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Why people love vintage 370mm steering wheels

Much sought after vintage Momo 370mm steering wheels

Of course, it’s always a matter of taste whether I like it bigger, higher, wider or smaller, more compact and handier. That goes for pretty much everything, by the way. Houses, boats, cars and also steering wheels. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to perhaps use a slightly larger steering wheel. At least in vintage cars. And there must be a reason too, why most of these cars came with a bus driver style steering wheel.

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I am often asked why the exact same 370mm steering wheel is more expensive than the 350mm model. And is it because of the bit more material that was used in the manufacture? Well, it was made a long time ago, several decades, and what might have been true then is meaningless now. But, something else seems to have much more importance: originality, matching interior and period correctness. In particular, nothing has changed on these points; on the contrary, they have even gained in importance. How else could it be explained that many car enthusiasts are looking for exactly these things: a sports steering wheel that visually matches the interior, dates from the time of the vehicle and preferably is a little larger.

Slightly larger, which usually means larger than the usual 350mm, preferably 370mm, sometimes more. Many original steering wheels were larger, 380mm, 390mm, reminiscent of the yellow school buses with their huge steering wheels and bus drivers who were always in a good mood. At least that’s how it was in my memory. Those huge steering wheels were swapped out a lot, there was a time in the 1980s when “the smaller the better” mattered, but no one really knew why. 320mm, sometimes even 300mm steering wheels, which were actually only suitable for driving straight ahead. In any case, it was true – something smaller is sportier – which should be right. But not tiny. I would like to use a few examples in order to outline the reasons why vintage 370mm sports steering wheels are so much sought after.

Power steering & tire size

Well, on the one hand, it’s a purely technical question that can also be answered with convenience. Vintage cars don’t usually have power steering, at least not what I would call vintage cars. Of course that changes over the years, for some people cars from the 1990s are vintage cars. Anyway, the ones I’m talking about here don’t have power steering yet. And anyone who has ever driven such a vehicle knows it very well. Driving straight ahead is great, slight curves on the highway are no problem, turning at 90-degree intersections is also possible if you roll quickly enough. But driving into a parking space while standing or maneuvering in the garage makes it more difficult. Especially if you have installed a very small steering wheel. Then considerably more force has to be used than with a slightly larger steering wheel.

And larger tires stay in motion better, which makes steering easier. But the width of the tires also plays a decisive role. The wider, the more contact surface that has to be overcome when parking. A slightly larger steering wheel seems a bit easier and handier. But of course the steering movement always increases when the steering wheel is larger.

Weight distribution

What does the weight have to do with the steering wheel? Well, very simple. The weight that is on the steering axle determines whether it is easy or difficult to steer the car. A large, heavy engine in the front, maybe a V8 with a heavy gearbox and front-wheel drive, that not only sounds like a lot of work, it is. Engine and gearbox in the back, just a tank in the front, like a Porsche 911, that feels much lighter and steering is a breeze.

On my BMW 2002, a 350mm compared to a 370mm steering wheel doesn’t make much of a difference visually, but in terms of the way it is steered, it makes a big difference. When I bought the 2002 it had a 350mm Momo sports steering wheel fitted. The engine is in the front, so the entire weight is on the steering axle, which makes it much more difficult to steer. I immediately bolted a 370 mm Momo steering wheel onto the Momo hub, which made it much easier. I would say it’s like night and day difference. Many BMW lovers swear by the Petri sports steering wheel, which looks great with the 2002. But that too comes in 350mm and 380mm (even bigger in 400mm, but that’s more the right size for the E9). Here, too, the 350mm is too small, even if it looks good. But the steering effort is just too high, with the 380mm Petri sports steering wheel everything fits perfectly. The same applies to the BMW E9 already mentioned.

In addition, the 350mm steering wheels in the BMW coupe just look too small, completely lost in the somewhat larger and more luxurious vehicle. At least a 370mm sports steering wheel has to be in here, technically anyway, but also optically. Or the Petri sports steering wheel in 380mm or 400mm.

Gauge visibility

For some, another factor is important or even decisive, the 911 drivers know immediately what I mean. The original steering wheel is huge, maybe way too big, but the dashboard and the gauges were also measured by it. A small, or shall we say smaller, steering wheel often hides important gauges. And if you want to keep an eye on everything, you just have to use a larger steering wheel.

I am again talking about the older 911 models, before the introduction of power steering, there is a completely different aspect. Naturally, the engine sits at the rear and there is not too much weight on the front axle, which considerably reduces the steering effort required on the front axle. This can be done well with a 350mm Momo, for example a Prototipo. Viewed only from this perspective, a 350mm sports steering wheel is sufficient with some existing, trained muscle power. But, here too, a 370mm steering wheel is of course more comfortable – and – almost more importantly – the instruments are much easier to read. The 350mm steering wheel only covers a little of the rev counter, but a lot of the speedometer. The oil temperature and oil pressure gauges may not need to be fully visible all the time, but the speedometer does. And this is exactly what is much more visible with 370mm sports steering wheels. The main reason for me to install a 370mm sports steering wheel in my Porsche 911.

One might argue – come on, 2,5 cm or 1 inch, that doesn’t make a difference. But in fact, it does. This small piece changes the circumference of the steering wheel by 7.85 cm or about 3 inches.

STEERING WHEELS FOR SALE > 370 MM

STEERING WHEELS FOR SALE > 370 MM

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