If you've been following along in this project, you
know that my restoration goal is to keep
Maych as original as
practical, which means I will not be adding anything that did
not come stock on the vehicle. Restoring the wheels would test
how faithful I would be to these goals.
Almost, without exception, every
pickup of this vintage that I see on the road has had the original rims and wheel
covers replaced. The most popular replacements seem to be rally
wheels with chrome trim rims. But I've also seen a lot of custom
rims also. The custom rims are, more often than not, sporting
oversized tires. I must admit that I was tempted to go with the
rally wheel/trim ring look. I like the look and they really do
dress up a vehicle. But somehow I resisted the urge and decided
to keep the original look -- stock rims and wheel covers.
Even though I decided to go with
the original look, I wanted the wheels to look like new. That
meant I had to do something about the wheel covers. As you can
see in the photos, the original
wheel had significant dents and the
center caps on all of them were badly pitted.
I knew from looking through the
parts books that you could get reproduction wheel covers.
However, they always listed the cost as "call for price",
which is a code phrase for "damn expensive".
Before shelling out big bucks for new covers, I thought I would check
around and she if anyone had a decent set for sell at a reasonable
price. I had recently joined the
The 1967-1972 Chevrolet & GMC Pickups Message Board
notice that one of the boards in the network was devoted to parts for
67-72 Chevys and GMCs. I figured it was worth a shot, so I
posted a message on the board asking if anyone had a set of wheel
covers for a 72 GMC. I also posted a picture of the wheel
covers, just so there was no confusion on what I was looking for.
The first response I got to my post
was from a board member that was also a parts dealer. He had a
set for $100.00. He included photos with his post and from what
I could tell in the photo, they weren't quite the quality I was
looking for. A day or so later a guy posted that he had a set he
would sell me for $45.00 and that included the postage. He
didn't post photos but in a subsequent email he said the condition was
excellent, with no dents or major scratches and no rust pitting.
I checked around on the part board
and it didn't appear that anyone had any problems with him in the
past, so I decided to buy them. He said he would send them as
soon as he got my check. It turned out that it took him a little
longer to get them in the mail than was originally planned. It
wasn't his fault though.
Shortly after he got my check, a bunch
of idiots decided to fly commercial aircraft into the World Trade
Center towers and the Pentagon. The guy selling me the
covers was in the Army, stationed in Oklahoma, and the next few days
got real hectic for him. To tell the truth, for several days
after 9/11/01, I wasn't concerned about no stinking wheel covers --
they suddenly didn't seem all that important. But, life goes on
and about a week or so later he was finally able
to get to the post office and mail me the wheel covers.
When I opened the package, I was a
little concerned about the quality of the covers. They must have
been sitting in a storage shed or barn for a couple of years.
They were completely covered with dust and grim and, for some
reason, must have been attractive to Dirt Daubers, because it appeared
several generations had decided to make them their home.
After a session at the utility
sink, with plenty of dish detergent and hot water, I was much relieved
to find that they cleaned up very nice. Just like he said, there
were no dents or major scratches and the center hubs were not
pitted. The black accent paint would need to be repainted, along
with the red paint inside the GMC logo, but I could do that easy
enough. There was a little surface rust on the inside on the
wheel covers, but that too could be remedied with a little cleanup and
paint. All in all, they were just as he said and in much better
shape than my originals.
As I was removing the center hubs
in preparation for painting, I noticed that the new covers seem to
weigh a lot less than my originals. After removing the center
hubs I discovered that the new covers were constructed considerably different
than the originals. This lead me to suspect the new covers were reproductions.
The new covers have a 4"
diameter hole in the middle of cover that is hidden by the
center hubs. The originals are solid and have a bowtie
imprinted in the center of the cover that is covered up by the GMC
center hubs. The biggest difference though, and the reason the
new ones weigh less than the originals, is that the center hubs on the
new ones are plastic, while the originals are metal. That also
explains why there was no rust pitting.
I was a little disappointed that
the new covers weren't original, but they do look much better than the
originals, so I decided to go ahead and use them.
I decided to paint the insides on
the new covers to prevent the surface rust from getting any
worse. After masking off the front, I sprayed the insides with
two coats of rust- preventative primer and two coats of
rust-preventative silver enamel. It ain't chrome, but it looks
pretty good and should prevent any future rust problems.
After the paint cured I proceeded
to mask off the outsides in order to paint the black accenting.
Somebody a GM must have really been into black accent on chrome
parts back in the 60's and 70's. They used in everywhere.
chrome body trim, the emblems, the wheel covers, and especially the
grill. It does sort of make the chrome stand out, but it's a
bear to maintain.
Masking off the cover to paint the
black accent was a royal pain in the butt. Masking tape just wasn't meant to
go around a circle. But I hung in there and eventually had it
all masked off. Took about 2 hours to mask off and about
10 minutes to paint. I put on two coats of rust-preventative
primer and two coats of black satin enamel.
The next step was to repaint the
center hubs. I decided to use a brush to paint the hubs.
It would be too time consuming to
mask off and the painted areas were
small enough that brush marks would not be noticeable. The tough
part was painting around and in between the GMC letters. I found
that it worked best to place a drop of paint on the end of a very
small paintbrush, touch the brush to the surface and then sort of
spread the drop around. I used this "drop and spread"
technique to paint the red on the inside of the GMC letters
also. It was tedious, but the end results were worth the
The only thing left to do on the
wheel covers was to give the chrome a good metal polish. I
applied the metal polish before I re-installed the center hubs and fake lug
nuts. After the chrome was polished I re-installed the
fake lug nuts and the center caps.
The wheel covers were now ready to
install on the rims. But, I didn't want to install my nice shiny new
wheel covers on the old rusty, greasy rims. Also, I didn't want to redo
the rims until I got new tires and I wasn't sure when I would get
around to getting new tires. However, the need for new tires
came sooner than
I expected, as you will see in Part 2.