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Features Traditional Wheels, Part 4 (Full Wheel Covers)

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by 50Fraud, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    My HAMB friend, Phartman, asked if I would discuss full wheel covers -- the factory "hubcaps"; that were commonly used on early customs. I rarely have requests from the audience, so I couldn't resist the call.

    In my 2011 thread about steel wheels (http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=629421), I did mention the general categories of factory, aftermarket, and spinner types that were popular in the '50s, but without details or pictures.

    In the 70+ years that these have been used, there have probably been thousands of designs -- waaaay too many to discuss more than a few of them. I'll just write about those that were popular on customs during the '50s, with my usual large dose of personal opinion thrown in. I'll first cover caps prior to the era of "spinners".

    Certainly the King of Hubcaps were the Cadillac "sombreros" used from 1947 to 1953. The Barris brothers probably cleaned out the Cadillac warehouse, using these on a huge number of their Kustoms in the day. They are, still, one of the simplest and most elegant caps ever designed, even though mounting them on most stock wheels requires some fussy adaptation:

    [​IMG]

    These were followed in '53 by a one-year design, possibly based on the '52 Buick tooling, again a clean and handsome cover that was widely used on customs. Sorry about these small images; they are borrowed from the website Hubcaps.com, and seem to resist enlargement:

    [​IMG]

    Several other makes of cars used good looking wheel covers, and many of these showed up on mild customs through the '50s. The caps shown below are '49 Lincoln, '53 Studebaker, '54 Olds, '55 Buick, and '57 Cad. Here's where the opinion shows up; I'm mostly showing designs that I like:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    And I could hardly overlook one of my favorites, '57 Lincoln Cosmopolitan:

    [​IMG]

    There were a handful of wheel covers in this period that, although nice looking, were rarely seen on cars other than the ones that they came with. Maybe, because these were low-priced car models, their hubcaps were thought to be too modest or cheap to be used on a custom. I've shown '53 Chev, '54 Chev, '54 Merc & '56 Ford:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    In 1953, the limited production Olds Fiesta had hubcaps with ears added to simulate knockoff hubs, and to add a little sparkle when they turned. These were a game changer; Olds used a simplified version as an optional cap through '55, and zillions of them were stolen to sharpen up mild customs of the day:

    [​IMG]

    While the Fiestas were clearly the pioneer among spinner hub caps, others became very popular with car guys as well, particularly the '55 Dodge Lancers and the '56 Olds Starfires. The others shown here (195? Corvette, '55 Buick, '56 Merc) were not as widely used, but all had their fans:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    One oddity is the '56 Chrysler spinner. Kind of a cross between a Lancer and a Fiesta, I think they are great looking, but I have NEVER seen a set on anything other than the Chrysler that they came with:

    [​IMG]

    (To be continued momentarily -- I've reached the limit on images in one post.)
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2014
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  2. fat141
    Joined: Jul 30, 2006
    Posts: 1,553

    fat141
    Member

    Thank you very much for so far, can't wait till ya load up some more
    Cheers
    Rod
     
  3. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Up to this point, I've only dealt with 15" wheel covers.

    In 1957, the game changed again with the introduction of 14"wheels on most popular makes. Of the solid (non-spinner) caps made in 14", it seems that only Plymouth caps were widely used on other makes, although there were some other caps that were pretty nice from various MoPar divisions. These are Plymouth, Imperial, and DeSoto; all 1957:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    With the advent of the 14" wheel, the selection of spinner hubcaps fell off; or at least, the number that were popular with mild customizers was very limited. '57 Dodge Lancers, with bars much longer than any real knockoff ever had, were the only 14" spinner cap that really caught on.

