This was once a quite common sight on the sides of our roads and highways, but not so much anymore. So when I saw this genuine metal hubcap laying near an intersection close to our house, I had to stop and investigate, lest it be a really vintage one.
I don’t know what I was possibly expecting; a 1952 Chevy’s with a blazing blue bowtie? No; a Chevy, yes, but one of millions used on their trucks and vans for what seems like decades. I flipped it over and left it there; perhaps the owner will come back looking for it. Right…some guy who drives a fleet Chevy van for a plumbing or electric company that never even noticed it flying off. And why did it come off?
When I had a set of used tires mounted recently on my ’66 Ford F-100, the guy seemed almost afraid of putting on the dog dish hubcaps, with repeated rather gentle pushes around the circumference rather than the hearty single whacks! we all gave them back in the day, with the palm of our hands, or the sole of our shoes, if necessary. Unless that nice metallic kalunck! rang out, I didn’t trust them to be on securely. I’m sure he was afraid of possibly denting it or such. No worries of that back then; the hubcaps were durable, and took that kind of abuse. Or if not, who cared? Dog dishes were low-status, and easy to replace if one really did get dinged or lost.
The full wheelcovers were of course a different thing, and required a bit more body language to get them on securely. A rubber mallet was often employed, over a shop rag, and tapped around the circumference to make sure it wouldn’t fly off at the next bumpy curve or intersection.
And if it did, two things would happen: some kid would pick it up and either keep it or sell it to the local hubcap shop. And the driver would go to the hubcap shop and buy it back, or another one, if the kid happened to keep it. Back then, hubcap shops y were a fixture in any town, and played the key middle man in this economic circle.
Like many things, they’ve become scarcer. We used to go to Stephanie’s hometown, Arcata, CA, at least once a year, and there was a terrific hubcap shop there, with a truly impressive inventory. Since I was on vacation, I’d sometimes stop in and just peruse. Looking at hubcaps is a powerful way to conjure up visual images of the cars they once graced, as well as a mental challenge to bring up the right one.
That shop isn’t there anymore, and I thought maybe some giant on-line seller might have bought up the inventory. But no, it just moved, and Hirsch Hubcaps is still in business. I’m guessing that their inventory has increased in value greater than the rate of inflation.
Did you ever collect hubcaps? I never did actively, but came into the possession of one or two at various times. A ’63 Chevy Impala SS was a brief treasure. Bet it’s worth something now.