The Wheel(s)
Ryan Judge

We get presented with a series of 7x7 crosswords but something seems a little off, and several Across clues per puzzle are starred. To make sense of it, turn to the flavor text. The question "Can you find the wheels across these puzzles?" gives all the info we need. "Wheels" is a slang term for a car, and the inclusion of the word "across" means we should look for cars in the across answers. Indeed, the Across answer corresponding to each starred Across clue contains a rebus square (that is, a square that has more than one letter in it) with the name of a car make or model. The car name is only part of the Across answer, and is not part of the crossing Down answer. Here are the completed grids:
We extract the letter in the Down answer that crosses each car name, and read off the letters in the order they appear to get the final answer of CARS PER CAPITA.