HRE Open House 2011 – Click above for high-res image gallery

If you asked a group of enthusiasts what company makes the best wheels, the answers would undoubtedly be varied. HRE, however, would probably be mentioned in that conversation. The HRE Peformance Wheels team has been creating rollers for everything from luxury cruisers to some of the most exciting vehicles in motorsports.

The current lineup of HRE wheels is as impressive as it is expensive. Wheels start at around $1,300 per corner. Curious to learn how the company justifies charging so much for its wares, we traveled to the company's Vista, California headquarters for its recent 2011 HRE Open House. We wound up with an inside view at how the wheels are made and a peek at the company's diverse (and loyal) customer base.
The HRE Open House is an annual event that lets fans of the company check out how their favorite wheels are produced. The open-door get-together is also a chance for people to hang out and check out a wide range of vehicles. Four-wheeled attendees ranges from a Koenigsegg CCX and Ariel Atom, to a Mercedes-Benz 300SL and Chris Rado's wild Time Attack Scion tC.

hre wheels

We'd get a chance to look at the cars in a bit, but we mostly wanted to learn more about the wheels they were wearing. The President of HRE, Alan Peltier was on hand to give tours through his facility and provide insight into how the product moves from a computer design into a finished wheel.

stages of wheel creation toyoda wheel machine
toyoda wheel machine finished HRE wheel

HRE builds two types of wheels; three-piece forged (or spun) wheels and its well-known Monoblok one-piece forged unit (think: HRE P40). All wheels begin life in the head of either a designer or an engineer. From there, the potential design is entered into a computer modeling system called Finite Element Analysis, which allows the HRE team to model how physics will affect their wheel. The FEA program shows an engineer how a given design will respond to the effects of speed, weight and a variety of g-forces. After the wheel gets a green light, it's time to begin the physical process of manufacturing.

The average aluminum wheel found on stock vehicle is created by pouring a molten alloy into a mold. HRE takes a different approach. The three-piece wheels begin with an outer barrel, which starts out as a flat disk of high-strength aluminum that is worked into shape in a manner similar to a potter spinning clay. The barrel is turned into two halves, which allows HRE to build wheels to custom requested widths. The third part of the three-piece wheel starts out as a chunk of aerospace-grade aluminum which gets forced into a disk shape. That disk is then sent to the CNC machine so that the spoke pattern can be created. Put the two halves and center portion together, and voilà! You have an HRE three-piece wheel.

hre one-iece forged barrels hre finished wheels

If you're looking for something stronger than the already burly three-piece, HRE might direct you to its one-piece Monoblok. This wheel starts out life as a solid block of aluminum. The metal is forged, thanks to a combination of heat and pressure, into a round shape. That wheel-like chunk of aluminum is loaded into a form-flowing machine to create a barrel, and then into a variety of CNC machines to create the lock initially dreamed up by HRE's designers.

Both the three-piece and Monoblok one-piece aren't done when they pop out of the CNC machine. The wheels are inspected, deburred and then polished by hand. The entire finishing process can take up to eight hours per wheel, and all are certified to meet Germany's strict TÜV standards. It's this sort of attention to detail that helps HRE command premium pricing in the wheel market.

egarage koenigsegg ccx

HRE's open house was attended by a range of enthusiasts, as well as a plethora of high-performance machines. eGarage was on hand with a Koenigsegg CCX, Ariel Atom, Bentley Continental Supersports and an sinister old Chevrolet Camaro hiding 2000 horsepower under its hood. Tanner Foust showed up in his BBI-tuned Porsche. HRE fans also drove into the parking lot piloting brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, BMW and Porsche, not to mention a few clean examples of the Acura NSX, a Datsun 240Z, some Ford Mustang models, a handful of Volkswagen offerings and even an Alfa Romeo GTV.

