Back in the “good ole days” when most wheels were Made in the USA, and folks in the industry all knew each other on a first name basis, it was not unusual to find that the founders of many well known wheel companies were involved in some form of racing or high performance motorsport. In fact, many of these early pioneers in the industry put their names on the companies they founded, and subsequently became synonymous with their company or its products. Names like Edelbrock, Weld, Roush and others come to mind. A few of these pioneers however, chose to remain quietly hidden from view, and focused mainly on product quality and technical innovation as a way to build the image and reputation of their company. One such individual was the founder of HRE Performance Wheels, Gene Howald. The story of what Gene was able to accomplish during a career that has spanned more than 30 years, is a story worth telling. It’s what gives Nutek Wheels the legacy of experience that drives the company’s unique product line.
Like so many others, Gene got his start in motorsports, racing in a variety of venues from SCCA in Formula Fords, later the Mazda Pro Series, and finally the Pro Formula Atlantic Series. It was this love of motorsports that drove Howald to ultimately launch HRE as a company that initially offered complete high performance handling solutions with wheels, suspension components and custom race setup for competitors. In fact, in the early years, HRE was actually known as Howald Racing Enterprises, and it wasn’t until later that Howald dropped his name from the company name, and shortened it to simply HRE Performance Wheels. Even today, the company is better known as simply HRE.
Over the years Gene gained a wealth of knowledge and experience by constantly pushing the envelope to make a better product. During his 20 years as owner of HRE, Gene saw the company mature from a small operation focused mainly upon racing and performance wheels, to one that eventually serviced the much larger mainstream market for luxury and high performance sports cars.
Howald holds 7 patents for various technical elements related to wheel design and manufacturing. He holds other patents related to the functional aspects of wheel performance. During his career, Howald has designed wheels for just about everything that rolls from amphibious vehicles, tanks and armored vehicles, celebrity limousines, sports and luxury cars, special “one off” vehicles for the film industry, Indy cars, ultra light solar powered vehicles, special vehicles used by the Navy on the decks of aircraft carriers, and yes, wheels for regular passenger cars as well. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, and to numerous foreign clients who have used his background and experience in manufacturing to assist in the construction of new manufacturing facilities for both forged and cast aluminum wheel production. At the end of 1999, Howald sold HRE to its present owners, following nearly 20 years of dedication to making the finest wheels money could buy.
In 2007, following a lengthy consulting assignment, Howald decided there was still room to improve on what he had accomplished as the owner of HRE. With that in mind, Nutek Wheels was set up to manufacture the highest quality, most technically advanced wheel offered on the market. In the years that Howald had been out of the loop, he noticed that the industry had changed significantly. Manufacturers were nearly obsolete, as most all production had moved to China. Many of the companies selling wheels in the high end market were actually “marketers” not manufacturers, and their products were being made by local machine shops, or offshore factories that could not respond to the demands of high end wheels that were custom built to order. As a result, this segment of the market was starting to look more like a high priced “commodity” wheel market. Prices had gone up, but instead, customers were now being asked to buy a wheel that was already in a box, manufactured months ago in some offshore factory.
Howald quickly seized the opportunity and set up a small factory in Southern California, designed to be completely customer oriented, responsive and focused solely on making the same high quality “custom made” wheels that he had built his reputation on for nearly two decades at HRE.
Today, Nutek is recognized as an industry leader in manufacturing extremely high quality wheels. Each product is carefully crafted from the highest grade materials, using every technological advance in both engineering and production techniques. Nutek is constantly pushing itself to find new and better methods to improve its products and remain at the forefront of high tech “custom wheel” craftsmanship. Nutek builds jewelry for your car that is both functional and elegant.