Over the last century, the Cragar® brand has established significance for auto enthusiasts through its key milestones in history, high-quality performance, and unique custom appearance.
The Cragar Timeline
- In 1923, George Wight established an auto shop by the name of Bell Auto Parts in the small California town that Richter was born and raised. Racers began finding the speed parts they needed on the shelves of Bell Auto Parts, and before he knew it, racing fueled Wight’s business.
- A young Roy Richter was hungry for speed and eager to become more involved in the automotive industry; Bell Auto Parts became his after school hangout.
George Wight was in need of help around his succeeding shop, so Richter began shadowing him; he gained years of experience working late nights at Bell, and eventually earned a highly respected reputation by both George Wight and his co-workers.
- In 1930, a company that would grow to be an enormous part of Roy Richter’s life, was founded by a man named Crane Gartz; Cragar® Corporation. The Cragar® name was established by combining the first three letters in Crane Gartz’s first and last name. After two years of watching the company thrive, George Wight made an offer to Gartz for Cragar patters and fixtures, and by 1933 he could call the company solely his own.
- Richter purchased Bell Auto Parts in 1945 when George Wight unexpectedly passed away. Ten years later in 1955, he also secured Cragar® Corporation, which became known as Cragar Equipment Company. In 1956, Bell’s sales were at an ultimate high, however, Richter was determined to fulfill racers needs for extra protection. Initially used for motorcycle racing, he constructed the Bell STAR helmet and established an additional business, Bell Helmet Company.
- By 1964, the sport of drag racing grew immensely popular and racers needed more support for their vehicles to keep up with competitors. After years of hard work and endless dedication to their products, Roy Richter and his team were so confident in their manufacturing capabilities that they decided to make a custom wheel of their own. Cragar Equipment Company remained extremely popular because custom wheels were very rare and had not been previously constructed before. With the use of proper design and the addition of stronger spokes, this new wheel presented major advances in manufacturing techniques. Specifically designed for high speeds and extreme impact, the Cragar Super Sport (S/S) wheel contained a chrome plated steel rim and an aluminum center. Each wheel had five strong clips, one for each spoke was cast into the center, and each clip was connected to a steel rim. Cragar’s S/S wheel was unlike anything the public had ever seen before, proving to be twice as strong as a standard wheel. Hundreds of car enthusiasts, drag racers, and sport car racers poured into Richter’s shop to get their own set of Cragar® S/S wheels. In 1965, these custom wheels made its mark in drag racing associations such as the National Hot Rodding Association, The International Hot Rodding Association, and the American Hot Rodding Association. Roy Richter turned drag racers into champions, and during the 70’s, more cars were equipped with his Cragar® S/S wheels than any other brand.
- Cragar® continued to introduce several new products throughout the 70’s including all-steel wheels, one and two piece aluminum wheel applications, and slotted disc wheel applications.
- On Oct. 23rd, 1970, Cragar became the world’s fastest wheels when Gary Gabelich’s rocket engine powered Blue Flame outfitted with specially designed Cragar® wheels topped 622.407 miles per hour.
- In 1971, Wynn Oil Company purchased both Cragar Equipment Company and Bell Helmet Company, appointing Richter the President of both.
- Cragar® became an everyday name among drag racing and streetcar fans, and in 1972, the Cragar® Five Second Club was established by a series of performance clubs. The Five Second Club made up of the first sixteen drivers to dip below the six-second elapsed time mark. Tommy Ivo became the first member of this elite club.
- Richter received the 1972 ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ award from an all-star drag racing poll for exceeding drag racing and streetcar fans expectations, surpassing industry standards, and leading several racers to championship titles. Additionally, he was also an outstanding performer himself; he expanded the Cragar® industry, introduced accessory Bell products, fabricated Bell Auto Parts into a top sales business, and was elected President of the Speed Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (SEMA).
- In 1975 Cragar® founds new Five-Second Club for the ‘Funny Car’ drivers running the 1/4 mile in under five seconds. Don Prudhomme becomes the first member of the ‘Funny Car’ Five-Second Club.
- On January 15th, 1978, Roy Richter announced his retirement and would pass away in 1983. His legacy and the Cragar® brand continue to flourish.
A Modern Cragar®
Cragar® wheels are a tradition of style, performance, quality, and development, all of which have led to expansions in wheel design and manufacture. Many of the key milestones that have created a lasting impact on the Cragar® culture are strictly defined by the elegant appearance of the wheels and high-quality performance. Not only is Cragar® known for its unique make and incredible speed support, but its distinct style and characteristics allow its wheels to stand out against competitors. Cragar’s iconic appearance, rooted with its elegant hubcaps and chrome plated wheels, abides to modern production today.
Since Richter’s passing, Cragar® has licensed with several other companies including Performance Wheel Outlet, Carlisle Tire and Wheel Co., and the current owner, The Carlstar Group. The Carlstar Group focuses on keeping the legacy alive by honoring the traditional, vintage Cragar® wheels, along with looking for innovative ways to push the name towards the future. Acknowledging Cragar’s unique brand equity, The Carlstar Group celebrates the widely varied product line that has managed to continue its uphill trend through many different generations of consumers. Regardless of the changing market, Cragar’s popularity continues to thrive because nothing screams style like a set of Cragar® wheels.
In 2016, The Carlstar Group announced the introduction of three new styled wheel designs for its Cragar® brand. The new styles are creating a new market for Cragar® Modern Muscle. Advancing the classic wheels and its fifty-year-old history are stirring trends that are built for real American Muscle. The newer model owners will now be able to enjoy the Cragar® style and performance that the hot rod and vintage classic cars have enjoyed for fifty years.