In part II of our Hubcap Heaven post, I’ve moved into the ‘golden age’ of wheel covers, with plenty of fine factory discs to chose from. “Dog Dish” caps were relegated to only the most utilitarian models by the mid 50s, as fancy finned wheel covers were gaining style each year, with GM and Mopar leading the way. A major cap change also came about in 1957: Wheel diameters actually began to shrink to 14″ on a number of full-sized cars, in order to get a lower stance without affecting ground clearance. Unfortunately, the smaller wheels with big gaping wheel wells often make the the cars look a bit out of proportion. A healthy amount of lowering the suspension fixes this issue.
Here’s my top 5 wheel covers:
1. 1953-56 Oldsmobile Fiesta: This actually covers two caps models here. The 53-55 version with the ribs, and the ’56 version with the planets. These tri-bar babies have always been some of the most coveted caps among the custom crowd, leading to J.D. theft and bad aftermarket copies. Luck for us, nice quality reproductions are now available.
2. 1955-59 Dodge Royal Lancer: If Olds owned the three-bar cover, then Dodge had the four bar spinner completely under it’s mastery. The Royal Lancer started with a mild cross bar design in ’55 and grew every year to the wild ’59 Custom Royal “Crab Claw” cap still seen on radical custom creations. The Lancer caps are probably copied as much if not more than the Fiestas.
(Note: 1956 Mercury Montclair cap is a nice mix of Olds pattern with Dodge bars.)
3. 1953-55 Studebaker Champion/Commander: Often referred to unofficially as the “China Hat”, this Stude wheel cover was simple, elegant, and looked just the right amount of futuristic on an early custom. I love the gold anodized centers on these tapered gems.
4. 1957 Cadillac deVille: It’s a beautiful, radially-finned wheel cover that exudes Caddy high quality and sturdiness. This one only needs a bullet in the center to look completely atomic & space aged too. (Since the Sombrero evolved from an original 40s design, I didn’t list it again. Nevertheless, the 50-53 versions are fantastic too.)
5. 1956-57 Lincoln Premier: This cover seems to have gotten more popular in recent years than it did on original 50s customs, and it’s nice to see them turning up more often. It’s another elegantly-simple design with small ribs around the center and a large amount of smooth disc.