1956 Imperial Southampton

1956 Imperial Southampton

28th Annual Midwest Mopars in the Park
June 2, 2012

Motor Wheel Corp.Chrysler/Imperial/Packard/Hudson
From Hot Rod Network
Written by Chris Shelton on November 25, 2008

With its distinctive dog-bone center cap, nothing looks quite like the wire wheel made for the ’53-56 Chrysler Corp. cars. Despite their popularity, they’re relatively misunderstood.

First, despite enduring folklore, they were made by Motor Wheel Corp. and not Kelsey Hayes. Second, they weren’t exclusive to Chrysler. According to Jimmy at Rally America, Motor Wheel offered no less than 10 different variations of the design to the OEM world for factory options (Packard and Hudson, for one example) and to the aftermarket world as parts-store accessories (early Thunderbird and Corvette for another). Though the wheels differ in several ways, including bolt pattern, width, and wheel offset, the caps are interchangeable due to a universal register.

The Chrysler wire also has a little-known stepbrother of sorts: the wheel made for the Dodge, Plymouth, and later DeSoto and Packard. They have similar hubs and take the same cap, but there’s no mistaking the two. Whereas all of the spokes in most wire wheels terminate in the rim’s drop center-or well-the construction usually limits wheel-offset options. To give the Dodge’s wheel the positive offset it needed to fit under the fenders of the smaller car, Motor Wheel terminated the face spokes in the outermost wheel flange, or felloe as it’s often called.

Kelsey Hayes Thunderbird Sports RoadsterWhen Ford tooled up for its special-edition ’62 and ’63 Thunderbird roadster, it patronized one of its long-standing vendors, Kelsey Hayes. Just as Motor Wheel did for the smaller Dodge, Kelsey lip-laced these wheels to fit them under the narrower T-bird.

Speaking of Motor Wheel, there are a few important things to understand about T-bird wheels. The Kelsey wheels that Ford sold on the Sports Roadster and in its parts departments from 1962 onward were different from those available for the earlier T-birds. According to Jimmy, those earlier wheels were made by Motor Wheel. They were never a factory-authorized Ford part. The official Ford wheels also had a 14-inch diameter.

Biographical Note from Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections

Motor Wheel Corporation was formed in 1920 as the result of a merger of the Prudden Wheel Company and Gier Pressed Steel and Auto Wheel. By 1934, Motor Wheel controlled approximately a third of all wheel production in the United States. It was a major manufacturer in Lansing and in Michigan. Motor Wheel was purchased by Goodyear Tire in 1964. The Motor Wheel Plant at 725 E. Saginaw St, Lansing was closed in 1975.

According to Bloomberg:

As of July 2, 1996, Motor Wheel Corporation was acquired by Hayes Lemmerz International Inc. Motor Wheel Corporation operates as an automotive and commercial highway OEM manufacturer and supplier of steel wheels and brakes. Its products include steel, wrought aluminum, spares and road wheels, black and body painted styled, full face and full-face chrome and Polycast. The company is based in Okemos, Michigan.

Posted by Crown Star Images on 2012-06-03 03:37:47

Tagged: , Midwest , Mopars , Park , Mopar , Minnesota , MN , Dakota , County , Fairgrounds , Hemi , Wedge , Head , Pentastar , 1956 , 56 , nineteenfiftysix , nineteen , fifty , six

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