1. Should I be concerned about wheel failure on my Studebaker
that is 30 years and older?
2. Can I tell if the wheels are original?
1. About the only way to tell if the wheels are original is to compaaare them with an original picture, that I have included below
Note the secondary ring just outside the nuts. There are "nubs"
on that ring over which small hub caps would be snapped onto.
2. Wheel failure is a possibility any time a radial tire is used on a wheel that was not designed or approved for radial tire use. It might not be common, but it is still a possibility. The possibility increases when you use a tire that is too wide for a given wheel. The RMA (Rubber Manufacturers Association) and the NWRA (National Wheel and Rim Association) recommend that 205 and 215 tires be mounted on wheels from 5 1/2 to 6 1/2" wide; 225 tires should be mounted on wheels from 6 to 8" wide. The Cooper Lifeliner Classic P215/70r15 is engineered for a wheel between 5 1/2 to 7" wide. That tire's 26.78" outside diameter is slightly smaller that the original 6.70X15 tires that came on the cars.
Many wheels from both Ford and Chrysler rear-wheel-rive
applications in the late 70s through early 80s will work fine, but
you must pay attention to dimensions. Wheels you are looking for
have a 5 on 4 1/2" bolt pattern. Use the 5 lug pattern from the
picture below to mesure your wheels with a 4" backspace.
Back space is measured by placing a straight edge across the back of the wheel/rim and measuring into the mounting face. I recently took a set of wheels from a 1984 Lincoln and found them to be 15X6 1/2" with a 4" back space. They would fit your Studebaker. In any case, check fender clearance thoroughly and carefully on an Studebaker. Remember to allow for suspension travel and turning radius with the car loaded; Just because there appears to be enough clearance sitting stationary with no one in it doesn't mean there will be clearance loaded and underway. Rubbing a tire on a fender will cause damage. If you use Ford wheels, you must change to 13/16" lug nuts as well. Studebaker 3/4" lug nuts will easily pull through a Ford wheel. Don't forget to change your lug wrench, or keep a 4-way in the trunk, when you change lug nut sizes.The wheel covers will fit either Ford or Chrysler applicable wheels just fine. Good luck.