Here’s a trip down memory lane when we traveled on Highway 63 from Missouri into Arkansas, and met Bill Hosman, aka the “Hubcap Man.”
But first … Southern California, 1991
“Look Mom, there it goes!” said my young son, from the back of our ’83 Volkswagen Vanagon while we traveled on a freeway outside of Los Angeles. “Mom, it spun all the way across the road, then it crossed the median, and I think I can see it on the other side of the road. Mom, I can!”
We took the next exit, turned around, and sure enough, our wheel cover had come to rest beside a very busy freeway. Miraculously, the flying piece of aluminum had flitted (and shined) its way through traffic without scratching any other vehicles, or causing a multiple-car accident.
It was at this point that I realized the value of having wheel covers (I call ‘em hubcaps). It seems you don’t really think about your hubcaps, but you sure notice when one is missing.
We recently took a mini-vacation to Arkansas. Along the way on U.S. 63, I couldn’t help but notice “Mom and Pop” businesses along the highway, with the standard fare of ceramics, yard ornaments and a few used cars.
Then my son noticed a yard just full of hubcaps, surrounded by a fence with several more hubcaps on it. Being a teenage boy automatically qualifies him to be extremely interested in automobiles and all things involving automobiles and he wondered if maybe this would be a good place to stop.
Bill Hosman, the “Hubcap Man”
We pulled off the road and into the driveway of Bill and Kathy Hosman. Bill was sitting on his lawn tractor, mowing the ditch, and Kathy came out of the house to greet us.
Bill stopped mowing, and graciously agreed to tell us about his business, even though we weren’t in the market for a hubcap. But you never know . . .
Bill recalled how he got into the business and said, “Back in the early ‘80s there was a fella who had a wrecking yard right on the highway here. We were good friends and he went out of business. He gave me my hubcaps. I started buying and trading.”
In 1985, Hosman moved his business closer to home. He decided to organize his inventory in a nearby shed, trying a method or two before settling on using foot-long landscaping nails, placed at an upward angle on 2×4’s. He hangs the hubcaps in sets on the nails.
He pointed to the aisles of hubcaps, and said, “I got them organized. I’ve got Chevrolets on that row . . . Oldsmobiles, Fords, Mercuries and Chrysler products. Cadillacs, Pontiacs, Buicks and the foreign ones are on the last row on the wall over there.”
The shop looked neat and tidy, and I wondered where he kept his inventory list. Then Kathy explained, “Did he tell you that he can tell me where the right hubcap is? He’ll say, ‘Go down the Ford row, about four down and it’s around the top.’”
She said, “I’ll go there and I’ll find it.”
Bill reckons he has about 26,000 hubcaps in his shop. He has a few more lying around the shed and outdoors. He says, “I just hang them when I get to them.”
And where does he get these hubcaps? He tells a little story about having to put up with folks who ask him if he finds the hubcaps on the highway. He recalled how one fellow asked him, “Did these all fall off out there in front of your place?”
He continues, “Finally I got aggravated, and I told this one guy, ‘One of those rolled off, and rolled down that driveway out there, and in that door of that white shop there and jumped up on a nail with three others to make a set!’”
Bill buys most of the hubcaps from wrecking yards, in Little Rock and other places. He travels some in the region, including Missouri, to buy hubcaps from businesses, too.
The priciest hubcap he’s ever sold was for a’64 Thunderbird, at $50 each. He owns vintage hubcaps, dating back to about 1936. Pointing out the condition of most of the old hubcaps, he explains, “When folks are restoring cars, they want hubcaps that look like they just came from the factory. And we just don’t have them.”
Now that he’s a retired locksmith, he enjoys dabbling in the hubcap business—that is, when he’s not taking his restored tractor to farm shows. Kathy also travels with him. A retired schoolteacher, she seems to enjoy the hubcap business, and she’s even found a way to add that feminine touch to the shop—with a little pile of potpourri placed into an upturned hubcap.
Bill says the store is open “everyday when I’m here,” and it’s located about two-and-a-half miles south of the Missouri state line on U.S. 63, and about the same distance north of Hardy, Arkansas.
First published in The Ozarks Mountaineer, 2002.