Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What Are Hubcaps For ?



Apart from decorating the verges of country roads that is. Earlier this year I became the not enormously proud owner of a secondhand Peugeot Automatic 1.4 after my larger, more comfortable and more powerful Vauxhall Astra was rammed by the feckless driver of a Ford Ka.

To be honest, despite having all the acceleration of a vacuum cleaner, the Peugeot is quite fine for what I do, which is to drive quite slowly and never overtake anything that travels faster then say, a milkfloat.

When I bought the car it had four shiny silver plastic hubcaps.

After a week or so, it had just three. One of the discs had detached itself and gone off to seek a life elsewhere, probably getting gradually grown over by a roadside, or embedded in some one's rockery.

A couple of weeks after that, whilst turning a corner near home I looked in my mirror saw something spinning on the road behind me. I recognise that I thought, and sure enough, upon investigation I found that a second of my hubcaps had detached itself from the vehicle and was now lying in the street. I picked the thing up and stuck it back on, noting how flimsy the attaching mechanism seemed to be.

Whenever I go walking along roads I see lonely, abandoned hubcaps in the verges, from all makes and models of cars they seem to separate and roll into the grass, there, forgotten, they become enshrouded by plants and play host to swarms of slimy and wriggling things that like to live beneath them.

I can only think that hubcaps are designed this way on purpose, as if you bought a set of them and they lasted for the lifetime of your car then the hubcap company wouldn't be able to sell you any more, so they design them to fall off after a while thus necessitating a repeat purchase.

This week I note that the second of my freedom bound wheel adornments has left the car for pastures unknown, and that I now have only two hubcaps on opposite corners as it were. I could probably remove one and fix both on one side thus making the car look neater when viewed from either the pavement or the road. I can't quite explain why but cars without hubcaps seem to have a slightly drk, feral look to them, they seem unloved and uncared for.

I don't even know what hubcaps do ? Do they reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency ? Do they add value to the car ? Filling mine with petrol just about doubles the value at the moment. Or are they just a thing with no real purpose beyond the aesthetic, designed to fall off on hairpin bends to provide impromtu doors for rabbit holes ?

(Photo by Januaryman, do have a look around his excellent Flickr albums.)

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