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Remember When We Thought 20-inch Wheels Were Huge?

I remember being in high school in the mid-2000s when 20-inch wheels were absolutely massive. Do you remember this? People who had 20-in wheels, which was practically no one, called them "dubs," and if you were really cool, your car had "dubs." They were all aftermarket, of course: no automaker actually fitted standard "dubs" on a vehicle. But if you were really rich, and you wanted to show off, you had them. Maybe you even had 22s — but usually not. Those were rare.

Back then, it wasn’t just that you had 20-in wheels. There was an entire culture around them. There was a "DUB Magazine," which apparently still exists, and which was devoted almost entirely to giant wheels and other aftermarket accessories. And — this was my favorite part — if you really wanted to show off your dubs, you put a little emblem on your front fender that displayed your wheel size for everyone to see.

And then it happened: a few automakers came out with factory dubs. The ones I remember were Dodge and Infiniti: some high-end trim package of the Dodge Ram had 20-in wheels, and the optional upgrade wheel on the Infiniti FX45 did, too. I think this was in 2003, as both of those vehicles were launching right around then (the FX was all-new, and the Ram was recently redesigned).

Factory dubs! We were in shock. I remember arguing with people in internet forums about whether a factory wheel could technically be considered a "dub" — though I don’t remember which side of the argument I took. I also remember seeing an FX45 with the 20-in wheels and telling a friend the car had "dubs from the factory," and he didn’t believe me. It was preposterous.

I say all this because, well, it isn’t preposterous now, is it?

The other day, I was driving along in that Tesla Model 3, which is equipped with 19-in wheels, and I realized just how far wheels have come. Everyone has huge wheels now. Not just big wheels. HUGE wheels. The current Range Rover comes standard with 20-in wheels — and, quite honestly, they look pathetically undersized. You can upgrade to 22s, which look nice. And forget about SUVs: Even sports cars have massive wheels; the Lamborghini Aventador offers a staggered setup with 21s in front and 22s in back. On a Lamborghini!

Of course, I could go on and on — the Toyota Camry now offers a 19-in wheel! — but the point here is made: Our youth has gone past us, time is marching on and wheels are becoming more and more massive. It won’t be long before the 30-in wheel is the new 20, and DUB Magazine will show off a line of accessory stepladders so you can climb into your car.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. I can remember when 16″ wheels were only on heavy duty trucks and maybe Corvettes…. The Mustang SVO sported 16s when it debuted in 1984….that was huge compared to 14s and 15s on the base Mustangs and GT Mustangs

  2. My mother drove my father’s 2003 Dodge Ram to my church camp one year (she was a parent volunteer).  While we were walking around one day next to a parking lot where the truck was parked, one of the counselors exclaimed “Who’s rolling on 20s??”  He looked around for a second then my mom realized he was talking about our truck, to which she replied “oh, that’s me.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of his shocked face, so take my word for it that it was funny. 

  3. I’m one of those “get off my lawn!” people about tire profile and wheel size. Why can’t we just have 17’s with tires that have enough sidewall to fill the wheel wells anymore? That would be both cheaper AND more comfortable. 

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