Companies that make super high-performance road cars are always looking for ways to make them more racecar-like. One of the more popular ways of doing this has been offering cars with center lock wheels. One of the biggest culprits here has been Porsche with many of its GT cars, and people seem to love them, despite this wheel hub design being expensive and kind of a pain in the ass.
Now, a center lock wheel setup seems super convenient on the surface. Instead of five lug bolts or nuts to undo, you have one giant nut per wheel. Unfortunately, the process of removing and installing a center lock nut is anything but convenient, especially with the Porsches. This is partly because of the very specific conditions under which you are supposed to torque the wheels off the ground and partly because of the super high torque needed for the nuts — 443 lb-ft. Naturally, special tools and techniques are required.
Most people will either have someone sit in the car and apply the brakes, or they’ll rig up some kind of brake clamp that wedges into the car’s interior and applies the brakes. Then they’ll use a massive six-foot-long 3/4-inch drive breaker bar to loosen and a similarly sized torque wrench to tighten the nut. Porsche specifically warns against using an impact driver to remove or install wheels.
Now though, there’s a new and significantly simpler way for GT car owners to remove and install their wheels. It only takes one person, the tool is small and fits easily into the frunk of a 911, and it’s incredibly accurate, even following Porsche’s tighten-loosen-final tighten torquing procedure. It’s called the Hytorc, and while it’s totally awesome, there’s a bit of a catch: it’s $5,000, and you can only use it on center lock wheel nuts.
If this sounds kind of bananas, it is. It’s sold predominantly by a site called Obsessed Garage (which also has a seriously great YouTube channel), which caters to the high-end automotive enthusiast who has to have the best of everything. Think Griots Garage, but taken well past the point of common sense and deep into the realm of diminishing returns. I can’t afford it and don’t need it, but I love it.
Seeing the Hytorc Lion in action on the Obsessed Garage channel got me wondering who this thing is actually for at that price and how something so expensive but so niche came into being. To find out, I spoke to the founder of Obsessed Garage, Matt Moreman.
Matt explained that the owner of Hytorc is a big Porsche fan and has a few GT cars with center-lock wheels. He had the idea of creating a special wheel nut based on the company’s tech to replace the stock centerlock nut from Porsche, making the process less onerous. He started to work with a Porsche shop in Washington state called Dundon Motorsports, and quickly they found that changing the nut was a less ideal solution due to production concerns and liability woes, and instead worked on adapting the Hytorc tool to work with the factory system by programming the gun with Porsche’s tightening sequence.
The next step was finding a way to make it a one-person job by eliminating the need for the brake pedal to be pressed. This was accomplished by making a metal reaction arm with a Delrin sleeve that slips in the wheel spokes and counters the torque force of the gun. It’s very similar to the tool that Porsche uses in its Zuffenhausen factory to install the center lock wheels on the production line, though that tool works considerably faster.
At this point, Matt and Obsessed Garage got involved and worked with Hytorc and Dundon to finalize a design that would work and then test it extensively before putting it up for sale. Matt’s initial order of the tool was around 100 units, and as of publication, they’d all been sold.
So, who exactly is this thing for? The obvious answer would be a shop, but with a $5,000 buy-in, it would have to be a shop that deals extensively in GT cars and other center-lock-equipped exotics. I spoke to my friendly local Porsche shop, House Automotive. While they thought the gun was exceptionally cool, the service advisor there, Andy Reyes, figured it would be a tough sell to his boss, despite the large number of GT cars they service.
If not a shop, and definitely not for the average enthusiast, then who? My guess is that the person who benefits the most from this tool is the hardcore Porsche track rat. The kind of person who does a dozen track days a year with their car and regularly removes and installs wheels at the race track for tire and brake changes. With that kind of use, the price starts to make sense, particularly compared to the time commitment and margin of error of the manual torque wrench method.
I was also curious what Porsche thought about this tool since that company is arguably the most fastidious and anal-retentive company of all when it comes to its engineering. Unsurprisingly, the company was unwilling to comment on it, saying it could not do so because the tool wasn’t “Porsche-approved.”
So, given that the likelihood of me ever owning, for example, a 997 GT3 RS is pretty damned remote, I put it to you, our feral commentariat: Is this a tool that makes sense even with its somewhat exorbitant price? If you own a car with modern center lock wheels, is it something you’d consider buying? Let us know.