I ended up with 14555 triangles for a single car tire rim, I simply slapped on a texture, exported to directX. Then I threw it into my test bed, rendering the whole thing (no culling) each frame. The problem/oddity that it grinds the framerate to a halt.
I was testing with a radeon 9600, using the simple LPD3DXMESH to handle the loading and rendering of the xfile. If I only render the gui and text I am able to get 1033 FPS. If I render my terrain (which is 65025 verticies) as well as the gui, I am getting over 150 FPS.
Clearly the 'car tire rim' is unusable, but I wouldnt have thought that there would have been that signifcant a drop in the framerate.
The answer is the same as usual, more investagation/testing is needed. Though if anyone can help me expediate the process that would great.