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I wanted to get a set of chrome C6 Z06 reproduction wheels for my 2003 Coupe. I needed 17x8.5 and 18x9.5 so that I could keep my existing tires. OE Wheels was recommended to me, but they didn't have 17x8.5 wheels in a style that I liked. The only vendor I could find that had C6 Z06 wheels in 17x8.5 and 18x9.5 was Factory Reproductions. I ordered two 17x8.5 (+56mm offset) and two 18x9.5 (+57mm offset) from Mid America Motorworks and in 9 days the wheels arrived.

Great I thought - these wheels look really nice - but then I noticed the label on the shipping box that said the fronts had +49mm offset and the rears +50mm offset. The stock wheels on the 2003 have +58mm offset on the fronts and +65mm offset on the rears. That means using the wheels I was shipped each rear tire would stick out 15mm (that's about 0.6 inches) further than stock. I was assured by both Mid America and Factory Reproductions that the wheels I received with the +49mm and +50mm offsets would work OK on my car. I wasn't much impressed with their assurances given that it would be my car (not theirs) that had the rear wheels sticking out 0.6 inches more than stock. And, it really irritated me that they didn't tell me that they could not deliver what was ordered and ask me if it would be OK to substitute the +49mm and +50mm offset wheels. Someone, probably at Factory Reproductions, made the decision to ship the wrong offset wheels (since they didn't have the offset I ordered) and I suppose assumed I would not notice.

So I returned the wheels. Mid America refunded the cost of the wheels but not the $50 shipping fee. I spent many weeks trying to get someone at Mid America to refund the $50 shipping charge. I called and was assured multiple times that they would "take care of it" and refund the $50 shipping fee. But the refund was never applied. Finally I was on a trip on I-70 through Illinois and I stopped by Mid America to deal with them in person. I was directed to the Mid America store/museum. Within 15 minutes my $50 refund was processed. I give Mid America a "C" grade for this purchase because they (or Factory Reproductions) knowingly shipped the wrong offsets without informing me, and then it was a major hassle to get the $50 shipping fee out of Mid America. In fairness to Mid America, I have successfully placed other orders with them without a problem.

Bob at House of Wheels was able to supply the Factory Reproductions wheels I wanted, so I ordered them from him, and 5 days later I had the correct wheels (and saved $86).



When the wheels from House of Wheels arrived one of them had the black discoloration shown above in the chrome of the barrel of the wheel. Unfortunately, the blemish was located where it was easy to see. I was told that wheels are not replaced due to chrome blemishes in the barrel of the wheel, and it was suggested that I buy some chrome colored paint and paint over the blemish.



I wasn't a happy camper, but I sprayed over the blemish with some chrome colored paint and afterwards the blemish was not noticeable. Great I thought, now as long as that chrome paint doesn't peel off I'm good - well, not really.

I took the Vette to a power car wash to blast off the brake dust that had accumulated on the wheels. As I sprayed the barrel of one wheel I noticed something odd, and on closer inspection discovered that the chrome in the barrel was peeling back like a scroll, as shown in the picture below.



The "peeling chrome" wheel was returned to Factory Reproductions and they shipped out a replacement. They paid shipping in both directions and also reimbursed me for the cost of mounting and balancing - that was good. What's less encouraging is that I got one wheel with an obviously visible blemish they would not replace, and another wheel with chrome plating in the barrel so defective that it peeled off.

At that point I decided that the chrome in the barrel of the wheel, at least on Factory Reproductons C6 Z06 wheels, is likely to be a point of failure in the future, so I started looking into painting the barrels to protect the chrome.

I read that GM paints the barrels of their chrome Corvette wheels in order to avoid problems with water and brake dust soaking into the porous chrome and causing the top chromium layer to detach. I've read that brake dust is corrosive, at least the stock 2003 brake pads produce corrosive dust I'm told.

So I replaced my stock brake pads with ceramic brake pads. This has resulted in a lot less brake dust, the brake dust is lighter colored, and I've read that the ceramic dust is not corrosive.

I sanded and painted the barrels of the wheels using a satin black urethane paint kit from KBS Coatings. This thread describes painting the barrels.

You might think that wheels with black painted barrels would look a lot different than wheels with chrome barrels. But there is really not that much visual difference. On my car at least, the chrome wheel barrels reflected the black wheel well liner, so most of the time the non-painted wheels appeared to have black barrels.



Here is a picture of a wheel getting a coat of paint. I ended up applying 6 thin coats of paint.



A completed paint job.



Factory Reproductions C6 Z06 wheels with black painted barrels.



Now as long as the paint doesn't peel off the chrome barrels, and the chrome on the face of the wheels stays good, hopefully I'm good-to-go as far as my chrome wheels are concerned. The center caps shown above are not the ones that came with the wheels - I bought those GM C5 center caps on eBay.
 
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