Home » A Detail To Celebrate: Color-Coded Wheel Covers Are One Of The Best Ways To Class Up A Car

A Detail To Celebrate: Color-Coded Wheel Covers Are One Of The Best Ways To Class Up A Car

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I’ve always been someone interested in little details. There’s that quote from the famous modernist architect Mies van der Rohe about how “God is in the details” but I always confuse that with the modern idiom “the devil is in the details,” and the truth is that if you asked me, at sharpened screwdriver-point to explain just what the hell that means, I’m not sure I could. Still, what I do know is that I love automotive details, and this time I want to talk about one that is largely gone from the modern automotive landscape, which I believe is a crucial factor in society’s severe drop in classiness levels over the past four or so decades. The detail? Body-colored wheel covers.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m overstating things? Well maybe this chart from the National Organization for the Preservation and Advancement of American Classiness (NOPAAC) will convince you:

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Class Chart

Look at that! There is a clear and direct correlation between the vanishing of body-colored wheel covers from America’s roads with the dizzying and precipitous drop in classiness levels, from their 1968 peak at nearly 4,200 KiloSwanks to their miserable showing today, at a mere 224 KiloSwanks per square hectare [Editor’s Note: Wait a second, if there were a clear relationship, wouldn’t you expect some kind of inflection point when the last body-color hubcap went away? Hmm, the data seems dubious, but continue on. -DT]. You can’t just open up Photoshop and quickly slap together a chart like this and make up some absurd organization — this is real, hard data backing up my point: color-coordinated wheel covers or hubcaps are deeply and powerfully classy things, and the abandonment of them by the global carmaker cabal has horrifically impacted classiness levels all over the nation.

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Can we ever recover? Who knows. I hope so. Perhaps raising awareness of this problem is the first step, so allow me to provide some examples of how wonderful body-colored wheel covers are. The best known practitioner of this deeply elegant affectation is likely Mercedes-Benz, who offered color-coordinated wheel covers across a number of models from the late 1960s to well into the 1980s:

Mercedes

Tell me that’s not a fantastic look! Tell me! Why are we so gripped by the monochrome menace of grayscale wheels for pretty much every car you can get today? Sure, there’s sometimes black wheels or white wheels, but the vast majority of wheels are silver or gray or some miserable bland shade of putty-oatmeal-asphalt-leaden sky nothingness?

Matching wheel color to car body color is harder, yes. It takes more time and more coordination, and the manufacturer can’t just shit out some universal gray wheels that work on anything, they have to pay attention, and make special wheels or wheel covers for every different color they offer. It takes caring, which is at the essence of why they’re so damn classy.

And if you still don’t believe me, look at all these cars that once offered body colored wheels; many were not classy cars at all, and yet once this quartet of matchy-matchy accessories were applied, the KiloSwank readings of every car absolutely skyrocketed. Here’s some examples:

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Lecar

Was a Renault LeCar classy? I mean, it has a French name, so that helps, but what also helps are those fetching body-colored wheel covers on the yellow one there! And the green one at the back! It’s just so…together!

Let’s look at another car not normally associated with classiness:

Pinto

A Ford Pinto! Is it still an entry-level econobox with a dangerously cataclysmic design flaw when it looks this good on those wheels? I don’t think so!

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Amc1

Look, even perennial cheapskates AMC even got in on the action, transforming the grubby sweatshirt that was the AMC Hornet into the dry cleaned and pressed tuxedo T-shirt of the Concord! And you can thank those fabulous red hubcaps!

Granada

Look at this Granada; normally a pile with delusions of grandeur, but add some body-colored hubcaps and all of a sudden things seem less delusional, right?

Oh, if you forgot about the delusions of a Granada, it’s always fun to be reminded:

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There’s more, though; for a while, the body-colored wheels were a known and respected path out of mundanity. The Plymouth Valiant (and its sibling the Dart) did it:

Plymouth

And GM wasn’t missing out, either, with the Nova getting some classy color-coded wheels:

Nova1

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That guy looks a lot like Matthew Mcconaughey, doesn’t he?

