Passenger Car, Truck, and SUV Factory Wheels have sure changed over the last 50 years. Think back to the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s when Steel Rims were much more common than Alloy Rims, those days are long gone. In the Mid 60’s through the 70’s we started to see alloy wheels offered as OEM or Original Equipment on small numbers of Porsche, Toyota, Chevy Corvettes, Ford Mustangs, Audi, VW, Mercedes, Cadillac, and a handful of other luxury car brands. The Germans Porsche, Mercedes, and BMW were some of the first Car Makes to start using them as OEM on cars selling to the public. Cadillac actually offered an alloy and steel wheel combination as early as the Mid 50’s with the outside of the wheel using an alloy finned rim riveted to an inner steel rim. The Ford Mustang and Chevy Corvette were a couple of the first USA brands to start using Alloy Rims as an option in more production volume in the mid 1960’s.
The early Original Stock Alloy wheels were not always the best looking, Some were good and some not so good. Personally, I think some of the early BMW, Porsche, and Ford Mustang rims were the most attractive. Since it was a new thing and they needed the wheels to function, there were not many large openings between the spokes of the wheels. Many of them had small short spokes, some looked like round waffles or snowflakes. Some OEM rims like the mid 60’s Corvettes had a thin fin style.
Compared to today’s alloy wheels, the first stock alloy wheels were tiny! Car, Truck, and SUV rims back in the early days were mostly 13 inches in diameter. 14 inches was considered big or “low profile” at one point if you can believe that. If you had 15 inch wheels back in the day that was almost unheard of.
Over the course of the 1970’s through the 1980’s the numbers of Car Makes and Models offering alloy wheels as original equipment went up every year. Even in the late 1980’s, people would take notice of a new Car with Factory Alloy Wheels, you knew you were looking at a luxury brand or a very high trim level car or truck when they were rolling on alloy rims. The alloy options back in the 1980’s were almost always the largest diameter rim offered for that particular model. Back in the 1980’s, a 17 inch wheel was huge, wow have times changed. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly when Alloy Car Rims were more common than Steel Rims. I think you need to get into the 1990’s, probably late 90’s when alloy took over steel as being more common across the board on all passenger cars in the US, or in other words, around half of new cars coming with alloy wheels and half with steel wheels. At this point, late 1990’s, alloy car rims had become much more attractive looking, larger longer spokes, the use of different colors was just beginning, they were becoming pieces of art that could make a huge difference in the look and feel of your ride, and they kept getting bigger!
I will get into much more on OEM Rims from 2000-2020 in my next post, thanks for reading and post your thoughts or comments below, I’m sure a lot of you guys have a favorite old alloy.