By on October 18, 2012

My first semester’s Automotive Design class (an elective, taught on a Saturday no less) at CCS was taught by a cool, laid back dude.  But he’d get unhinged when his students drew static looking wheels: his beef was four spoke wheels. They are impossible to make “cool”, unless you own a Scion xBox or a Nissan Cube.  But can you have a cool wheel that’s not your average spoke-y affair?  Welcome to the Hexagon wheel.


Even this unit from the Fox Body Lincolns (1986 Continental and Mark VII) has a charm that verges on ludicrous. The dominance of the hexagonal hub cap is much like the Nissan truck above, but with cleaner lines (i.e. more expensive like an Apple) and a shiny finish.  Note how both the Lincoln and the Nissan utilize negative area on half of the Hexagon’s planes to add depth to the package. And the symmetry in the Lincoln’s positive/negative space around the hub cap makes the design more appealing the more you stare at it.  Possibly.

While the Nissan has 6 lug nuts and functional cooling passages, the Lincoln’s 5-lug affair is well…very Salt Flat Racer worthy. Point is, both designs work. Especially if you’re in the mood for some Harold Faltermeyer. Or some convulsion-inducing Dubstep.


Or not. Peep this vintage Packard wheel with a strong hexagonal form. Packards regularly sported the red hexagon, and I suspect that 6-lug wheels had something to do with it. Perhaps this was the genesis of it all. Did you think TTAC could make a correlation between a Nissan truck and a Packard today?

Well, there it is.  You’re welcome.

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43 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: It’s Hip to be…Hexagon???...”

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t bag too much on Saturday courses. They’re taught on Saturdays since that is the only day actively employed folks in the design world can be flown in and teach real-world classes to the students.

    Infinitely more valuable than the boring lectures you get at most colleges where someone 10 years removed from the industry tells you stories from the good old days or tells you about some advertising campaign from the 80’s that (s)he executed well.

  • avatar

    It all depends on how many lug nuts are on the wheel. If the wheel has five, don’t do what Pontiac did with its Grand Prixs years ago by sporting wheels with only THREE spokes!

    A friend had one as his company car and was pretty upset about those wheels he almost bought a proper 5-spoke set!

    If the wheel has six, a truncated triangle like in the Nissan photo above doesn’t work either. It needs to be six-sided.

    A hexagonal thingy in the middle of the Packard wheel is OK. No different than Chevy putting its bow tie on the center caps of its wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you got it. It all ties into how many lug nuts there are. The 4 spoke design works well enough for all those classic Revo and Libra wheels, or the more modern Work Equip or SSR Type X wheels…. all of them go well with 4 hole bolt patterns

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    Didn’t Nissan trucks have a Batman type symbol rims on them in the 80’s or early 90’s? Cheesy but cool at the same time.

    • 0 avatar

      I know what you’re mentioning, but I thought those were aftermarket.

      • 0 avatar
        Jean-Pierre Sarti

        No I am pretty sure they were a factory or dealer option because for a while back then they were very prevalent. I seem to remember they were mainly on the 2WD extended cab versions.

        I could be wrong though. I hope someone compact truck fan can shed some light.

  • avatar

    Nice to see that SOMEONE on TTAC knows the difference between a Hexagon and an Octagon, eh Murilee?


  • avatar

    to this post I doth submit, the Z24 wheel:

  • avatar

    ‘…he’d get unhinged when his students drew static looking wheels: his beef was four spoke wheels. They are impossible to make “cool”…’

    Totally agree. For example of such, the 2004-5 Saturn Ion four door with those incredibly wretched looking four spoke wheels.

  • avatar

    Rims you could play Battleship on.

  • avatar

    Regarding Packard’s red hexagon, from a Packard enthusiast site:

    The Red Hexagon is one of the automobile industry’s earliest marks of quality. This design was first used on Model L Packards in 1904. In those early days, the hexagon was black on the hubcaps of Packards in 1904.
    There are several interesting stories about the Red Hexagon. Years ago, owners of the first Packards were in the habit of sending their Packards back to the factory to be overhauled. When Packards were overhauled at the factory, the hexagon-shaped hubcaps were painted red. This was to signify the “final OK” after rigid factory inspections. For some reason, the idea caught on the many buyers of new Packards requested red hexagons on their cars, also. This is why the red hexagon is on Packard Hubcaps today.

    Another story goes:-

    The origin of the Packard hub cap hexagon had its beginnings when the famous indentation was provided as a tool aperture for hub grease cap removal. This maintenance practice was frequent in an era when grease broke down quickly because of its high animal fat content At some time in Packard history, a harried mechanic probably inadvertently packed the same bearings twice. So that he would not make the same error the next time, he identified his completed work with a dab of red paint in the indent. The effect was dramatic, and soon owners did the same or demanded it on their new cars. The red hexagon was formally adopted by Packard in 1913.

