Chairman’s lunch at Rimstock: wheely good

A delegation of Guild members braved the wind and rain to attend the first Chairman’s lunch event of 2019, writes Richard Aucock. Britain’s leading alloy wheel manufacturer, Rimstock in West Bromwich, West Midlands was founded in 1985 by Steve Neal, and his son Matt greeted Guild members for the tour. You may have heard of him: he has won the British Touring Car Championship three times (and driven in more than 600 BTCC races).

Now brand ambassador at Rimstock, Matt’s depth of technical knowledge made him the perfect person to lead Guild members around the Midlands site, which employs around 240 people and is the largest wheel manufacturer in the UK. His task during the tour? Teach us how an alloy wheel is made.

It turns out they are made in two ways. The first process we saw was cast alloy wheel manufacturing. This used to be the main activity of the business but, as Matt explained, it was decided to switch focus around a decade ago to premium forged wheels. Huge investment was made and, after a nail-biting period during the 2008 crash, 85 percent of Rimstock’s production today is ultra-lightweight forged wheels.

The forging process starts, literally, with a ‘log’ of raw aluminium, to which a rotary forge applies 250 tonnes of pressure, turning the log into a ‘flow-formable pancake’. It is round and roughly wheel-shaped; a flow forming machine then applies more pressure to shape this further into a true wheel blank.

Several more processes, using machines costing several millions of pounds, gradually hone and refine the alloy wheel into one fit to grace a supercar (and command a four-figure-per-corner price tag).

OEM partners include Aston Martin and Lotus, plus several more the firm can’t talk about. It also produces motorsport wheels – including the ones used in BTCC racing – and even makes a super-durable military-grade wheel.

Matt led Guild members during the entire tour, which took several hours, and explained in great detail how Rimstock developed and grew into Britain’s biggest high-end wheel manufacturer. He also shared a few tales from the racetrack: ahead of another season of BTCC racing, the passion clearly still burns strong.

Plans are now afoot to return to the Midlands, and visit Team Dynamics, Matt’s family racing team. “We’ll be sure to give your guests a few stories to take away from that, too.” Fancy it? Let us know…

Photos: Jeff Bloxham