September 2001           
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 and I 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.  On the 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 effort.

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.



Copyright 2001-2006 by Johnny M. Patterson
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