The Halibrand Story
If any one name has been synonymous with racing and magnesium wheels over the years, it’s Ted Halibrand.
Halibrand was born in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1916, right about the time that magnesium production around the world sharply increased in the military buildup to World War I. Before he would become acquainted with the metal, though, Halibrand first became enthralled with racing, likely due to his proximity to Paterson’s Gasoline Alley, where racers such as Ted Horn and Pappy Hough could rent garages for a dollar a month during the Depression.
By the mid- to late 1930s, Halibrand had relocated to Southern California, both to take a job with Douglas Aircraft as an engineer and to move closer to the year-round racing on the area’s dirt ovals. He remained with Douglas during World War II as a field service representative, a position that took him around the world, helping maintain the variety of planes that Douglas built for the U.S. armed forces.
While working on those planes, Halibrand often found himself replacing aluminum parts in high-stress locations with magnesium parts; though magnesium production dropped dramatically after World War I, the magnesium industry had fully recovered by supplying military needs during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and by finding greater use for the metal by alloying it with aluminum and zinc.
Like many of his contemporaries, Halibrand returned to racing after the war, but with new ideas about how to go faster. In this case, he decided to cast a set of wheels for his midget out of magnesium in 1946: doing so would both cut down on the amount of unsprung weight and add strength (and a measure of safety) at all four corners of the car.
The wheels worked as planned, and the following year, Halibrand formed Halibrand Engineering in Culver City, California. Following the dream of every racer, Halibrand took the wheels to Indianapolis in the late 1940s to ultimately prove their durability, and starting in 1951, every Indianapolis 500 winner for the next 16 years ran Halibrand magnesium wheels.
Hot rodders and drag racers naturally glommed onto the wheels, which also appeared on Ford’s GT40s, Cunningham’s many cars and Shelby’s Cobras. Yet wheels weren’t the only product to come out of Halibrand Engineering: Halibrand produced quick-change axles based on a design by Ernie Locke as early as 1948, as well as spot disc brakes starting in the early 1950s and even V-drives for boats. In 1964, Halibrand even designed and built a rear-engine Indy race car called the Shrike that weighed just 1,140 pounds thanks to its extensive use of magnesium parts.
Today we are going back to Ted’s roots and doing it proper: cast magnesium alloy that is made in the good ole’ USA. Halibrand: Home of the Original Mag Racing Wheel.