Not everyone can – or would choose – to spend the type of coin that HRE asks for its wares, but events like the company's open house are very smart, if for no other reason that they give prospective customers a first-hand look at what makes their products so special.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 21 Comments
      CarCrazy24
      • 3 Years Ago
      Love that wide body 240Z! Between BBS and HRE, those are definitely my favorite wheel brands
      Harry
      • 3 Years Ago
      I love HRE. They make the perfect wheel! bar none! I would love to get some Monoblok wheels!
      chappa
      • 3 Years Ago
      Good on the eGarage guys with their gear out looking sick as usual. Awesome stuff.
      Jerry Truong
      • 3 Years Ago
      Actually the CNC is nothing special as many many other wheel companies do it nowadays. Most companies use blanks from Asia but I know HRE uses blanks from a company here from Venture County I believe
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Jeff Glucker
        • 3 Years Ago
        So you mean you bought a set of fake HRE wheels? A) One HRE wheel will cost you (at a minimum) $1,260 - not one set... one wheel. So spending $2,000 wouldn't even get you two. B) HRE Wheels are not, and never have been, anodized. C) HRE does not use oil in the manufacturing process. They use a synthetic water-based coolant which looks like milk Tell the truth, you got scammed into buying fake HRE wheels and you want to take your anger out on the company that makes the real thing.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jeff Glucker
          [blocked]
        bentleypowered
        • 3 Years Ago
        you must have gotten the HRE rejected wheels that they throw away, then someone tried to sell them to you at half cost which you thought was a good deal. you get what you pay for my friend. cheap no good, good no cheap.
        JohhnyDough
        • 3 Years Ago
        Thanks for the honest review
      stclair5211
      • 3 Years Ago
      I bought HREs for my racing Aveo. I can attest to the fact they are complete garbage. The lil' hubcaps fell off and everything.
      axiomatik
      • 3 Years Ago
      So they just buy forged blanks and CNC their patterns out of the blanks? 20 years ago that might have been special, but it's hardly unique today. Not only that, but it eliminates much of what makes forged parts stronger than cast. Yes, your paying for attention to detail and customization, but there are a lot of wheel companies that provide similar quality and customization, like CCW, MHT, Rotiform, etc. What sets HRE apart today? If I am going to pay a premium for nice wheels, I will spend my money on some Rays/Volk. Their Near-Net Shape forging process takes full advantage of forging. What makes forged parts stronger is that the high-pressure forging process aligns the crystalline structure of the metal, especially near the surface. So you want the forged blank to be as close to the final shape as possible. When you CNC away chunks of the blank, you are cutting away that aligned crystalline structure. Rays forges their wheels to almost the final shape, then they just machine away the flashing. Here's an example of one of their forged blanks. The barrel has been roll formed, but the flashing between the spokes hasn't been machined out yet: http://motoiq.smugmug.com/MotoIQ/Features/Inside-Rays/eng7/895675824_u99JV-L.jpg Article describing their process (9 pages): http://www.motoiq.com/magazine_articles/articletype/articleview/articleid/1608/industry-insider-a-look-at-the-technology-behind-rays-wheels.aspx video showing it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK51zz7jwNE
      BVG
      • 3 Years Ago
      HRE sells a nice product; no question. But, I ran an aluminum forging press for 9 years and there isn't one in their facility. I doubt the City of Vista would even let them put one in! They source their centers and rims (presumably from a maquiladora or from east Asia) and do only the final work in Vista, and CNC machining isn't particularly expensive anymore. The point is, their prices very clearly have a profit margin that probably makes the HRE ownership giggle with delight every time they sell a set. Again, there is no question that have a great product but $1200 per corner? They saw you coming.
      Bobby D
      • 3 Years Ago
      Let's get this straight once and for all, 100 years ago technology was expensive and labor was cheap, fast forward to today. labor is expensive and technology is cheap. The designer/artist designs the wheel runs the analysis (expensive) someone out on the shop floor chucks a piece of aluminium into a CNC machine and pushes start, that machine will just chug away until it's done what it's programed to until it's finished (no baby sitting permitted) (cheap). Most of the "labor" is automated and just requires an extension cord to run but if the "labor" is made to sound good companies can charge more (stupid consumers). Oh, FEA stands for Front End Alignment. Some buyers of this high falooting BS could probably use one (lobatamy). Bob
        Zanardi1782
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Bobby D
        Well, the process isn't quite that simple. As you say, the designer does design the wheels, probably on paper at first, and then creates a 3D model, probably with the help of an engineer. That 3D model is then input into the FEA program to see if it can withstand the loads that the wheels will see. The design may change a few times so that it can meet the necessary requirements. That stuff, as you say, is expensive both in manpower (designers and engineers) as well as software (CAD licenses are pretty expensive and you have to renew them). Once the computer stuff is done, the hard part really begins. The 3D model has to be translated into a CNC program or a set of blanks (in case of the presses) by tooling/manufacturing engineers so that it can be physically made. Gauges have to be designed so that these parts can be inspected. Inspection procedures have to be created (this may be governed by government standards, like the German TUV standards mentioned in the article). That's more money spent in engineering time and some in materials (say you need a new machine to make the wheels or a new gauge to inspect them). The next step