Ford's Disc Wheels
When Ford returned to the 5.5-inch wheel-bolt pattern for the 1939 Lincoln and 1940 Ford and Mercury models it introduced the wheel that became the de-facto hot rod wheel for the post-war era. They were strong not to mention easier to clean and far lighter than the wheels that they replaced.

Ford offered them in a number of diameters, widths, and hubcap mounts. The flipside is that they're almost too numerous to count. We have an advantage, though: Stu McMillan.

McMillan presented the information listed in the Kelsey Hayes catalogs that he collected over the years. That's great because it reveals exactly which vehicle got what wheel. It's also a curse because Ford changed its part numbers every time it changed the design. And Ford made a ton of incremental changes that don't really bear mentioning.

We'll break things down by the major dimensions. The 1940 Ford V8-60 got a 16x3.5 wheel. The 1939 and 1940 Lincoln, 1940 Mercury, 1940-48 Ford cars, and 1940-42 pickups got the 16x4. The 1942-52 Ford trucks got the 16x4.5. The Mercury and Lincoln from 1942 to 1948 and trucks from 1953 to the mid '60s got the 15x5.

That list ignores hubcap mounting but a caption explains that. Also bear in mind that Ford offered just about every wheel it sold as an option on all of its vehicles. The most coveted are the 16x5 wheels that Ford offered as an option on pickups from at least 1954 to well into the 1960s.

Oversized Accessory Wheels
You can't spend much time in tradition land without hearing the terms Divco or milk truck applied to 18-inch stamped-steel wheels. Before we continue, though, we'd like to ask a huge favor: Stop doing that.

Contrary to the folklore, disc wheels that measure 18 inches, accept a Ford snap-in cap and fit passenger car/light-truck bolt patterns never ever came on Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company (Divco) trucks—nor did they grace any specific vehicle like a milk truck (dairy distributors favored the Divco trucks, which might explain the association). In fact, we don't know exactly why these wheels were made, although it's safe to presume that they were intended to increase a vehicle's ground clearance.

This much we do know thanks to Stu McMillan's collection. Kelsey Hayes produced those wheels as PN 23278 and PN 31873 for 1940-and later Ford and Mercury applications. Ford sold them as PN 1C-1015A, PN 8C5-1015B, and PN 01AS-1015A, although the literature doesn't designate any differences among the part numbers. Kelsey also produced a six-lug version for Chevrolet vehicles with the conventional 18x3.625 drop-center rim and with the less common 17-inch wheel with a lock-ring rim.

We also know why these oversized Kelsey disc wheels got popular. A larger diameter tire has the same net effect as reducing a gear ratio and high-speed Indy car tires fit right on them, making them popular among land speed racers. And their 5x5.5 pattern let them fit the most popular axles.

So now that you know, stop referring to these things as Divco or milk truck wheels. It makes you sound as if you just fell off a pumpkin truck (another application they weren't specifically intended for).

Revival Wires
Car designers are famously nostalgic. After an absence of about 20 years—the unofficial period for people to forget what made something go out of style in the first place—wire wheels reappeared in showrooms and parts stores.

Initially the two players were classic-age darlings: Kelsey Hayes produced the Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Skylark, and Ford Thunderbird wheels. Motor Wheel Co. built Chrysler, Hudson, and Packard wheels. Both offered aftermarket versions.

The wire-wheel revival of the 1950s and 1960s initiated a landslide of sorts. A number of wheel manufacturers tooled up to produce wire wheels by the 1970s. They haven't gone away since.

Wheel Vintiques
14955 Don Julian Rd
City of Industry
CA  91746
MT Car Products
1344 Manhattan Drive, Dept. R&C
CA  95969
Early Wheel Company
1147 Scott Street
Morro Bay
CA  93442
Rally America
16320 Morgan Canyon
CA  93651