lug nut or tire tread pattern. It’s really dynamic, taking a wheel and adding sharp edges, kind of like what we did here [at COR Wheels]”.
As for the product itself, COR only deals with the best quality available which is ‘forged product’. What exactly is forged product, you ask? Well, to understand that we need to go into the other type which is ‘casting’. This process is similar to baking a cake, but instead of pouring cool batter into pan or tin, we’re talking about molten aluminum! With this process comes imperfections and impurities within the mold including air pockets which can lead to breaks and cracks. There are different methods and levels/grades of castings but in general, this is the least expensive way of making a wheel and is generally considered a second-rate product. Might want to look into how your wheels were made.
The forged product starts with something that is akin to what in Christopher’s words, looks like a giant hockey puck. To be exact, a T6061 aluminum disk with a 9-inch diameter and a 7 to 8-inch rise (size depending on the size of the wheel being made). The disk is heated and taken to a forging press where pressures around 25000 tons are applied to it. The process can be painstakingly complex. To give you an idea of just how much goes into something like this, there are only four foundries in the US that can do this and of those four, only three actually produce these products for wheel manufacturing. All companies that work from a forged product get their material from a handful of suppliers. The difference in the product is the amount R&D that’s put in by each company.
Once that process is complete the forgings are transported. From this point on, all work is done in-house by the skilled hands at COR Wheels. The forgings are then heat treated, this process gives the wheel its tensile strength. It’s what makes them strong enough to hold the weight of a car. Once it’s sufficiently protected against bending and deflection, the wheel, is placed into a CNC mill, weighing in at about 60 to 70 pounds. By the time the excess material is finished being cut away, and the wheel is somewhat resembling its final form, it weighs closer to 19 or 20 pounds!
Having four machines in-house, the crew at COR can run on a twenty-four-hour basis, if necessary. This kind of productivity isn’t just for their line of awesome wheels but many around the country and in some instances, the world. “We pioneered private-label manufacturing…” Christopher reflects. “Any real wheel brand that is manufactured in South Florida, we had something to do with that company at some point.”
Once finished on the CNC machines, the wheels are then taken to the second of their two facilities for the final touches; hand-brushing, painting, baking, and in the case of multi-piece wheels, assembling. Christopher, by his own admission, is a car enthusiast and wants to put out a good product that enhances whatever it’s bolted onto. “I love making something cool looking, look even better, unique or personalized. I also think there’s a very fine balance between making it look good and overdoing it”. An approach he doesn’t just institute for himself and his personal projects, but for COR itself.
“My favorite part of working in the wheel industry is when I see a young person driven by their passion for cars, that may not necessarily have the means to afford a set of quality wheels, work hard and sacrifice themselves in order to see our wheels on their car. It’s very humbling to know that our product can create such drive as well as make someone fall in love with their car simply by adding COR Wheels.”