My truck has dangerous wheels and an altered electrical system

January 1, 2012 | By Richard Prince


I recently acquired a 1953 GMC 2-ton truck that sat in a warehouse for 31 years without being used. We were able to start it and drive onto the trailer and I have driven around the yard since I have started a cosmetic facelift and mechanical updating.

However, there are some issues that I cannot seem to resolve. I want to change from the split rims (20 x 8.25) to a more modern wheel with tubeless tires. In all my searching I have failed to find an alternative. Do you know of a source for replacement rims or a custom manufacturer for such wheels? I was told that the Ford F-450 5-lug wheel might fit the front, but not the back as it has ten lugs and the wheels will not clear the 15” x 4” brakes.

These original split ring rims are often referred to as “widow makers” and because I am not ready to turn my wife into a widow I am eager to find a solution to this problem.

Also, at some point in the truck’s life the 8-volt battery was changed to positive ground. What should I look for to ensure that all electrical functions will be correct with this grounding change?


I am not aware of any “off-the-shelf” modern replacement wheels that will simply bolt onto your 1953 GMC. That does not, however, mean there aren’t any so if any readers have an off-the-shelf solution to Mr. Van Helden’s question please let us know.

If you’re willing to spend the necessary money you can, of course, have wheels made for your truck but be prepared to pay a lot. Two among several custom wheel manufacturers who can do this for you are MHT Luxury Alloys (19200 S. Reyes Ave., Rancho Dominguez, California; and Stockton Wheels in Stockton, California (

Another alternative, of course, is to continue using the wheels that are currently on your truck. While it is true that split ring rims can be extremely dangerous I would not recommend against using them on vehicles like yours that were originally equipped with them.

I absolutely do recommend against you mounting or dismounting tires on these rims or servicing them in any way yourself. But if you entrust them to an experienced professional shop that customarily deals with this type of rim your wife won’t be turned into a widow as a result of your using them.

Regarding your electrical system question, it’s my understanding that GMC trucks of your vintage were originally equipped with a positive ground. This differed from Chevrolet trucks of the same era, which came with negative ground electrical systems. So, since I think that your truck came with a positive ground system and wasn’t converted by someone along the way, I don’t expect that you will have any positive ground-related problems. This, of course, assumes that the electrical components in the truck are original or at least are designed/wired for positive ground.