    [​IMG]

    A few more were made by Chevrolet, Olds, Buick, and a handful of others, but they were rarely used on customs. 1959 Dodge Lancers were used on a few, but (spoiler alert -- opinion follows) they're a lot fussier looking than the earlier styles of Lancers:

    [​IMG]

    One novel cap was this one from Edsel; novel because the spinner was mounted at its ends rather than at the center, and it stood away from the wheel cover itself. These did show up on a few customs:

    [​IMG]

    In the '60s, a large number of spinner hubcaps were made by Ford, Pontiac, even Rambler (examples shown below). Perhaps because of the arrival of the 5-spoke alloy wheels in the same time frame, the popularity of the spinner hubcaps fell off sharply, and I don't recall seeing any of these used on cars other than their original applications.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Okay, I've covered most of the factory-made wheel covers that were used on customs (and occasionally rods) in the '50s, and many of these are still popular on traditional cars today. Of course there have been many guys who used uncommon Pontiac, or Buick, or other makes of caps, and there's certainly no shame in that. There are many decent looking wheel covers that were used on more recent cars, up to the '70s and beyond, that could look great on a custom today. The caps below are from later models of Cadillac, Lincoln, and Chrysler:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2014
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  4. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
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    Several other thoughts came to mind while I was writing the stuff above, but I couldn't find appropriate places to stick them in. What follows are a bunch of random observations and opinions about wheel covers.

    - A few of the popular factory wheel covers were copied by aftermarket manufacturers, often with some identifiable differences. In most cases, the copies were made in multiple diameters -- 14" and 15" -- even though the originals were only one size.

    The '56 Olds Starfire and '57 Dodge Lancer were copied by several parties, many of whom added checkerboard or other texture in the area behind the spinner. This was not an improvement on the originals.

    The 14" '57 Plymouth cap was copied in a simplified form: same cross section, but no windows around the outside edge, and the whole cap was shiny rather than brushed finish.

    - Although the original Fiestas and the spinners that followed in the '50s were intended to suggest knockoff hubs, most of them were pretty abstract and didn't look very much like real knockoffs. The '56 and later Corvette caps did look a lot like the real thing, and many of the spinner-type caps produced in the '60s (shown above) also had more realistic looking knockoffs, but these seem to have been rarely used on customs.

    - The early spinner-type caps typically had a circular detail in the wheel cover that was the same diameter as the tips of the spinner, suggesting the path of the spinner as it turned. Some had circumferential lines, or stripes, or brushed texture inside the circle and behind the spinner, again implying motion. Lancers and other MoPar spinners were an exception, using a polished background rather than any textural detail.

    - In the '50s, while full wheel covers became popular on late model customs, they were rarely used on hot rods or pre-1941 customs. This is a controversial subject with some guys, and there are some (mostly East coast?) who think that they look great on early cars, but I am not one of them. Personal taste, of course.

    No doubt other thoughts will occur to me about all of this, but I'm gonna go to bed now. Please feel welcome to pile on with your own opinions, pictures, whatever. G'night.
     
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  5. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 5,616

    Hnstray
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    from Quincy, IL

    Nice....and nostalgic...thread...thank you :)

    Ray
     
  6. eppster
    Joined: Jan 26, 2011
    Posts: 223

    eppster
    Member

    I have a set of Old's Starfires I managed to find in 1978. Have had them on a couple cars that I thought they looked right on and "no" I wouldn't sell them. I can remember in the late 50's and early 60's guys who would actually take them off the car before they went into a movie or went to sleep so they wouldn't get stolen !
     
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  7. lawman
    Joined: Sep 19, 2006
    Posts: 2,632

    lawman
    Member

    Thank's for the pic's and info !!!! This is my kind of thread.
     
  8. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
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    Remember the hub cap locks that screwed onto your valve stem? Leaving your car out at night without those locks, if you had Fiestas, was like running with scissors.
     
  9. young'n'poor
    Joined: Jan 26, 2006
    Posts: 1,026

    young'n'poor
    Member

    Thanks for the great post! You only really mentioned these in the context of customs but many of the caps you mentioned look great on a mid to late fifties hot rod also. Someday I'd like to build a closed cab A pickup with cycle fenders, full caps, and use 1953 olds wheelcovers. Painted a light purple color, with a olds or cad engine.


    Posted from the TJJ App for iPhone & iPad
     
  10. Tony, many thanks for starting this thread. My '61 is now sporting a set of 14" '59 Plymouth Fury wheel covers, which are very close in design to the '57s you mentioned. They also bear some resemblance to the '60 Fords. With the medium white walls, it transformed the car. Now looks like a full scale rendition of an AMT model kit!

