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Alan Peltier, president of HRE Wheels, worked at Northrup-Grumman for eight years, on the B2 bomber, before joining HRE Wheels. That was 15 years ago. He might not be able to divulge all the secrets of the stealth bomber, but he will tell you everything there is to know about making wheels: how to turn barrels on a vertical lathe, then mill each wheel on a four-axis machine, three hours per wheel. He'll tell you how it's all done just outside of San Diego -- by the same company that supplied OEM wheels for the Saleen S7, Shelby SSC Ultimate Aero, and even the Vector, possibly the most reliable part on it.
HRE made a splash a few years ago with its Vintage line, faithful reproductions of turbines, basket-weaves, telephone dials, and Ferrari F40 big-blocks. Now, the purveyors of wheels for modern exotica is looking back to the 1990s (mostly) with its latest line of wheels.
"We were sort of looking back at our own history," said Peltier, "from the 90s and early 2000s, saying, 'what were the styles that we really liked, what were the styles that were really popular?'"
The Classic Series draws from HRE's own past, all five-spokes and meshes and 305s and 309s known by number to HRE obsessives. Founded in 1978, the company has had plenty of time to cultivate fans. There are ten wheels in the collection, five designs in three-piece and monoblock forms.
On sale already, the Classic Series is available in diameters from 18 to 22 inches, with widths ranging from 7 to 14 inches. Perfect for modern sports cars. The wheels will retail for around $6,000 per set; for HRE, that's inexpensive. Their priciest set, the P1 series, can cost up to $2,300 per wheel, nearly $9,000 to shod a Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Aventador, or Porsche 911. Of course, the notion goes: if you're spending six figures on a car, what's another couple grand?
"We started developing them in late June," said Peltier. "The designs are obviously much more simple than our more expensive styles, so the design time was fairly simple. And we had a good sense of what we wanted them to look like. So getting them through that, and testing them, and everything, was actually a fairly fast process."
"Car design has evolved so much since the 1990s -- everything's more angular now, with hard lines supplanting rounded profiles -- and as such, the wheels aren't exactly carbon copies of the past: they're ever-so-slightly tweaked. "Those styles back in the day were all really soft!" said Peltier. "So if we turned around and just made those styles, they wouldn't work very well with today's cars. We wanted to make them more applicable on today's cars, but also to throw it on a 458 or a 991, it was gonna be cool."
"People were like, 'those [Vintage] wheels were cool, but can you make a 540 again? Can you make a 441?' So the wheels…were retired over time, the styling was no longer applicable, the engineering standards got raised, and we just retired them. We can still make them, we still have the programs, we just don't want to."
Ultimately, the Classic Series embraces the chic Eighties revival we've seen of late -- a revival that has seen Duran Duran pimping Miatas, Countaches selling for big bucks, Lotus Esprits drifting, and Jerry Wiegert growing out his mullet. Peltier was excited by this. "You know what? From Europe, we actually got two inquiries on the Lancia. Yeah! Cuz they liked it! People are like, "I've got a Delta Integrale, I want wheels." He laughed. "So that's awesome.
"I think what's neat right now is, we're starting to see such interest right now in the used car market, with the 90s cars going up in value, and people really wanting to buy those cars and put something on.
"We're already getting calls from people with 964s, stuff like that, going, "ah, that's really cool!" Cuz you don't get a 964 in here very often. You get 991 Turbos."