For all Historic Sports & Racing Cars, including Lotus, Brabham & Cooper etc. All of our steering wheels are meticulously prepared and hand sewn in the traditional way by Agnese Davies. Agnese has established a worldwide reputation for providing the most correct detail in the leather covering of our steering wheels, in particular the natural raised flange stitching and skived joints, as featured on many of the early leather covered steering wheels.
It is an all too common sight these days to see beautifully restored historic cars, at events around the world, let down by one of the most essential details….the ‘Steering Wheel’ – a detail which, when we sit in the driving seat, is right in front of our eyes and which we immediately want to hold in our hands…. As drivers, we are essentially holding the car by the steering wheel and so this part of the car should, at the very minimum, mirror the quality and style of the car as it was in period. The diameter of the rim grip is very important, but most mass-produced steering wheels are made these days with a grip diameter that is far too thick and ruins the otherwise subtle appearance of the historic cockpit. We have developed seven different rubber grip extrusions, single and twin systems, to enable us to achieve the perfect result for every vehicle in all periods. We have also paid particular attention to frame profiles following extensive research based largely on original period publications and data, factory drawings and confirmed historical photographs.
The type of stitch work is also of great importance if one wishes to have a period correct product, many vehicles such as the early Lotus cars, Lister and Cooper cars for example had steering wheels which were made by V. W. Derrington Ltd and during the 1950’s these steering wheels, in the main, had ‘raised flange stitching’ (we use the abbreviation RFS when referring to this feature). This process requires time, accuracy and a consistently high level of skill to achieve a fine result. For this we select soft Italian leather, cut along the length of the skin, which is skived out at both ends down to the epidermis which itself is further feathered to create a flush and almost unnoticeable joint. The leather is then hot soaked for a specific time prior to being stretched over the wheel frame and sewn into position using the correct natural (off white) waterproof thread. The leather is gathered up into an oversized flange on the inside of the wheel frame, creating the foundation of the unique raised flange. The surplus leather is later carefully cut off close to the stitching with specially developed tooling to produce a uniform edge leading into each side of the spokes. This edge is finally hot ironed and natural wax sealed leaving a perfect edge finish.
If you have any specific requirements then please do feel free to contact us. Prices from £168+VAT
The wheels illustrated below to fit the following car makes, are just a small selection of the many wheels which we manufacture here in England, please do ask about your specific requirements:
Austin Healey (Donald Healey Motor Co)
Brabham BT2 thru BT60
V W Derrington Design
Jaguar E Type
The ‘Springall’ Lotus Seven steering wheel was first introduced to the Lotus Super Seven Series 1 models and officially on show to the public on the 2nd September 1959 at the International Handicrafts and DIY exhibition at Olympia in London. This wheel differed from the steering wheels used for the Lotus XI cars, which were originally 15″ in diameter and made by V W Derrington. These leather covered Lotus Seven wheels were now produced by Springall and were only 14″ in diameter, the rim grip diameter remaining the same as for the Lotus XI and still having the raised flange stitching but with a little less material extending onto the aluminium spokes, forming what was effectively an integral spoke-guard. From around 1960, the Springall Lotus Seven wheel changed subtly in design again, the leather was from here on a lighter shade of red and no longer extended onto the spokes, in addition the wheel frame had a centre hole machined into it for the standard fitment of the production centre badge. It is not clear why Lotus made a switch from V W Derrington to Springall, but one must assume that cost was the driving factor. It is of course very likely that some of the 15″ V W Derrington wheels from the Lotus XI’s were used on some very early Seven’s, these, along with the very first Springall Lotus Seven wheels were installed without a centre badge as standard, the usual array of 6 countersunk screws being visible in this case, as on the Lotus XI’s. The top photograph below shows the Pre-Springall Lotus Seven S1 steering wheel, the Springall S1 is similar (not shown) and the one below shows the Springall Lotus Super Seven S2 wheel with the centre hole and badge fitted. We manufacture and stock all three types.
For many years, nearly every Lotus 23 has been retro-fitted with the wrong style of steering wheel, in fact having carried out extensive research, we couldn’t even find one car fitted with the correct wheel and certainly we have yet to witness a 23 which retains its original steering wheel. There have of course been numerous Lotus 23 copies since 1963 and this has most probably added to the confusion over correctness of detail in this particular case. Sadly, many cars have ended up having 11” diameter wheels fitted to them, coupled with the much later 1-1/8” rim grip which looks totally out of proportion and in most cases ruins what might otherwise have been a period looking cockpit. These later ‘chunky’ style wheels only came into use in later cars, well into the 1970’s and were correct on some of the later Brabham cars and on race machinery that had adopted the ‘Intertech’ wheels. Of course such steering wheel styles look fine on later racing cars, but they have no place amongst cars which were built in the 1960’s.