    I'll post up pics later this weekend.

    Again, thank you for this excellent thread.

    Wheelcovers and hubcaps are cool....
     
  11. Here is the '59 Fury wheelcover...

    [​IMG]
     
  12. damagedduck
    Joined: Jun 16, 2011
    Posts: 2,309

    damagedduck
    Member
    from Greeley Co

    what about these? i have alway like the early Pontiac's & Olds
     

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  13. Tony, a wheel cover that is obvious in that nobody has mentioned it. Surprising, given the popularity of it.

    History of the Moon disc? Both the full and the Baby Moon?

    What is the story there? How early? Been around for a long time, but when did it first show up, and how has its popularity ebbed and flowed???
     
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  14. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
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    Hahaha! Those are precisely two of the styles I had in mind when I wrote this in my second post of this thread:

    I was thinking of these '52 Buicks, too, which might have shared tooling for the basic saucer with the '53 Cad:

    [​IMG]

    I don't have any real knowledge of why sombreros were the hot ticket with Barris and his contemporaries in the early '50s, when Buick, Olds, and Pontiac all had rather similar and nice-looking caps at the same time.

    Possible explanations could be:
    - The Cadillac covers have a little more depth from their innermost point to their outiest.
    - Cadillac was the most expensive car, and therefore had the most prestige.
    - The Cadillac crest was the most elaborately decorated, with three colors of paint on a separate gold part.

    But, who knows? Or cares? I've seen the ones you showed on some very nice cars, and I'm sure they'll be used again.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
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  15. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
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    Pete, I mentioned them briefly in the original steelies thread. I believe that there has also been a separate HAMB thread on their history; you might try a search. Moon started producing them in the early '50s -- I don't know the exact year. At first they were used primarily on Bonneville, lakes, and drag cars, but they became fashionable on street-driven hot rods in the mid-'50s. Their popularity on the street was augmented with the introduction of the snap-on version (which are still made), but I think some guys view those as poser parts.

    Edit: when I wrote that, I was assuming that you were referring to the Moon spun aluminum wheel discs. When I re-read what you wrote and noticed your reference to "baby moons", I'm not so sure; maybe you were re referring to the shiny chrome variety???
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  16. Tony, I was thinking of the spun aluminum, but it surprises me how often the other chrome, smaller "baby" Moons come up in conversation. Were they also a product of the Mooneyes company? Or did people just assume they came from the same company because of their somewhat similar appearance? Dunno.
     
  17. curbspeed
    Joined: Feb 7, 2002
    Posts: 2,917

    curbspeed
    Member
    from Tucson ,Az

    I am interested in 16" hubcaps. Now that might take a little more research.
     
  18. 47 PLY
    Joined: Jul 14, 2011
    Posts: 42

    47 PLY
    Member
    from UK

    I know I am asking for trouble but here goes. My 47 Plymouth has 17 inch steels because the front discs are to big for anything smaller :eek: I would like to fit full wheel covers any idears that dont involve putting smaller discs on please :rolleyes:
     
  19. dana barlow
    Joined: May 30, 2006
    Posts: 1,946

    dana barlow
    Member
    from Miami Fla.

    Even today,I still like 1953 Studebaker the best,and if a close freind had not given me his slot mags,I'd still be running them.
     
  20. hotrd32
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 2,884

    hotrd32
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from WA

    Cool thread ......just picked up these, had never seen them before... 1954 Chrysler Windsor Saratoga .....<a href="http://s614.photobucket.com/albums/tt223/hotrd32/HAMB%20Stuff/?action=view&amp;current=54-CHRYSLER-WINDSOR-SARSTOGA-HUBCAPS.jpg" target="_blank">[​IMG]</a>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2014
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  21. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    When I was a teenager, these were called "moons". Not moon hubcaps or (capitalized) Moons, just moons. This had nothing to do with the Moon Equipment Company (predecessor to Mooneyes); I think they were called moons just because they were round and shiny. Purists may debate whether these caps had one or more raised beads out near the edge, or none; I don't know the difference:

    [​IMG]

    Backing up in time a bit, these earlier caps covered most of the wheel center, and when used with beauty rings, looked very similar to the moons above. I never knew what they were called by the earlier guys, and I don't know how they are mounted to the wheel:

    [​IMG]

    Back now to the '50s, the style of cap below was used on the majority of the hot rods I saw. At the time they weren't called baby moons where I lived, they were "buttons" or "baldies", and I always assumed that they were just an aftermarket copy of a '40 Ford DeLuxe hubcap with the stamped graphics left off.

