Whatever happened to …

… hubcaps?

It’s been so long, I didn’t know whether it was one word or two. There are no squiggly red lines under it so I’ll go with one word.

I had a conversation with former ECOO President Peter McAsh this past week. He was taking his car into his dealer to get his snow tires removed. I guess he didn’t look at the forecast! Somehow, we started talking about hubcaps. That got me thinking.

There was a time when every car had hubcaps. They were small metal cups that essentially went over the wheel lugs to protect them from rusting. They were relatively easy to remove; the jack handle typically had a flattened edge and you just popped it off to get at the jacks.

I haven’t owned a vehicle with hubcaps for as long as I can remember. Instead, we’ve gone with wheel covers as a society. They’re much bigger than the old hubcap and cover everything except the tire on your wheels.

And, they’re expensive. Typically, they’re designed from aluminum and have a fancy design and are not just a cover for the nuts. You’re stylin’ with them. On my car, they’re painted silver and on my wife’s Jeep, flat black. We certainly wouldn’t want anyone to steal them so they all come with a locking lug with the key that you should keep with the vehicle.

But Peter’s comment got me curious and so I checked out the offerings from the three local car dealers – Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Ever vehicle on the lot had wheel covers. Even the lest expensive and certainly that green Mustang had nice ones. There wasn’t a hubcap in sight. In fact, the last time I’ve seen a hubcap was on the police car that we passed while having our weekly outing for groceries.

They’re also available for purchase after you have your car. Our local tire dealer has a link to this visualizer.

Your thoughts for an isolated Sunday morning …

  • do you have hubcaps or wheel covers on your car?
  • can you describe the design of it?
  • if you have a wheel cover, where do you keep the key to unlock it?
  • how fancy a wheel cover do you opt to have? spinning? lighted?
  • can you buy a new car with just hubcaps if you’re not a police service?
  • do you use snow tires for the winter? If so, do you use hubcaps or do you just leave the lug nuts open to the elements? Or do you put your wheel cover back on?

I’d be most interested in your driving style. Please share it in the comments below.

This post is a regular feature here on Sundays. You can check all the past ones here. If you have an idea for a future post, contact me or leave your suggestion in the padlet.

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If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original


4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Good morning Doug!

    I have devoted limited attention over the years to hubcaps and/or their modern counterpart, wheel covers. When my eldest son got to that age where some teenagers start thinking about cars and cars and cars and he was able to spot and name oncoming vehicles at night on the other side of the median while travelling at highway speed on the 401, I knew immediately that he didn’t get his mad car skills from his father.

    But I do have a few fond memories of hubcaps that I can contribute on this Sunday morning.

    First, hubcaps used to be mainstay bit actors in police TV dramas and movies. I’m sure some hubcap afficionado could name the first movie or television show to feature the pioneering stunt hubcap that went rolling down the road after flying off a vehicle in the middle of a car chase, but shortly after that happened, I’m sure that every stunt coordinator worth their salt started included that little bit as a key component of each chase scene so as to make it complete. In doing so, I am sure a Hubcap Actors Guild must have come into existence, and shortly thereafter an entry on the checklist for the Continuity Coordinator. I am confident there must be a scene in a Police Squad episode where they send up the continuity error of losing a hubcap and then having it appear back on the vehicle, and then losing it again. I did find this excerpt from Steve McQueen’s 1968 film “Bullet” that does a bit of an investigation. Sadly, I don’t see a lot of vehicles losing wheel covers in modern car chases.

    Second, many years ago on a trip to Florida, we marvelled at the existence of Shell World — A huge tourist attraction/destination that allowed you to browse and purchase a variety of pre-selected seashells in air conditioned comfort. We opted to pick up a few directly from the source on the beach, braving the elements of the Florida climate and happily dealing with the sand that got in between our toes in the process. However, the ultimate commentary on the existence of such a store as Shell World came when we encountered Hubcap World down the road. If having a superstore for shells in Florida was ironic, then having a superstore nearby that focussed on hubcaps (these were lost and subsequently found used hubcaps) was meta and provided for some great belly laughs. I don’t know if people lost more hubcaps in Florida back in the day and had to subsequently chase down replacements at places like Hubcap World, but it sure gave me a chuckle to see it. It has been at least 30 years since that trip, and a Google Maps search of Orlando fails to pinpoint Hubcap World today, but it appears that Hubcap Heaven is still a going concern. Both were featured in the Orlando Sentinal in 1990.

    Third, when, back in the olden days, my dad taught me to change a tire, I received careful instruction in the practice of using the removed hubcap as a bowl to collect and organize the nuts during the process. That always worked for me, and never did I have a mishap such as the one that befalls Ralphie in A Christmas Story. You know the scene — the rite-of-passage scene where he gets asked to help his dad change the tire and they accidentally upend the hubcap and send the nuts flying resulting in his “oh fudge” exclamation. The scene where he references not actually saying “oh fudge,” and the one that immediately precedes the hilarious phone call to Schwartz’s mom and culminates with the bar of soap in the mouth.

    And with that, I shall close, and look forward to seeing what others have to say about hubcaps.


  2. Hi Doug!

    I included some links in my comment this morning and I noted that they posted OK, but they have since been removed. Now I see that you have added a note that “comments including hotlinks will be edited.”

    I’d be interested to know your thinking behind that. Akismet allows you to filter comments that have links in them, but historically I’ve been a trusted poster of Doug – Off The Record and my links made it through OK. Are you discouraging people from including links in their comments moving forward?


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