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Custom History

March 17, 2018

Golden Sahara Hubcaps

 

GOLDEN SAHARA HUBCAPS

 

Jim Street’s Golden Sahara had several sets of unequally styled hubcaps. From stylish on the first version, to space age filled with electronics on the final version.


Golden Sahara I

In our series of articles on Jim Street‘s (Skonzakes) Golden Sahara I and II we want to highlight the Custom Hubcaps created for the Golden Sahara over the years. When Jim, his friend who made the actually sketch for it and George Barris designed the Golden Sahara around 1954 they knew they were doing something special. The car was a wonderful combination between traditional Custom Car and a Factory Futuristic design study. Every aspect on the original version of the Golden Sahara was well thought out, clever use of exciting car part use, in a traditional Customizing way, and creation of many hand made off of sections. The Hubcaps, which are often a focus point on a Custom, had to be something special as well.

Golden Sahara I hubcaps

On the original version of the Golden Sahara Jim picked a then brand new design Aftermarket hubcap that was sold by the Chicago based Lyon Inc. The hubcap was beautiful cone shaped, wit small fins all around the protruding cone shape, very much like a fine pressed lady dress. The top of the cone was flattened and decorated with a crest, several different crest options were available. But Jim was not interested in the crest, since he had plans to ad a large bullet to the center, to match the bullets used on the front of the car. The whole hubcaps was rather simple, but had the just right feeling for the car, the combination of the small fins and the large bullet made it look very futuristic, matching the rest of the car perfectly. The whole unit was cold color plated.

Shortly after the Golden Sahara was finished with Jim Skonzakes behind the steering wheel, George Barris standing next to the car, with Bill DeCarr to the right of George. Bill DeCarr was responsible some of the work on the Golden Sahara. The picture was taken at the Ford plant in Pico Rivera, CA where Bill worked a day-job at the time.

 


Gold color plated details made the Golden Sahara a truly unique Custom Car, especially for the time it was created. The large bullets used on the Lyon hubcaps stick outside the body creating a unique, never before sight.

 


Ina Mae Overman took some beautiful color slides during the mid 1950’s. She took two nice slides of the Golden Sahara at the 1954 Petersen Motorrama Show held in the Pan Pacific Auditorium in November 1954. Thanks to her photos we can see that the gold colored hubcaps were mounted on Firestone brand white wall tires on the first version of the Golden Sahara.

 


In several of the promotional photos, created around 1960, that was made to show of the glowing Good-Year Tires one of the tires was shown with the same hubcap Jim had used on the Golden Sahara back in 1954.

 


The Lyon hubcap similar to the one Jim Skonzakes and the Barris team started with for the early version Golden Sahara Hubcaps.

 





This photo shows that several center crest options were available, but were of no use for Jim, since he would cover them with a large bullet.

 


The Lyon hubcap with an added Bullet very similar to what Jim and the Barris Team created in 1954.

 








Golden Sahara II

In 1957 Jim decided to do a complete makeover on the Golden Sahara and create the Golden Sahara II. Major body reconstruction, new hand made windows, new double fins on the rear, and scooped completely restyled front fenders and many other refinements on the design. And the most important part the addition of many state of the art, specially developed for the Golden Sahara, electronic gadgets. Totally unique in the world new features that would shock the car loving enthusiast for many years to come. The work on the Golden Sahara II was done at the Delphos Machine & Tool Ahop in Dayton, Ohio with a team put together by Jim of special craftsman including Joe Rote, responsible for the electronics, Bud West for the paint and Henry Meyer, the engineer behind many of the new developed techniques. Some of the body work, including the double finned rear fenders was done by metal master Bob Metz in Indiana.


Golden Sahara II First version hubcaps

When the Golden Sahara II was first finished the car had the original hubcaps that were created back in 1954. Based on the Lyon hubcap with the large diameter bullet added. But some changed were made to the hubcaps to fit with the theme of the car. The end of the bullets have been removed and nicely finished. Inside the bullets special sonic units had been installed with small antennas sticking out. These sonic units send out a signal when the car came to close to the curb. And electronic curb feeler. The early version of the Golden Sahara II rode on regular white wall tires.