    [​IMG]

    Similar caps to those have been produced for many years since to fit a variety of wheel centers, and they are all apparently referred to as "baby moons".

    Again, I don't think any of the caps above were produced by, or had anything to do with, the Moon Equipment Company. It's coincidental that Moon started producing spun aluminum discs in the same general time frame (early '50s), and the fact that the various chrome caps are called by a similar name to the spun discs is cause for confusion.
     
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  22. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
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    I don't think that there are a great many more varieties of 16" caps than the ones mentioned so far. Sombreros and moons (and the smaller ones mentioned above) were available in 16". There were variants on the early moons (both the full covers and slightly smaller center caps) with the single flipper bar across them, of course. I know that you're using Kevin Lee's spun discs together with '30s Ford center caps -- a combination that I love, by the way. I'm sure that there were other full wheel covers for 16s, but I can't think of any; please jump in if you know of others that I'm missing.

    I'm reeeally out of my depth here; I'm not aware of any 17" full wheel covers, and if they exist, I imagine that they're pretty rare. I know that guys have sometimes used beauty rings as adapters to mount 15" caps on 16" wheels, and have welded or screwed the caps to the rings for added security. I'm also aware that 17" beauty rings are available, but they're very expensive -- like $90 each. I imagine that would work, but wouldn't be cheap.

    I remember seeing very similar caps on early Chryslers when they were current, but the ones I've seen have serrations in the ring that's outward from the center dome. I think they're cool looking too, and although I haven't seen them used on customs before, I can't think of any reason not to.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2014
  23. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
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    These are the ones I was thinking of, which are apparently from '51-52 Saratogas. The serrations are barely visible at this size:

    [​IMG]
     
  24. Human Fly
    Joined: Mar 9, 2007
    Posts: 1,975

    Human Fly
    BANNED

    16" there are the Lyon caps, both there designs and Cadi rip offs. There is also another full 16" wheel cover of which I have 2, dont know who made them, they are simple and very cool. Then there are the 16" wire full cap, Lyon, Stewart Warner and Hudson name brands.
     
  25. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Oh, yeah, I forgot about the Lyons, thanks!

    I'm not sure what you mean by "wire full cap". Fake wire wheels mounted on steelies, or something else?
     
  26. nowaxn5
    Joined: Apr 15, 2007
    Posts: 788

    nowaxn5
    Member

    Cool read Tony! I've got a decent collection of caps and would like to add a few.
    Of course Hollywood flippers are a bit earlier and best on 16" wheels, they are tough to beat on an early custom.
    [​IMG]

    I also love the aftermarket caps like Lyons and Cal-nevar.

    [​IMG]
     
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  27. 50Fraud
    Joined: May 6, 2001
    Posts: 6,614

    50Fraud
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    Funny, I was just looking at that picture of Emory's Dodge while hunting for examples.

    Thanks for the additions!
     
  28. curbspeed
    Joined: Feb 7, 2002
    Posts: 2,917

    curbspeed
    Member
    from Tucson ,Az

    I was just throwing the 16"variable into the mix to see what some of you fella's had out there. I know they are hard to come by and it's nice to have some reference when hitting the swaps.
    Neat idea for a thread. Thanks. Any updates on that neat custom you are building with Don?
     
  29. Mr. Mac
    Joined: May 16, 2005
    Posts: 1,427

    Mr. Mac
    Member

    Here's my 58 with caps you never see used, 61 Buick.
     

    Attached Files:

  30. I love your threads, I'm always learning something I didn't know I should know. I'm running 1954 Chrysler New Yorker 15" caps. I can't say I've ever seen anyone run them before. I think they are pretty good looking, they also don't have any emblems on them so they would look good on any car. Anyway, I hope this fits into this thread...

    [​IMG]
     
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