A look back at simulated wire wheel covers. Part 2: the 1960s

1965 AMC wire wheel cover

Beginning in the early-1960s, straight parallel spokes replaced criss-crossing ones that had been popular in the 1950s. Two- or three-prong spinners similar to ones on MGs, Jaguars, and other sports cars were fitted on many to create a performance look. (1967 AMC Marlin shown)

By 1960, wire wheel covers had become a fixture on American roads.  During the previous decade, American automakers equipped them on everything from Buicks and Oldsmobiles to sleek sports cars such as the Kaiser Darrin and Nash-Healey Lemans.

Similar to the way the earliest automobiles resembled horse-driven carraiges because no other starting point of reference existed, the first generation of 1950s wire wheel covers featured criss-crossing spokes that resembled actual wire wheels from 1920s and 30s automobiles.

Popular as they had been in the mid-’50s, automakers began to drop wire wheel covers from their option sheets as the decade approached its end – feeling their now classic look (or “old-fashioned” as some described it) did not go with sleeker, wider, longer, lower finned body styling that began about 1957. So as the 1950s turned into 1960, wire wheel covers fell out of vogue for a short period. But not for long.



Three short years later in 1963, factory wire wheel covers were making a comeback, all featuring a completely new look with parallel spokes and “spinner caps” that emphasized sportiness first and luxury second. The second phase of wire wheel cover design had begun…

Slideshow and high-resolution still pictures showing how 1960s wire wheel cover designs progressed through the decade are further below.

The timeline below will chart the changes from year to year during the 1960s

1962: Chevrolet’s Corvair (introduced for 1960) and the Studebaker Avanti (introduced mid-1962) were the first new cars of this decade offered with wire wheel covers. While both car models were new with innovative styling, the wire wheel covers they came with used the same criss-crossing spoke pattern that had been popular in the previous decade. They continued unchanged on the Corvair through 1963, and on the Avanti through 1964.

1963: A new style of wire wheel cover debuts simultaneously on the 1963 Buick Riviera, Chevrolet Impala SS, Ford Fairlaine, and Ford Falcon. Rather than criss cross one other, spokes on these wheel covers now ran parallel to each other – perfectly straight travelling outward from center hub to edge. The look was considered newly modern, heightened by three-pronged “spinner” caps in the center to simulate the look of European sports cars of the day.

Ford Mustang wire wheel cover

When the 1964 Ford Mustang was introduced as a new model, these wire wheel covers featuring a blue center, Mustang horse logo, and 3-prong spinner cap were optional from 1964-66.

1964: Chevrolet introduces a smaller version of last year’s Impala SS wire wheel cover for their compact Corvair (running unchanged through 1966). Ford offers similar wire wheel covers on it’s new-for-’64 Mustang (also running unchanged through 1966). Both the Chevy and Ford covers have three-prong spinner caps.

1965: American Motors/Rambler see the popularity of straight-spoke wire wheel covers and introduced their own. Both AMC and Rambler offerings are the same, and feature a red “R” on the two-pronged spinner center cap through 1967. Mercury also introduces its version of Ford’s Mustang wire wheel cover from the year before, identical except for a black center cap in place of a blue one. Oldsmobile and Buick now offer similar 14″ wire wheel covers with two-prong spinner caps for their compact Cutlass and Skylark, respectively.

1966: Ford introduces a new wire wheel cover for its large cars (Galaxie, 500) with parallel spokes but no spinner cap center. Oldsmobile also drops spinner caps on the previous year’s Cutlass wheel cover. Chevrolet introduces a 14″ wire wheel cover with darkened plate behind the spokes and three-prong spinner cap.

1967: The first Mercury Cougar is introduced (built on Ford’s Mustang platform) with optional wire wheel covers featuring no spinner cap. Mustang’s wire wheel covers are similar but now feature red centers with no spinner cap through 1971. Chevrolet’s 14″ wire wheel cover was identical to ’66 except the spinner cap center was deleted, and a new 15″ design for the Impala is launched devoid of spinner cap center also (running unchanged through 1971).

1968: Chrysler’s Plymouth division enters the wire wheel cover frey, debuting 14″ parallel-spoke covers with no spinner cap on its Barracuda coupe and Valiant (running unchanged through 1969). AMC drops spinner caps on its wire wheel covers, which continue to feature parallel spoke designs.

Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick offer slightly differing versions of 14- and 15-inch wire wheel covers for both full and intermediate size vehicles. Two levels of spokes were actually parallel, but appeared to be criss-crossing when viewed from the side due to a layering effect.

Please give the slideshow a few seconds to queue up initially.  Pictures seen here are visible in full size further down – simply click on any of them to enlarge and view.

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
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