Cars and trucks built before about 1935 came on wire spoke wheels with small metal caps installed to seal the wheel hub on the axle. Those early “HUBcaps” were smaller than 3″ in diameter, made of heavy gauge plated steel hammered onto the hub of the wheel. Their main function was to keep dirt out of the spindle nut and the wheel bearings.
In the 1930s, automobiles transitioned from mere modes of transportation to statements of status and style. Hubcaps became more decorative than functional. The dog dish style was born, chrome hemispheres 9 inches in diameter, covering the lug nuts and the center of the wheel. About the same time, wheel technology advanced and spoke wheels were replaced by wheels formed from stamped steel.
In the 40s, Cadillac lead the pack in adding sparkling chrome by the acre: bumpers, grills, trim lines, window borders, hood ornaments, hood vents, headlights, running boards, etc. Increasing the size of the chrome hubcaps added reflective surface.
By the 50s, hubcap diameters increased to the point they covered the entire steel wheel with chrome. Many of this period were flat rounds looking like chrome Frisbees,...