Springall steering wheels were of course OEM for the Lotus 23 and the wheels which we produce for this model are totally correct and carry the Springall brand. They are only a little smaller than the Lotus Seven steering wheels at 13” in diameter but the rim grip dimensions are different, measuring 15/16” deep by 7/8” tall and they no longer have the raised-flange natural colour stitching. The frame is of the usual configuration as is common to most Lotus models and the brighter red leather is of the same high quality.
Evidence suggests that a few early Lotus 23 cars were fitted with Lotus 7 S2 steering wheels and therefore did not have spoke-guards but it is clear that the majority of subsequent production cars which left the factory had non-cushioned guards fitted to the steering wheels. The Lotus 23 was indeed the first Lotus to have a steering wheel which featured spoke-guards. Prior to the Lotus 23 none of the Lotus cars had this feature. With the exception of R1 & R2, the Lotus25 was the next car to be fitted with a Springall steering wheel fitted with spoke-guards and the 33 and 49 followed in the same vein, although these were of the cushioned type, with small foam mouldings beneath the leather. Many of the early spoke-guards were not secured adequately and came loose, once this happened they were usually all removed due to the distraction they no doubt caused. There is an excellent cockpit photograph from a 1965 SCCA meeting highlighting this problem on chassis 23–S-82 driven by Ken Leith, indeed this is one of a very few period photographs which depicts the original Lotus 23 steering wheel.
All production Lotus 23 cars had the centre hole in the steering wheel frame and would have been fitted with the factory Lotus Badge, the same badge as was fitted to the Lotus Elite. Our wheels can be supplied with or without the mounting hole drillings, we also manufacture and stock the correct aluminium boss.
Lotus 33 & 49
Lotus Tulip Steering Wheel Boss
Lotus Cortina Mk1 Springall
Lotus Elan 26R Competition
Springall where the original equipment manufacturer of the Lotus Elan 26R Steering wheel and we have continued that tradition today under the same brand name. Our steering wheel is not to be confused with similar copies which are know to be available.
Our finely crafted wheels are not made to be better in any way, but simply just as they were when originally supplied to Lotus. This Springall 26R wheel is correct in every detail. Unlike numerous copies, our wheel has the correct, irregular 7 hole bolt pattern and these are drilled on the original PCD which means that if you are lucky enough to have an original boss, then the wheel frame will fit directly on to it. The bolt hole array also has the correct configuration, starting at the 12 o’clock position and the corresponding horn push brush (horn pencil) hole is also in the original position in relation to these drilling so that the Lucas horn push fits as it should. The frame is manufactured from the original thickness aircraft spec. material and the wheel is supplied with the boss and the horn push/badge retainer ring. We use the same high quality type of leather as was used in the 1960’s which is slightly thicker than the material used by most others and the leather has virtually no grain or texture – exactly as per original, with that characteristic satin sheen, instead of the contemporary dull finished leather which one would associate more with more modern production cars. The rim grip is also manufactured to exacting specifications in the traditional way, so as to avoid the clumsy appearance so often created by other steering wheel makers who continue to generate an inappropriate rim grip diameter, a feature which ruins the aesthetic appeal and character of a vintage steering wheel. We offer the wheel in the original diameter but are happy to produce a smaller version if required for serious competition driving We also supply the same wheel with an FIA quick release boss using the same unique 7 bolt hole pattern. Current Price including the factory type boss and badge retainer ring is £325+VAT
Lotus Elite MK14
In addition to the production wood-rim wheels, Springall also manufactured a leather rimmed version in the same style in period. It was only 14 inches in diameter compared to the 15 and 16 inch diameter of the wood-rim wheel and was very popular amongst sporting road and competition drivers alike. The wheel is very light and yet much stronger than its wooden variant with a desirable amount of flexibility which is attributed to the one piece H15 aerospace alloy frame.
We manufacture this wheel to exacting standards along with the cross-pinned boss which has the correct 6 hole PCD drillings, however the cross pin holes are not applied so that they can be matched on assembly. The steering wheel can be supplied with or without the boss. Both items are illustrated in the photographs directly below this information.
We are currently working on the development of the wood-rim wheels to fit the Lotus Elite under the original Springall branding and we anticipate completion of the first batch of these very soon now, however, due to a strong demand for these please contact us to reserve one in advance to avoid delivery delays.
