Vellum Venom Vignette: Rolling imitation is 22 inches of Cadillac flattery

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vellum venom escalade wheels lead
Cadillac

A funny thing happened when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed: I saw a friend’s new ride (a 2022 Ford Expedition) and thought to myself, “Boy, those wheels sure look like something I’ve seen on a new Escalade.”

After a little verification with some sales brochures, turns out I wasn’t too far off. The 2015 through ’18 Cadillac Escalade sported a set of 22-inch wheels with a very similar, split spoke design. The differences are subtle in some places, radical in others: The Ford wheel uses one less spoke, is 2 inches shorter, and doesn’t use machined-out pockets to push the smaller, split spoke behind the primary one.

Still, the similarities remain. The split spokes are a little longer and slimmer on the Ford (surprising, considering the wheels are smaller), but the negative areas between each wheel’s spokes have the same general shape. The big difference is the aforementioned machining across the face, which makes the Cadillac’s split spokes sit notably lower than the bigger, more prominent ones. Extra two inches aside, perhaps this extra machining costs a few more bucks per wheel, and perhaps that’s enough to justify it being worthy of a Cadillac Escalade?

No matter—though Oscar Wilde immortalized “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” as a cultural phrase for us writers wanting to sound smarter than we truly are, perhaps the phrase’s earliest known DNA, from 1708, befits the Escalade far, far better. Because, as a biography of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius exclaims:

“You should consider that Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship, and that the Gods had much rather Mankind should Resemble, than Flatter them.”

And let’s face it, the Escalade is a god in the SUV world. Be it livery drivers or high-end family haulers, this is the King of the Hill. (Sorry, Corvette ZR-1.) While it never strays too far from the Chevy Tahoe, the Escalade is the only Cadillac with the gravitational pull to keep the corporate mothership from giving it a depressing three-letter name. Being able to overcome a misguided corporate mandate? That’s why the Escalade is an automotive God among motorized Men.

2022 Ford Expedition XLT
Ford

Not that I come to bag on the Expedition, as it has always sold well across the country. But, even in the early days of Eddie Bauer–edition snobbery, it did so without any of the braggadocio from the Caddy. And car design has often been about imitating the loudest voice in the room, especially in the world of wheels. To wit, how many slightly different versions of Magnum 500 wheels were available for muscle cars? Let us count some of the ways …

Side note: Upon further research, these rolling icons to historical horsepower originated with the British Rostyle wheel originally seen on the Rover P5B. And—spoiler alert—Magnum 500 style wheels look awesome on everything.

1970 Rover P5B Rostyle Wheels
Steepwiki

But the fact remains: There’s only so much you can do inside a circle to make a wheel look unique. There’s simply not enough real estate, and the structural engineering inside must never be tampered with. It’s a delicate balancing act, as designers must ensure their work can still handle potholes, overloaded cabins, massive brake calipers, and performance concerns from unsprung weight/rotational mass, etc.

Let’s get back to the quote about emperor Marcus Aurelius, and ask a question: Can we blame Ford for using a seven-year-old, 22-inch Cadillac wheel design for its latest flagship SUV?

I don’t think so, because you can worship at a far less interesting altar than this pop-culture phenomenon. It’s a god-like chariot on 22-inch wheels, memorialized in time by countless artists across the land. And while you can resemble less-appealing people haulers these days, you probably should not. Good on you, Ford.

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