If you drive an old BMW like I do (15 years old to be exact), it’s likely that your factory BMW BBS wheels are in poor shape. Rarely do the original wheels survive a decade or more of daily driving and curb abuse. If you’re lucky, you may have a perfect condition unused spare in the trunk- which is where my idea came from.
I purchased a set of style 5 BBS RC090 wheels from a fellow BMW enthusiast, and they were in really rough shape. They had curb rash and poor paint, but they only cost $600 for the set of four. My plan was to send them to get restored at a shop called Renewed Finishes who had done great work for me in the past. The quote to restore the wheels was around $850 plus shipping both ways, which would put the restoration cost at over $1,000. Factoring in the original wheel cost, and we get to about $1,600 very quickly.
While checking tire air pressure one day I checked on the condition of the spare wheel, as one should do from time to time. The idea struck me to search for a set of original “trunk spares” from parts cars around the web to avoid having to deal with the restoration costs and shipping logistics. The spare wheel in my 2001 530i Sport is the 17” BBS style 42 two-piece wheel. It is in gorgeous, new condition and was never mounted to the car. I thought, if I could only find three more of these, I’d be ready for summer.
The reality of finding perfect trunk spares in a desirable German made factory BBS wheel is that it will take time, patience and careful research. The first wheel I found on eBay for $350 shipped from California from a parts warehouse. It was also flawless and was a great buy. The third wheel came from a forum member on Bimmerforums who was parting a 530i sport. It was also in flawless unused condition, and cost $300 shipped from Tennessee. Finally, wheel number four came from Kentucky at a cost of $254 shipped. The grand total invested was only $904 for a set of factory original, perfect BBS wheels.
That represents a savings of about $700 over having the other set of wheels restored. With that savings I will now be able to have a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires in 235/45/17 installed for that exact sum. For a spare wheel, I will use one of my winter wheels instead.
Let’s also note that both the E39 style 5 and style 42 BBS 17” wheels are both currently NLA. Some parts warehouses may have some new old stock, but the cost is likely to be around $500 per wheel, or $2000 for a full set.
Tips For Finding Perfect “New” Used BBS
- Patience. This process took me about 5 months of waiting for the right wheels to become available on the market.
- Ask the right questions to the seller. Make sure the wheel is a true trunk spare, not a used wheel that has been cleaned up. Used wheels may have bends- which will immediately eliminate your money saved by this process.
- Buy wheels from the South or from out West like California. These wheels are sensitive to corrosion from road salt, so ensure a perfect wheel and coating by not buying anything from New England.
- Look closely at the photos of the tire. It should be original and look brand new. That’s how you can tell the wheel has never been driven on, and gives you the best chances of buying a perfectly straight wheel.
Here are a few additional images of one of the BBS wheels I bought. The hardware is flawless and has beautiful machined surfaces. The clear coat is perfect, and the paint is clean.