Hubcaps Or Wheel Covers, What’s In A Name?
Cars and trucks built before about 1935 came on wire spoke wheels with small metal caps installed to seal the wheel hub on the axle. Those early "HUBcaps" were smaller than 3" in diameter, made of heavy gauge plated steel hammered onto the hub of the wheel. Their main function was to keep dirt out of the spindle nut and the wheel bearings. In the 1930s, automobiles transitioned from mere modes of transportation to statements of status and style. Hubcaps became more decorative than functional. The ‘dog dish’ style was born, chrome hemispheres 9 inches in diameter, covering the lug nuts and the center of the wheel.
About the same time, wheel technology advanced and spoke wheels were replaced by wheels formed from stamped steel. In the ‘40s, Cadillac lead the pack in adding sparkling chrome by the acre: bumpers, grills, trim lines, window borders, hood ornaments, hood vents, headlights, running boards, etc. Increasing the size of the chrome hubcaps added reflective surface. By the ‘50s, hubcap diameters increased to the point they covered the entire steel wheel with chrome. Many of this period were flat rounds looking like chrome Frisbees, with little design differentiation.
It was during this time the term ‘wheel cover’ came into use. Over the last 50 years, the terms ‘hubcaps’ and ‘wheel covers’ have become synonymous as the lightweight, full-diameter decorative coverings of standard steel wheels. One of the hallmarks of modern hubcaps is their interchangeability. Nearly any hubcap of the correct size will fit any standard steel wheel that will take a hubcap. This means that changing styles is very easy. We are not limited to those styles designed by our particular auto manufacturer. If you would like to read this article with pictures of classic cars that illustrate the examples given, go to http://www.autoamenity.com/FAQ/Hubcap-Wheelcover.htm.
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