  • avatar

    Those Nissan wheels very much remind me of the rims that came with my Mk1 Toyota MR2…

  • avatar

    The only cool four spoke wheels I’ve seen…

  • avatar

    A link between Nissan and Packard?

    Yup, it’s possible.

    Nissan is semi-sort-of owned by Renault (and vice versa)
    Renault is in a joint venture with Mercedes-Benz
    Mercedes-Bens used to own Audi
    Volkswagen bought Audi
    Volkswagen also bought Bentley
    Bentley used to be owned by Rolls-Royce
    Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin engines under contract during the Second world war.

    Not sure how the hexagon traversed all those steps, though :)

  • avatar

    I never cared for three-spoke wheels, but these ‘twin-three’ six-spokes always made a positive impression…

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “his beef was four spoke wheels. They are impossible to make “cool”, unless you own a Scion xBox or a Nissan Cube.”

    Your lecturer is talking through his hat. Look at wheels such as Rostyles – fitted to Minis, MGs etc, The Ford RS Alloy as fitted to Capri, RS2000 etc, BWA four-spokes as fitted to various Alfas. Any number of Cromadora wheels, but most notably the CD57 as fitted to Fiat 124s and Abarths and the CD23 as fitted to Italian built Minis.

    All very cool. I’d be questioning the qualifications of your teacher.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Indeed. My first thought upon reading the statement was, “hmm, ever heard of Cromodoras?” There are outstanding 4 spoke designs out there; it only takes a bit of looking to find them.

  • avatar

    All I want is a wheel that is good looking and
    easy to clean. Too many spokes or crevices
    are a pain. And while we’re at it, light weight.

    • 0 avatar

      ^This. Way, way too many modern wheels are designed purely for looks, without any thought to the fact that they touch the freakin’ ground and have dust-spewing brake pads right behind them.

      That Lincoln wheel up above still looks good today, and it’s basically a smooth, wipe clean design.

  • avatar

    My favorite wheel is a five spoke design…

    • 0 avatar

      Those are an 80s classic for sure!

      Going back 15-20 more years, there was the EMPI four-spoke design, used on Porsche 914s and (aftermarket) VW Beetles. Back then, there were no 5-spoke designs available for the Beetle’s 4×130 bolt pattern.

  • avatar

    I always thought those nissan wheels looked like a clutch pressure plate.

  • avatar

    The 1986 Subaru XT had some unique (almost 4-spoke) wheels:

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve always been partial to the 80s supra wheels — It’s also an almost 4 spoke wheel with cutouts, or I maybe it’s 8 spokes.

  • avatar

    Campagnolo made a nice looking four spoke wheel for the X/19.

  • avatar

    5 spokes are ideal.

    Odd is always better than even but as you go up in number of spokes the difference between them diminishes.

    4 and 2 spoke wheels are abominations.

    3 are almost always bad

    1 spoke…?

    There’s probably something to primes being better than non-prime odd numbers but that doesn’t come into play until you’re up to 15 spokes.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    “Even this unit from the Fox Body Lincolns (1986 Continental and Mark VII)…”

    Those 1986 Fox Body Lincolns must have sold like crap, ’cause this is the first time I’ve seen that wheel design (and boy, is it ugly!)

  • avatar

    Meh, spokes are boring. 3, 4, 5, 6 or whatever number. I’ve always been partial to Alfa Romeo wheels from the past. They had a circular theme that I find very appealing.

    For a more recent variation of the traditional Alfa Romeo theme, take a look at the wheels of this 156 from the 90s.


  • avatar

    Sorry for the double post! The folowing is what I really wanted to post:

    Meh, spokes are boring. 3, 4, 5, 6 or whatever number. I’ve always been partial to Alfa Romeo wheels from the past. They had a circular theme that I find very appealing.

    For a more recent variation of the traditional Alfa Romeo theme, take a look at the wheels of this 156 from the 90s.

    Or these from a 164.

    Don’t know if other makers made somthing similar, but I’ve always thought Alfa Romeo’s traditional take on wheels different and cool.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Along the lines of those Alfa 164 wheels, here’s Chrysler’s 16-hole design from the mid 80s.

      Easily my favorite of Chrysler’s designs from that era, and especially sharp looking when the textured portion of the perimeter holes were painted body color.

  • avatar

    MINI was able to pull of a cool-looking 4-spoke wheel on its 2006 JCW GP:×960.jpg

    Also, Saab had what you could call a double-three-spoke wheel on the 2008 Turbo-Xs. Really nice-looking:

  • avatar
    its me Dave

    I always liked the early Pontiac honeycomb wheels: hexagonal theme well-integrated into a 5-bolt lug pattern.

  • avatar

    There have been several three-spoke designs (or three split-spokes) that I’ve liked. The original Viper’s three spokes were cool, older Lexus ES models have had a couple of nice 3 split spoke designs, and the original Ford Probe also had a nice 3 spoke design. And, as mentioned, Saab has done some nice ones as well. Still, I do tend to favor 5 or seven spoke designs.

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