Matthews
Screengrab (upper left): Dazed and Confused

It’s uncanny! Oh, and GM also gave this gift unto Oldsmobile, for the Delta 88:

Delta88

There are more examples, of course. And on a personal note, I even painted the wheels of my own Beetle to match the body color, gaining an increase of hundreds of KiloSwanks:

Mybeetle

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Now, I’ve talked to some people about body-colored or color-coordinated wheels or wheel coverings, and some have stated that they do not like them, that they feel they are “cheesy” or “too much” or some other inane whatever. To people who feel this way, I can only suggest that you seek out your clergyperson or perhaps a mental health professional to help steer you back onto the Path of Truth, because, it pains me to say, you have wandered.

I hereby challenge a modern, mainstream automaker to offer body-coordinated wheels again. It’s far past time to break the stranglehold of grayscale wheels, and I’m confident that the resulting increase in our nations classiness levels will pay for the added efforts many, many times over.

Stay swanky, friends.

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ESO
ESO
8 days ago

That Nova ad, 🙂 I lived through that era and remember it well, but some of these old ads and looking at them through todays eyes… What in holy hell is going on there???
A 1975 cocaine dealer/user dude with his “fancy lady” and her useless umbrella? Why are the children hiding under the tree? So many questions with no seemingly reasonable answers. Thank you Jason for the best laugh I’ve had all day!

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
9 days ago

Bonus points for contrasting-accent-color wheel covers? a la Mercedes, e.g. white car with a blue top or blue interior, and blue wheel covers.

Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
10 days ago

Jason and I share this trait: we’re both owners and (occasional) operators of a car that looks glorious with color matched wheels: the Nissan Pao.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CLpM2OHMo4_/?img_index=1

VanGuy
VanGuy
10 days ago

stares at my dark grey Prius v with light grey hubcaps

…I’m not sure if it’d be that big of an improvement, but yeah, I can broadly agree.

Nathan Williams
Nathan Williams
11 days ago

Maybe they’re still around. How would you tell in today’s monochrome world?

Raymond
Raymond
11 days ago

There is hope in the future, for more classiness. Rosie Jetson has color matched wheel covers,

Raymond
Raymond
11 days ago

Caterpillar still upholds this tradition.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago

I saw a blue W108 with matching hubcaps the other day. Mint condition. Incredible machine.

Also Jason a square hectare isn’t a thing. A hectare is already a unit of area.

Lokki
Lokki
11 days ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

So that makes it a Cuban Hectator?

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
11 days ago
Reply to  Lokki

Only if its name is Fidel.

Space
Space
12 days ago

I’m stunned at how far automotive advertising has fallen. We used to have glorious hand drawn art with descriptions multiple paragraphs in length. Now we have… Jan from Toyota and driving in a closed course at a reasonable speed.

Robn
Robn
12 days ago

The 75th Anniversary Defender in Grasmere Green with matching Grasmere Green wheels has entered the chat.

https://media.landrover.com/en-us/news/2022/09/new-defender-honors-its-lineage-75th-limited-edition

David Meyer
David Meyer
12 days ago

I’ve always wanted to know how they did the painting of those things. For instance on the Mercedes hubcaps, how did they do such a perfect job of masking around the details of the logo in the middle?

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago
Reply to  David Meyer

They painted the hubcap and glued the star on later 😀

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
11 days ago
Reply to  David Meyer

German Engineering.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
12 days ago

Hell yeah, I love these so much…and want that Mercedes or AMC w/ those. Almost makes me want to go paint the rims on my Honda

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
12 days ago

On those old dog-dish hubcaps? Sure
On modern large alloys? No. You see it sometimes on absurd modified flashy cars, anodized/powder coated wheels in a bright color. They look horrible

Anonymous Person
Anonymous Person
12 days ago

I’m more of a fan of the last photo. I like body color painted steel wheels with chrome or stainless center caps and trim rings.

D M
D M
12 days ago

My father had a Mercedes 240d (1979ish) with the painted body color hubcaps and I was super bummed when he updated to an 84/85 300d with the all grey, turbine looking wheels. The newer car’s wheels were so much uglier. They were also brake dust magnets with lots of nooks and crannies. And guess who’s job it was to wash the car on weekends? It easily tripled the time it took me to wash car. Those old Mercedes just look best with the body color wheels.

I’m on board. Chrome wheels are gaudy and black wheels are boring. Shades of grey are shades of meh. Bring back painted wheels!

