One of the biggest finishing touches for most WWII Jeep restorations is the installation of combat rims. While the initial 20,000 Jeeps rolled out on solid rims, all of the Jeeps thereafter, had “combat rims.” The Kelsey Hayes Wheel Company made these rims for the duration of the war.
Developed in 1941, the idea of a combat rim was that in a combat situation, any GI could quickly remove a tire from a rim just by deflating the tire and unbolting eight bolts. A metal band called a “beadlock” was also added. This acted as a sort of “run flat,” allowing a Jeep with a punctured tire to run for an additional 40+ miles.
It is difficult to find original combat rims in good shape that are safe enough to use. Prices for good, usable, and restorable combat rims have skyrocketed in the last few years. That, coupled with the questionable safety of 75+ year old rims has seen many restorers turn to modern reproductions.
Many of the vendors advertised in this magazine sell reproduction combat rims that are pretty much indistinguishable from the originals.
This article will utilize modern reproduction combat rims to demonstrate how to safely mount tires. However, if you are fortunate enough to find restorable, original combat rims that are safe to use, the same steps apply.
BEFORE WE BEGIN WORK ON OUR RIMS AND TIRES
One part of a combat rim that hasn’t been carried forward to the modern era are the beadlocks. These metal bands protect the inner tube of the tire from being pinched between the two halves of the rim and, as mentioned, lock the beads of the tire in place. Therefore, when the tire goes flat, the tire itself will not slip off the combat rim, thus allowing occupants to still drive.
But, since we don’t have Panzer tanks breathing down our necks anymore, beadlocks are no longer necessary. As a result, no one has reproduced them.
Originals are often rusted and in bad shape, causing restorers to cut them off. It is still vitally important, however, to make sure the tube does not get pinched by the rim, so today we use a “flap” — essentially a rubber version of the beadlock.
So, now that we’re caught up on combat rims, let’s say you have a brand-new reproduction set of rims delivered along with new 6.00x16 tires, tubes, and flaps. How do you put them all together?
Installing tires onto combat rims might seem like a bit of a daunting task, but it’s quite easy. But, if you follow these illustrated steps, you’ll have five (don’t forget the spare!) combat rims ready to mount on your Jeep!
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