A look back at simulated wire wheel covers. Part 1: the 1950s

General Motors popularized simulated wire wheel covers that snapped on over steel wheels in 1953 by offering them as a factory option across Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac, and Chevrolet divisions... (Shown: 1953 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight) Credit: The Century Mark

General Motors popularized simulated wire wheel covers that snapped on over steel wheels in 1953 by offering them as a factory option across Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac, and Chevrolet divisions… (Shown: 1953 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight) Credit: The Century Mark

We have always been fans of simulated wire wheel covers at Classic Cars Today Online.  While they are an automotive accessory extremely subject to personal taste, one cannot deny wire wheel covers are uniquely American in flavor.  Mostly shunned by Europeans and Asian brands, they have populated the automotive landscape in the United States for decades since the early 1950s.  Love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny they have earned their spot in classic car nostalgia.

While many disagree on who created the first simulated wire wheel cover, aftermarket auto parts makers began selling them in large numbers during 1951.  The visual flair appealed immediately to car buyers benefiting (many for the first time in their lives) from a prosperous post-war economy – Buyers who were eager to forget industrial low-budget plain steel wheels that signified the harder times of the Great Depression.   Because wire wheel covers were a new and unknown item in the marketplace, passerbys often mistook them for the genuine article.  Because the covers added a great deal of “bling” at a fraction of the cost of real wire wheels, they caught on quickly in the early 1950s – and were often combined with white wall tires for effect.

 




Seeing the popularity of simulated wire wheel covers grow, automakers began scrambling to cash in.  Almost immediately, all five General Motors divisions (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac), three Chrysler Corporation divisions (Dodge, Plymouth, DeSoto), as well as Nash, Kaiser and Studebaker worked with existing aftermarket producers to produce factory-branded versions for their factory option sheets for 1953.

Crisscrossing spokes were the design of every 1950s wire wheel cover, simulating how authentic wire wheels were built on virtually all vehicles from the turn of the century through the 1930s.  It would not be until the 1960s that wire wheel covers went to straight, non-crisscrossing spokes (to be featured in upcoming Part II 1960s article).

CLICK ON ANY OF THE PICTURES IN THE SLIDE SHOW BELOW TO EXPAND TO FULL SIZE.  USE ARROWS UNDERNEATH THE PICTURE TO SCROLL BACKWARD OR FORWARD.

 

About Sean

Welcome to Classic Cars Today Online! We seek to explore the subject of classic vehicles from the 1950s through today. It is our belief that a car needn't be old to be respected and admired for graceful design, historical significance, and future value. As founder and Editor-In-Chief, I welcome contributions from you about your own car-related interests and ownership experiences. As far as myself, I've worked in the automotive service field and have been a contributor to Autoweek Magazine, The Star, Mercedes Enthusiast Magazine, Examiner.com and more. Currently, I'm a copywriter and own several foreign and domestic classic cars. In my spare time, you'll find me serving as Technical Editor and officer of several car clubs, being a concours car show judge, and meeting some great folks around the tri-state NY / NJ / Pennsylvania area at car shows. - Sean Connor
This entry was posted in Vehicle feature articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.