White painted steelies look cool on old pick up trucks too. I’d like to see that make a comeback. Forget the 22″ alloys, give me some 15″ painted steelies. More sidewall=better.

FlyingMonstera
FlyingMonstera
12 days ago

Mercedes tried again in the late 80s/early 90s at least in Europe with the option of Radzierblenden in Flankenschutzfarbe (lower body cladding colour) but I don’t think I ever saw a car sporting them. And for the price of a kidney Porsche will give you body colour wheels today.

Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
12 days ago

I see a lot of black BMWs around, with black wheels and black windows, bus that doesn’t really count, does it? 😉

Austin Mercer
Austin Mercer
12 days ago

Ahh. Another excellent Torch mind-melter that left me thinking (yet again), I’ll have what he is having. Question is, what mind altering substance has the power to grant such wisdom and genius? Share, Torch!

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago
Reply to  Austin Mercer

Lead acid battery dust and emissions from a 1960s beetle engine with questionable valve seals and a porous firewall

Geoffrey Reuther
Geoffrey Reuther
10 days ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

I can smell this sentence. Ahh… Grandma’s old Beetle…

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
13 days ago

They do still offer body-colored wheels actually, but only if you buy black or silver cars, and sometimes grey ones too.

…which by your logic, means the greyscale horde is classier than colorful cars by default…

I don’t like where this is going.

Anyway I do approve of body colored wheels and have been thinking lately that if I ever get to fix up the family minivan by taking it to a body shop for dent repair and some paint touch-ups, as well as getting a set of BMW wheels for it (same bolt pattern and cheap), then the wheels should be painted body-color to make the van look fancier and more interesting. If it’s getting new paint anyway, then why not?

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
13 days ago

There was the briefest of blips in car color love over Y2K tuner area where (Michelin?) had those tires with red/yellow/blue rubber stripes in the tread. This is peak color on wheel design as if you had color coded wheels and similarly colored rubber, that was the ulta monochromatic look.

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
13 days ago

I can not agree more strongly. I need to up my Cougar’s swank levels. The Comet offered color-matched wheel trim rings as an option.

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
13 days ago

The yellow Mercedes and the Chevy Impala in the design article are shocking: apparently one can design a vehicle with, say, 15-inch wheels that looks normal and even attractive.

Mercedes-Benz had color-coded wheels earlier than the late ’60s: even the basic 180 and 190 sedans of the 1950s had color-matched hubcaps. I wonder if a smaller color-matched center cap would work on today’s cars/SUVs with typical silver or black alloy wheels?

Most importantly, Nova Guy in the Chevy ad, when magnified, looks like he’s just come from a successful first date with a taxidermist.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
13 days ago
Reply to  Beached Wail

The 300SL also had color-matched hubcaps, which made an already extremely classy car that much classier.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

MBs from the 1930s to mid 1980s are absolute perfection. Friedrich Geiger was an incredible designer.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
13 days ago

I feel like there were some body colored wheels on pontiacs in the 90s…. having a tough time remembering which ones though.

Body colored wheels will always be cool; I matched the wheels on my civic, same paint code, etc: https://i.imgur.com/rW4HBZ5.jpeg

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
13 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Found it! Or some of them:

1988: Pontiac Bonneville SSE. https://hips.hearstapps.com/hmg-prod/images/outoftheshadows-1549646061.jpg

1990: Pontiac Grand Prix. https://www.w-body.com/redfox340/wbodyperformance/id1.html

There might be some after this too

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
13 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Found another lol

1991: Dodge Shadow https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1991-dodge-shadow-es-3/

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
13 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

My friend’s mom had a Bonnie just like that! We had a used LE with a bench seat and column shift…the 3 spokes looked ok, but I was jealous!

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
12 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I had an 88 Grand Prix. White on white wheels, so a body match, however it’s a gray scale color. The red always looked better.

https://smclassiccars.com/uploads/postfotos/1988-pontiac-grand-prix-coupe-white-fwd-automatic-se-2.jpg

Last edited 12 days ago by Taco Shackleford
Harvey Park
Harvey Park
12 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Those are cool

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
13 days ago

The only swank I’m interested in is Hilary Swank, but you’re right, her body-colored wheels are great.

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