How to install hubcap clips without damaging painted rims
When I bought my current 356 project the wheels were already painted but without any hubcap clips.
All it really takes to install them without damaging the wheels are the proper tools, a good work area, and a steady hand. The series of photos that follow take you step by step thru the process. It's a quick job and one wheel can be done to a very high standard in about 20 minutes.
There are two types of clips available, VW and 356 Porsche. At 5 times the price for what appears to be the same thing, it is tempting to go the VW route. However, they are slightly different. To avoid problems use the 356 units if you are using Porsche or quality reproduction hubcaps.
The tools I used for the job were, 5 lb. sledge, a large punch with fattened end, rivet mandrel, a right angle grinder, and eye protection. The rivet mandrel was purchased from ebay and the clips/rivets from Brad at NLA.
This photo shows how the mandrel holds the rivet and clip in place.
The tricky part is to get the wheel level at the correct height where you can work on the rivet accurately and with some precision. I found a very stable way to hold it using a large vise mounted on a work bench.
I put the mandrel on the flat part of the vise and used a 2x4 in the vise to hold the wheel. You can adjust the wood to level the tire and wheel.
With a little practice you will figure out exactly where the mandrel should be placed all ready to go with the rivet and clip in place. You can now gently lower the wheel into place.
I carefully aim the wheel onto the rivet first, then the wheel onto the board.
Here is a view from the bottom showing the proper placement of the mandrel, rivet, and clip.
A little padding on the wheel will protect the paint.
IMPORTANT: Use eye protection from this point on.
Now comes the fun part. I used the sledge for the first couple of whacks before it gets down to the level of the rim. After the first hit, take the wheel off and make sure the clip is at the proper angle.
I use the punch to adjust the clip after the first hit. If you wait till the end, the rivet holds the clip so tight it's very difficult to make any adjustments.
After about 4 hits with the sledge it's time to get out the punch. I custom ground the bottom of the punch to have a flat surface.
After examining an original wheel I noticed the rivet height was very low, lower than the surrounding wheel surface that mounts up to the brake drum. You can see in this photo the square dimple made by the powerful rivet tool the Germans used in the past. At this point I take the rivet down a bit with the grinder, not a lot, just enough to make it easier to get the rivet to the proper height.
After grinding, I finish it off with a few more shots with the punch. The punch smoothes out the grind marks and takes it down to the finished height. If you work carefully there is no damage to the finish of the wheel.
Double checking the height. I don't want any marks on my drums from high rivets.
The finished product, a nice tight clip ready to accept a beautiful hubcap. As you can see from the date stamp, this is the perfect wheel for my 1959 cabriolet.
New clips all around. Only have four more wheels to do!