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Modern Steering Wheels With Classic Styling

10/24/2022
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Tags: Videos, Tech, Tech

Steering wheels have changed a lot over the years. In the early days, large wheels mounted to simple steering columns and manually turned the gears in the steering box. Though the function of these vintage wheels was simple, their design was often well thought out and many have become as iconic as the cars they were found in. When it comes time to pick a steering wheel for your hot rod, custom, or classic truck, it’s possible to get classic looks in a wheel that’s designed to work with more modern components.

The Speedway Motors '47-'53 Chevy truck steering wheel is a great example of a classic design that's been updated to work better for modern drivers.
Are all Steering Wheels the Same Size?

In the early days, before power steering became commonplace, the steering wheel had a lot of heavy lifting to do. Drivers needed the leverage of a large wheel to wrestle their cars in the right direction. As power steering became more common and steering columns became more complicated, wheels continued to evolve, in many cases becoming smaller and more stylized.

Many early wheels were quite big. 18”-19” diameters were very common, and to our modern sensibilities they seem enormous. Combine that with the fact that most old cars and truck interiors are on the cramped side already, and the problem is clear. If you plan to spend lots of quality time behind the wheel, that vintage tiller might not cut it anymore.

The stock '40 Ford wheel in this hot rod has the right vintage look, but it's 17" size makes for a cramped cabin. A Speedway Motors15-inch '40 wheel (91027003) would be a better fit.
Are Steering Wheels Universal?

Not at all. Wheels found in classic cars were mounted and retained in a variety of ways. There were splines and tapered keyways in almost infinite variety. So, spotting a wheel that you like in, say a ’40 Ford and simply swapping it over to your stock ’48 Chevy column simply will not work.

The '59 Impala wheel in this Chevy truck has a cool vintage look with a 15" diameter, making it a better fit in the truck's cab and more comfortable to drive.
Can Steering Wheels be Changed?

You bet. It seems like we’ve described a lot of problems here without offering a solution. Thankfully, the hot rod aftermarket has created a wide variety of solutions to the problems described, and Speedway Motors offers many of them. There are adapters that work with many common wheels and columns as well as steering wheels that are designed specifically to answer these concerns.

Our new 47-54 Chevy/GMC Truck 15 Inch Steering Wheel is a great example of what we’re talking about. It’s got the cool, classic look of the original wheel found in these trucks, but it’s been updated to work in a modernized cab. It’s been sized down to 15” from the original 18.” This is more like what you’ll find in a modern car. Perfect for power steering and offering extra room in the cab. It’s also been updated with a hub that will fit the common ’69-’94 GM columns that are widely used in updated classics.

If you’re in the market for a wheel for your classic, don’t settle for the cumbersome original or an aftermarket wheel that fits your column, but doesn’t have the right look to suit your car’s vintage vibe. Check out the variety of wheels available from Speedway Motors. There’s no shortage of neat, vintage styling that’s been updated to work in your combo.

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