Mini Mk1 Cooper & Cooper S
This fabulous wheel is manufactured by us under the brand name ‘Springall’ , a registered Trademark. The Wheel is the same as was used by many road and race enthusiasts in the early 1960’s, indeed some ‘Works’ rally and competition Mini Cooper S Mk1 cars used the very same wheel. It is leather covered and is supplied complete with the unique black finished aluminium boss and polished aluminium horn push retaining ring, enabling the wheel to be attached directly to the original Mini steering column in the usual manner, without disturbing the originality and authenticity of the vehicle. Few original leather covered Springall wheels in this style have survived, as these were mostly sold for use in competition cars, selected for their additional strength and safety in the competition environment. We are fortunate to have been commissioned to restore two original wheels and with the permission of our clients we have taken full advantage of the technical features enabling us to reverse engineer the steering wheel and boss assembly to exacting standards, the imperial frame thickness and grip diameter are totally correct and the Soft Italian Leather is sewn over the grip with the same type of stitching pattern that was adopted for this wheel in the 1960’s. The original horn push and badge can be fitted or we can supply a complete new horn push and badge assembly at an additional cost. Current price for the assembled wheel and boss is £360+VAT & Carriage
We manufacture, to special order, the lightweight Momo style steering wheels, as originally made availably by Porsche as a competition option for the Porsche 911 models between 1964 and 1977 , including the competition Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera RS models. The soft Italian leather is of the same high quality with a hand skived radial joint, correctly located to the left of the vertical spoke and the correct ‘flattened’ raised flange stitch, again hand prepared and sewn in the traditional way and hot wax sealed. The frame is flat, not dished, as per the original specification to ensure maximum strength and again manufactured in one piece from high tensile aerospace aluminium alloy. As always, care has been taken to ensure that the grip diameter is correct, a feature which for some time has been overlooked by other steering wheel manufacturers. This vintage style of wheel is 370mm in diameter and is only supplied with the black finished spokes as per the original specification. The specially shaped, cushioned spoke guards are also of the correct design and therefore applied only to upper two spokes.
It should be noted that the stitching is black and not the contrasting natural or white stitching which is often incorrectly used on similar reproduction wheels, such examples are also lacking some of the fundamental correctness in detail, such as this and the absence of the unique ‘five-point’ square stitching arrangement on the reverse of the spoke guards. Sadly even the Momo branded items which are available appear to lack these vital details, These issues, combined with repeated client requests, are why we have chosen to add this particular steering wheel to our bespoke manufacturing program.
In addition we are currently developing the special cast boss assembly, which for many years has been unavailable and we anticipate that this will be available by the autumn of 2017. These superb boss assemblies will be manufactured to exacting standards and will be virtually indistinguishable from the originals and will fit all early Porsche 911 cars.
Most of the steering wheels featured in this page are ‘Springall’ steering wheels; Springall is a Registered Trade Mark, a brand name which is owned by our company and our continuation wheels are manufactured to original specifications for all of the cars for which they were originally intended. In the early 1960’s Springall was an original equipment supplier to BMC and their competitions Department, Brabham – MDR (Motor Racing Developments), the Cooper Car Company, Ginetta, Lotus, Nike, Tecno, Alan Mann Racing, Lola Cars, to name just a few…in addition they made many steering wheels for other vehicle makes including the Jaguar D type and the later Jaguar E type, often leather covered as a preference, particularly for racing drivers of the time who found the leather covering more comfortable and having the obvious safety benefits.
Famous racing drivers of the day such as John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Jochen Rindt and Dan Gurney all sat behind the famous Springall steering wheel, even Jim Clark used a Springall wheel when he won the world championship for the second time around!
The original Company under John Springall dated back to 1957, it was around this time that Connaught Engineering approached John to manufacture a steering wheel for one of their racing cars and although a contract was not established between the two parties, John saw that there was a clear market for a bespoke and aftermarket steering wheel manufacturing business. Initially, the only competition was from Victor Derrington of V W Derrington Ltd, though steering wheels alone were by no means Derrington’s main product line and it was not until the early to mid 1960’s that Simon Green’s ‘Motolita’ business became known to John, however, this was of little significance to him because the Springall company had already established itself as a major OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) steering wheel manufacturer, which was to remain the case for more that a decade.
Manufacturing of aftermarket steering wheels by the original company using the Springall brand continued well into the 1980’s and the use of the brand name taken forward from 1988 by Spridgecentre of Upton St. Leonards, Gloucestershire. Since that time, the constant growing demand for steering wheels for the classic and historic race car industry has seen manufacturing grow stronger year by year. Today, our Springall steering wheels are manufactured to exacting standards with careful attention to detail as it was back in the 50’s and 60’s – not improved, not altered – but just as they were originally made and it is this key factor which has bought growth and continued success to this sector of our company and the Springall brand.
The file here has been taken from the ‘Auto Accessory Retailer’ publication, dated June 1982 and will no doubt be an interesting read for may enthusiasts and historians alike.
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