When I saw this advertisement in a 1986 Parts Catalog, I thought it was one of the most beautiful wheel ads ever. A visually striking aero wheel, splashing water, the bb Auto brand that was always a bit of a mystery… and some of the most difficult to translate/poetic Japanese I have ever read.
My liberal translation reads…
Differentiate the moment.
It subdues all.
It makes anything fascinating.
It is a beauty you fall in love with, and the car steals your soul.
Go, Turn, Stop.
bb wheels accentuate every moment with the car.
When the two arrows slowly turn, the beautiful design and rotating look takes people’s breath away. The wheels quiet, hidden power is awoken. Aero fins draw a radial arch, pulling air away from the body. Brake cooling & aerodynamics improvement, show extremely good performance. Furthermore, a lean, athletic design offers compatibility with both rigidity and light weight.
Tremendous function is hiding behind the beauty all the time, reticent, as it should be. As great as the beauty is, we miss that the function is a greater beauty on its own.
Beauty is certainly a subjective term… and eighties standards of beauty don’t necessarily apply anymore, but the bb wheels have a unique simplicity that makes them highly sought after today. “bb” also sometimes known as Buchmann’s, was a German coach-builder/tuner that started operation in 1974, and did all sorts of really awesome stuff before formally closing up shop in 1986.
Really awesome stuff?
How about putting a Porsche 928 front end on a 930? Yes that’s cool… especially since no one had put an Odyssey front end on an S13 by that time.
“bb” was more than cosmetics though. They specialized in adding luxury and performance to German cars. Things like back seat refrigerators, and telephones in the dash. They were also, notably, probably the first to engineer keyless entry, and electronic steering wheel controls: two great things that “bb” gave basically every car owner today.
And to you and me, Mr. Buchmann gave the “bb” aero wheel. Or is it the arrow wheel?
In Japanese catalogs, the wheel generally appears simply as the “bb Auto bb” or the “Buchmann’s bb”. There is no mention of the word “arrow.” If you want people in English to know what you are talking about however, you best call them “bb Arrow” wheels, as that seems to be what they are best known as.
By my records, 1986 is the year they appeared in Japan, and that is a bit surprising since 1986 is also the year that “bb” in Germany closed it’s doors. If the German “bb Auto” was no longer operating, I’m a bit confused about what bb Auto in Tokyo was doing in 1986 and beyond. Perhaps Mr. Buchmann saw the power of the Japanese Wheel League and wanted so badly to be a member that he gave up on Porsche, luxury, and actual automotive inventions to pursue wheel heroism.
The wheel though, or one of similar design, did come equipped on the bb Porsche Targa Turbo White 8 years earlier in 1978, and some source say the design itself was on the table in 1974 when brothers Rainer and Dieter Buchmann launched the company. The ‘bb’ may very well be the very first single element asymmetrical aero wheel. It wasn’t until 1975 even, when aero covers began life in racing, fit to cars like the Group 5 Porsche 935.
The origin earliest productions of these wheels is unknown, but from 1986 to at least 1988, the wheels were manufactured in Japan, and came with the critical JWL and VIA certifications. They were however, sadly not available in the 16 9J and 16 10J sizes that the bb Turbo Targa White wore in 1978. 6.5J is the max, though they did come in relatively large for the time diameters of 16 inch, and with a good variety of PCD… although not the Porsche friendly 5H PCD130.
It’s a mystery as to who did the actual casting, but it doesn’t seem like it was any of the major Japanese players. If I’ve seen an inspection sticker like this before on another wheel, I can’t remember it.
In terms of construction, the wheels are also unique in that the arrows on the wheel face are removable, each being secured by two studs that fit through the aluminum face and secured by a nut behind. Thanks to Jason for sending in these pics.
Given its history, and seemingly very limited production the “bb” is a premium find today. Perhaps because of the brands association with German cars, the bb wheel seems to be more common in Europe or North America, than it is in Japan where I would place it in the ultra-rare category.