The early version of the Golden Sahara II used the same Lyon based hubcaps with the addition of the sonic curb feelers in the bullet ends.

 


Close up of the early version hubcaps on the Golden Sahara II photographed around 1960s at the Larry Watson Artesia Blvd. shop showing the antenna for the electronic curb feelers.

 


 


Sometimes later Jim created some unique new white wall tires with chrome plated pins and a stainless steel center on the thread of the tire. The hubcaps stayed the same.

 


Close up shows the pins and the stainless band a little better. We will get back to this in an later article.

 


Golden Sahara II Second version hubcaps

For the last and ultimate version of the Golden Sahara Jim added some very special “glass” Good-Year tires to the Golden Sahara II and created some very intricate finned hubcaps with translucent hubs. The unique thing about the tires which were made from translucent synthetic rubber that was toned using special dies allowed light to pass through. Jim and Henry Meyer developed a unique wheel with small light bulbs that would make the tires look like they were glowing. You can read more on the Glowing tires on the Golden Sahara in this CCC-Article.


Illuminated gold colored “glass” Good-Year tires and the illuminated turn signals in the hub.

 


The hubcaps on this last version of the Golden Sahara II were totally unique and beautifully hand made by Bob Metz at his El Rancho body shop in Shelbyville, Indiana and Henry Meyer at the Delphos Machine & Tool Shop. Each fin blade was hand cut and assembled on a special machined hub. The total width of the finned section was wider than the actual wheel, covering part of the tire, making it look like the Golden Sahara used a much larger wheel size. As mentioned the wheels were modified with light bulp’s that illuminated the translucent tires. The center of the hubcap was machined from Lucite and frost finished. At the end a new sonic curb feeler was added and inside the translucent center hub another  light bulb was added, this could be used as turn signal. With the gold illuminated tires and white turn signals in the hub the look must have been totally out of space at the time… well actually it still is.

The special Good-Year “glass” tires looked very special when they were lite at night, but during the day they looked a little odd, like somebody had painted regular tired with gold pearl. Still the whole combination worked, and no mater where Jim showed the Golden Sahara II, the unique tires and hubcaps were a huge success.

 


Close up of the lite Good-Year tires, the finned hubcaps and the frosted Lucite center hub acting as turn-signal.

 


More closer to have a good look at the hand made fins on the hubcap, and the sonic curb feelers. Jim told me that with the hand made blades and everything needed to make it all work these hubcaps were very heavy. The hubcaps were made by Bob Metz and Henry Meyer.

 


Illuminated at night, with long shutter time moving tires.

 


Close up during the day showing the turbine like look of the special designed and hand made hubcaps and machined Lucite center hub. The photo also shows that the “glass” tires have a much different look than any other tire.

 


Turn signals inside the hub.

 


Illustration done for a sign to promote the special illuminating Good-Year Tires. The illustration was obviously based on one of the color photos shown above.

 


When the Golden Sahara II was uncovered on March 13th, 2018 the finned center section of the hubcaps had been taken off before the photos were taken. The “glass” tired had disintegrate and some new tires had to been put on the car, before it could be moved. And since the fins on the hubcap were larger than the wheel and to prevent damage, they were carefully removed.

Because the finned center section had been removed we can now have an unique look at what is under the finned section. Everything all hand made and machined by Delphos Machine & Tool Shop employees instructed by Jim Skonzakes and Henry Meyer.

 



When the Golden Sahara was revealed to the public on May 14, 2018 at the Mecum Auction in Indianapolis the Bob Metz created finned hubcaps were mounted on the car again.

 









 


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About the Author

Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)




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2 Comments


  1. Thank you for another GREAT Sahara article Rik.
    The innovations, and the unknown (and perhaps unnoticed) details on this truly one of a kind creation are amazing!
    As always you present the real facts on this car and as a bonus, I don’t have to read the ignorant comments from all of the haters that have been posted on other sites.
    Can’t wait for the next installment….
    Torchie


  2. Leslie

    Very nice! Well informed, FACTUAL info!



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