Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Wheels & Tires -> Wire Wheels
For information about wire wheel hubcaps on the 1971 - 1975 and 1981-1983 Imperials, please check out our hubcap section.
Tip from Dan on cleaning wire wheels:
I found the perfect set of brushes. The set is called 'All Purpose Bottle and Straw Brush'. They are made in Germany by Gemco. I found them at Wal * Mart for under $3.00. Each brush consists of a length of medium soft bristles, with a wool swab at the tip. The larger one is 1 inch in dia, with a 1 inch swab, and 4 inches of bristle. The smaller one is about 3/8 inch in diameter, with a 3/8 swab, with bristles about 2 1/2 inches long. Each has a flexible wire handle.
Using some Simple Green cleaner, these brushes and my garden hose did the trick in about 45 minutes. I highly recommend these brushes.
Question from Nanette (1955):
I am getting conflicting advice on suitable tires for wire wheels. I would like to get radials, but have heard of many cases where the rims on the wire wheels have cracked after the owner has installed radial tires. Any advice/experience on this?
I would be more suspicious of the wire wheels being embrittled by the replating process if they are "restored" wire wheels. Plating can cause hydrogen embrittlement if the plating house does not take precautions to avoid it.
I cannot off hand think of why radials would put more stress on the wheels, at least at the loads we place on our tires with passenger cars. It is true that on over the road trucks, the wheels have to be specially rated for radial tires, but on passenger cars??????????
Wire wheels often are hard to seal, and many old car owners use tube type tires, or even run tubes inside their "tubeless" tires to avoid this problem. My two cars with wire wheels have run with tubes inside "tubeless" tires for many years (like since 1963 in the case of my Packard Convertible!). But, tubes for Radial tires ARE different, so if this is to be the choice, make sure the tubes are available!
Radial tires do appear to cause more wheel rim stress and flexing. I cannot keep a set of those heavy 1966 hubcaps on my LeBaron when I am running radials. I tossed 3 different one off 3 different wheels into the weeds on a trip last summer! Since I put on a set of original-spec bias-ply tires I have had no problem with flexing -- or flying hubcaps!
If this is the case with solid steel wheels I suspect it will also mean that a great deal of stress will be put on original-style wire wheels if radials are installed. If the wire wheels are modern reproductions that are engineered for radials then by all means use them. If not, then it appears that the price of glamour will be original-style, low performance belted tires. I would not want to take the risk, personally.
P.S. Chrysler acknowledged the finite strength limits of the wire wheels when (in '55, I believe) it removed them from the option list for limousines and station wagons. Radials might push them beyond those limits.
Tip from Dick about Early 50's Chrysler Corporation Wire Wheel Option:
The wire wheels which appear on early '50 Chrysler cars are not "Tru-spoke" wheels, they are the original Chrysler Corporation supplied 52 spoke Motor Rim wheels. Owners with these wheels have to be careful to get Imperial wheels, not normal Chrysler wheels, as the bolt pattern is different
Follow-up from Mark:
Weren't those made by Kelsey-Hayes? And aren't all '51-'56 Chrysler and Imperial wheels interchangeable?
Reply from Dick:
No, the wheels were made by Motor Rim. Kelsey Hayes got the credit in some magazine article years ago, and like many myths, it is very hard to extinguish. The wheels I had for many years and recently sold were stamped "Motor Rim" and "Detroit", just like the very similar Packard wheels. The Packard wheels are in fact identical to the Imperial wheels, excepting only the bolt pattern and the size of the center hub clearance hole. Many of the Imperial wheels have found their way onto Packards with a modified center disc, for example the set I put on Dick Teague's personal 56 Caribbean for him, the correct wheels being very hard to find. Once the caps are in place, it is impossible to tell the difference. The New Yorker and other lesser Mopar wheels have a different bolt circle than the Imperial wheels, although otherwise the wheels are identical, or at least so similar that no one would ever know. I think the lesser Mopars used a 5 width, the Imperial wheels are 5 1/2".
Follow-up from Mark:
I guess what threw me on this was that the wheels from my '54 New Yorker wagon would fit my '52 Imperial (and the '63 Crown I sold last year!). Apparently, the wheels for the Chrysler (and DeSoto) wagons are the same as used on the Imperials.
This page last updated January 20, 2004. Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club