TRADITIONAL WHEELS OR BUST
Wheels and tires are a necessity for every vehicle on the road, but it is also the quickest way to add style and flair to your ride.
It was about time for me to install a matching set of wheels and tires on my daily-driven 1962 Rambler Ambassador Station Wagon. Due to budget constraints, I have been running what was available to me — factory 14-inch steel wheels in the front with skinny whites, and some old-school Cragars in the back.
The Rambler is ultimately a traditional build, yet needs to be functional as both a daily driver and a tow vehicle for my front-engine rail. Coker Tire can provide a nostalgic look with the reliability we all desperately need in this day and age.
I have friends who change out their wheel and tire combination on a yearly (if not monthly) basis, and I don’t blame them. It radically changes the look and feel of your Kustom.
Within our hot rod community, not all of us have AMBR award-winning cars and the budgets that come with them. Instead, we have a ride just as important — one that makes it to our local burger joint. So how can you have that custom look on a budget AND be able to swap out different looks?
The answer? The old-school way: Hubcaps.
NOTHING POOR ABOUT THESE POVERTY CAPS
Coker Tire offers a massive selection of tires, but also wheels and hubcaps. Traditional hubcaps, also known as “poverty caps” or “dog dish caps,” were meant to keep dust and dirt from wheel bearings and lug nuts. From the late-‘30s through the ‘60s and beyond, hubcaps became more decorative. Automakers were able to offer a cheap solution to bring style to a standard steel wheel.
THREE STYLES – ONE WAGON
Browsing the Coker Tire website, I narrowed it down to three different hubcaps for three very different scenarios. If these were full wheels, you could easily spend thousands on just one set.
Instead of going with three different sets of wheels, I opted for three sets of caps — Baby Moons, Lancer, and Dodge Polara — to adorn one set of chrome steel wheels. The smoothie chrome wheel is less than $100. Since there will always be hubcaps on them, the multi-lug pattern can be swapped from Ford to Chevy lug patterns, making these wheels last a lifetime.
I choose the 15-inch smoothie chrome wheel since the Baby Moon caps will show most of the wheel. Coker Tire even offers a cheaper version in both a primered steel wheel if you plan on painting or powder coating, or even a primered center with a chrome outer ring.
The Rambler Ambassador originally came with 14-inch steel wheels, but since I will be using an array of hubcaps, 15-inch made more sense, along with the decision I made regarding the tires.
The ultimate classic combo is the standard chrome steelie with Baby Moons. Its’ simple design creates a sharp contrast to any style build, and its utilitarian look can be used from trucks to down and dirty hot rods and, for me, a tow vehicle.
For the first 100 miles, I opted to drive with the Baby Moons. Cleaning them was a breeze since there are no ridges you need a toothbrush for. This look is going to be my go-to daily-driver choice because of the ease of cleaning. Daily driving causes a lot of brake dust, dirt, and water spots, so being able to clean them quickly is very beneficial.
Next, are the Lancers, I can change the look of my car in minutes, and it feels right at home with the other ‘50s and ‘60s street rods. The matte-black provides a sharp contrast against my white paint.
I am not going to be towing my dragster to the track every day. There will be times I want to drive my Rambler to the local car show, and I want it to have a factory-style look. The Lancer full-wheel hubcap fits it perfectly. The flat-black painted inserts give that factory-stamped feel, but with the chrome and center bullet, it screams ‘60s-era dog dish. You would definitely see these caps cruising Whittier Boulevard.
Swapping the Lancers for the Dodge Polara caps was the next step. These are the most kustom caps out of the bunch. The Rambler Wagon went from mild to wild, instantly. Now, every time I see these caps on the wagon, I get a wild hair up my ass and want to paint it candy-apple anything and have it lay on some white carpet.
It is a bucket list item for me to have air-ride suspension on my Rambler and have it sit in a bed of angel hair at an indoor Motorama-style show. You absolutely need the right style wheel to even hold up to a kustom Larry Watson paintjob, and Coker Tire offers the Dodge Polara hubcap. This hubcap came right out of the atomic age and looks like a turbine with its multi-ridge design. The white painted inserts complement any paintjob, and the bullet-nose center is a must-need for a traditional build.
If the Rambler were a Sunday cruiser, I would have opted for the traditional bias-ply tires. The difference between bias-ply tires and radials are in the construction of the tire. Bias–ply tires are made with overlapping cords placed in a crisscross pattern. Ultimately, the radial tire has more sidewall flex. Coker offers new bias-ply tires for your period-correct ride and even provides The American Classic bias, a radial tire that looks like a bias-ply.
The radial tire is a modern design, and for my daily driver, I opted for that.
I wanted a WIDE white wall — 3 ⅛-inches. The wider the white, the taller the tire. Not only did I add an inch with the steel wheels, but the taller tire was going to bring the ride height up. This was to fill the entire wheelwell. My build plan is going to include air ride soon, and to me, I need the 235/75R15 to fill up any empty space to get the look I want.
Not only did these tires fill the style-need, but this is a tow vehicle. The higher weight rating and larger tread footprint will make for safer towing when I am cruising along to drag races.
FIRST 100 MILES
I got used to the old tires and mismatched wheel size driving the wagon every day. Now, the quality of the Coker Tire makes the driving experience that much more enjoyable. The steering feels more responsive, and the tire compound allows for better braking. Ultimately, I wanted it to look good, but now I have a performer.
All three sets, including the chrome steelies, are very high quality and the shine is show quality.
Ultimately, the Baby Moon and chrome steelies combination became my favorite look. The simplistic, traditional design creates a subtle look — less is more.
If you are looking for an inexpensive way to change the look of your car quickly, this is a terrific option that will leave you with a little extra money to spend elsewhere on your ride. I can change the look of my wagon daily without hurting my wallet, thanks to Coker Tire.