is to make validation prototypes. The machines are set up using the computer data, and actually yes, the first time they make the wheel, they likely do have someone babysitting the machines in case something goes to hell or to fine-tune the equipment. In my experience, you never make a part right the first time. That again costs money, mostly in terms of engineering time. These first parts aren't sold to the public, though. They are tested to both the company's internal standards and to the German TUV standards (or any other standards - not sure if the we have federal standards regulating aftermarket wheels in the US). Depending on the results, the design or the manufacturing process may have to change a few times AND then have to be re-made and re-tested. This is the part that can get really expensive in terms manpower (engineers), equipment (customized testing equipment is not cheap) and simply time. This is the part that gets skimped on cheaper product, and it's also why OEM stuff is so expensive (lots more government regulations, lots more testing so they don't get sued). The actual manufacturing process is probably the cheapest part of the whole bit, as you say, because it's fairly automated. But keep in mind that all the machines that are used wear. And they're not cheap to maintain or replace. Finally, there is the simple cost of material. What kind of aluminum alloy does HRE use for their wheels? Is it a cheaper aluminum alloy or a more expensive one? At the end of the day, you're right, there's probably a huge mark-up associated with the name. I would personally never buy one for, say a Ford Mustang or a Mitsu Evo, but for those who can afford a Corvette Z06, for example , why not?
        Zanardi1782
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Bobby D
        Well, the process isn't quite that simple. As you say, the designer does design the wheels, probably on paper at first, and then creates a 3D model, probably with the help of an engineer. That 3D model is then input into the FEA program to see if it can withstand the loads that the wheels will see. The design may change a few times so that it can meet the necessary requirements. That stuff, as you say, is expensive both in manpower (designers and engineers) as well as software (CAD licenses are pretty expensive and you have to renew them). Once the computer stuff is done, the hard part really begins. The 3D model has to be translated into a CNC program or a set of blanks (in case of the presses) by tooling/manufacturing engineers so that it can be physically made. Gauges have to be designed so that these parts can be inspected. Inspection procedures have to be created (this may be governed by government standards, like the German TUV standards mentioned in the article). That's more money spent in engineering time and some in materials (say you need a new machine to make the wheels or a new gauge to inspect them). The next step is to make validation prototypes. The machines are set up using the computer data, and actually yes, the first time they make the wheel, they likely do have someone babysitting the machines in case something goes to hell or to fine-tune the equipment. In my experience, you never make a part right the first time. That again costs money, mostly in terms of engineering time. These first parts aren't sold to the public, though. They are tested to both the company's internal standards and to the German TUV standards (or any other standards - not sure if the we have federal standards regulating aftermarket wheels in the US). Depending on the results, the design or the manufacturing process may have to change a few times AND then have to be re-made and re-tested. This is the part that can get really expensive in terms manpower (engineers), equipment (customized testing equipment is not cheap) and simply time. This is the part that gets skimped on cheaper product, and it's also why OEM stuff is so expensive (lots more government regulations, lots more testing so they don't get sued). The actual manufacturing process is probably the cheapest part of the whole bit, as you say, because it's fairly automated. But keep in mind that all the machines that are used wear. And they're not cheap to maintain or replace. Finally, there is the simple cost of material. What kind of aluminum alloy does HRE use for their wheels? Is it a cheaper aluminum alloy or a more expensive one? At the end of the day, you're right, there's probably a huge mark-up associated with the name. I would personally never buy one for, say a Ford Mustang or a Mitsu Evo, but for those who can afford a Corvette Z06, for example , why not?
      Arthur
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ray's Japan, mostly famous for there Volks line of wheels not to mention SSR and Work have been making one piece solid forged wheels long before HRE or any other relatively new company specializing in forged wheels such as iForge. I have owned wheels in the past made by Rays, Nismo branded wheels to be exact which are made by Rays and they are much lighter then HRE's or most other forged wheels on the market and super strong. HRE's have always been overpriced for no good reason, there method of forging is no more advanced or advantageous then Rays.
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      FEA isn't the name of the software, its a type of software - like saying that Microsoft Word is a word processor or Excel is a spreadsheet app. FEA is usually built into, or an add-on to a CAD package such as SolidWorks, Unigraphics or a number of other similar applications.
        Jeffrey Smith
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Finite Element Analysis.... I would not say its a type of software, rather a numerical method to simulate mainly solid continuums.
          Hazdaz
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jeffrey Smith
          Its a "type" of software just like CAD is a "type" of software tool. The way it was written in the article, they made it seem like the name of the software itself was FEA - clearly it was written by someone not familiar with technical software. I'm just being nit-picky.
        stclair5211
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        You must get hit on a lot.
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