Wheelskins: Chrome covers for Styled Wheels
"Wheelskin" is a relatively new term. Wheelskins were invented in the late
1990s to provide an inexpensive way to put chrome on styled wheels.
After WWII, the racing community introduced new technologies and materials to
every aspect of race cars to reduce weight and improve speed and handling. One
of those improvements, ‘mag wheels’ remains in the vernacular to this day.
Halibrand magnesium wheels carried every car that won the Indy 500 from 1946 to
1963. Those early wheels were made of magnesium, which was far lighter than
steel, and a third lighter than aluminum. The major downside of the true Mag
wheel was the need to polish it regularly, because magnesium reacts rapidly to
air and water to produce a heavy greenish surface oxide, which then pits, as
seen in the middle picture below. Shifting to aluminum alloys reduced these
Early aluminum alloy wheels were made in fairly simple designs shown above. As
more sophisticated, high strength molding and forging processes were developed,
more intricate and artistic designs became common. The original purpose of
decreased weight and performance gave way to style and expression. Adoption of
“styled” alloy wheels became widespread in high-end street machines of German
manufacture, and as expensive aftermarket options for the rest. Finally, major
American and Japanese car manufacturers began offering styled alloy wheels first as
options, and in the ‘90s as standard features. The top models of even the
economy brands offered styled steel wheels.
The advent of styled alloy wheels opened a new range of stylistic expression to
auto owners. Spoke and swirl patterns could extend seamlessly to the outer edge
of the wheel. As computerized machining technology advanced, it became less
expensive to engineer the molds, so a larger selection of designs became
available and prices decreased.
Chrome, the final fashion statement, was applied to all varieties of styled
wheels. This option is popular but expensive, in the range of several hundred
dollars per wheel.
Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of actual chrome plating on auto wheels is
its tendency to corrode when exposed to winter salt driving conditions. Hence
the fine print caveat in the warrantees of chrome wheel manufacturers: “Do not
drive chrome wheels in snow!” and “Salt can deteriorate and corrode your
invented in the late 1990s to provide an inexpensive way to put brilliant
chromed plastic covers on styled wheels. Precision molds were designed to
produce inexpensive corrosion resistant covers that perfectly match the geometry
of styled wheels, and ‘fit like a glove’ or like a second skin. There are
several manufacturers of Wheelskins, the two best known are the Impostors™ and
the Wheelskins brands. There is only one model of Wheelskin that matches each
specific styled wheel, and that Wheelskin does not fit any other wheel.
This series of pictures shows the styled wheel on the left, its chrome Wheelskin
Pontiac Grand Am Styled Alloy
Chevy Silverado styled steel wheel
Wheelskins have become
the best kept secret in the automotive wheel fashion industry. Once installed,
you can only tell the difference between them and real chromed wheels if you
know what to look for. Thousands of sets are sold to new and used auto
retailers, who mount them on the vehicles on their lots. Those thousands of
vehicles are sold to customers who are very happy they have purchased their
vehicles with chrome wheels at a bargain price.
Impostors and Wheelskins are two manufacturer's brands of custom chrome wheel
covers for styled wheels that we carry. They give styled wheels a “high-end”
chrome look and are an inexpensive alternative to chromed alloy wheels that may
cost up to 20 times as much. We sell to many dealers that install Wheelskins on
NEW vehicles, and we have heard from many customers who thought their vehicle
had chrome wheels until they dinged one on a curb.
Dodge Dakota Styled Alloy wheel
Toyota Tundra styled steel wheel
Styled Steel or Alloy Wheels
do not have the normal recess inside of the bead for standard hubcaps to mount
into. Most Wheelskins therefore use
to grab the outer edge of the rim or the wheel, the way a wheel weight does.
Many of the newer Impostor Center or Inside Clip models have clips that grab the
wheel at the base of its spokes.
Impostors and Wheel Skins are two manufacturer's brand
names of Wheelskins that we carry. They give styled wheels a “high-end” chrome
look and are an inexpensive alternative to chromed alloy wheels that may cost up
to 20 times as much.