“Route: 96 miles” burned harsh on my screen at 6am while I got dressed, miraculously waking up despite my not-set alarms. I’ve driven worse, but never for a show. Carpools bailed, and despite my left thigh pre-cramping in anticipation of the drive, I headed out to Vista, CA - just inland (and out of ocean breeze’s reach) from Oceanside and Carlsbad - for the HRE Wheels Open House and 40th Anniversary show.
Upon first arriving to the show, after walking a little over a mile uphill from where I parked, I was greeted with two beautiful imports in the outer parking lot - a beautifully-specced R33, and a 180SX that was as JDM as they come. Both RHD, of course.
Now, HRE’s essentially asserted themselves to the front line of the performance wheel industry for quite some time now. The coat-of-arms logo is just as recognizable as their 540 design, and just about synonymous with the “whoa” reaction to seeing a set. In many cases, their pedigree precedes any actual knowledge of the company. That being said, the lone hour-and-a-half drive was a very small price to pay for a day spent surrounded by HRE Show cars.
In addition to the community show happening in the company’s normally-designated parking lot and loading docks, the show featured hand-selected street, super, and hypercars to portray the company’s image. One such car was the Aria FXE.
American automaker Aria fit 1150 hybrid horses into this hypercar by means of a mid-mounted supercharged 6.2L V8, and two electric motors up front. All that power is transferred via a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and moved by HRE-built centerlocking wheels to 60mph in 3.1 seconds, topping out at 220mph.. The entire car weighs barely more than a GTI at 3450lbs.
Price? Only those who’ve applied to own one know. But the AWD hybrid monster is rumored to be competing with others in the Hallmark Hyper class, such as the Porsche 918 or the Ferrari LaFerrari.
Walking into the doors behind the FXE, one is greeted with a reception room where you can choose between presentations of HREs history, quality, and pedigree, a tour of the facility, or a hallway entrance into the warehouse itself. Let’s go down that hallway.
Sitting near the steel racks of the warehouse, with barrels, lips, and faces stacked so that you forget their worth, were 4 hallmarks of car culture, 4 world record setters and breakers, and 4 dream vehicles for children and seniors alike - the Bugatti Lineup.
Surrounded by security guards, the Volkswagens gathered a crowd that, no matter how many people left, only grew in size. To the left of the hallway, the Bugatti Vision GT.
First debuted to show the world Bugatti’s updated design language in 2015, the Vision Gran Turismo is a one-off beast built upon the Chiron’s chassis (pre-production #6, to be exact). The car was made through the video game Gran Turismo’s project, which collaborates with automakers of all sorts to create one-off racecars that combines concepts of aerodynamics and modern advancements in engine and feature technologies.
The Vision GT’s powerplant is comprised of the Veyron’s Quad-Turbo W16, but adapted and tuned for more power, managed by a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. After all, if two V8s mated together, feeding four simultaneously scrolling turbochargers ain’t broke, just make it faster.
Looking inside, the cockpit is adorned with electronics and ergonomics that turn the Bugatti from a track car into a fighter plane. A screen in the cockpit is designed to map out whichever race track the Vision GT finds itself on, down to reporting what turn the driver is about to take.
On the outside, the carbon fiber construction and extravagant aero leave the eyes to find something new with every subsequent glance.
Across the hallway from the Vision stood its chassis donor and production successor, the Chiron.
This particular Chiron is known as the “HellBee”, the first-delivered Bugatti Chiron.
The Chiron’s 8.0L W16 sends the AWD drivetrain to 60mph 2.4 seconds, up to an electronically-limited 261mph - the true estimated top speed is 288mph, but Bugatti claims that no tire can safely handle the true, raw power of the Chiron.
Directly behind the Chiron sat its predecessor, the Veyron. Owned by the same individual (recognizable by the iconic paint job), this particlar Veyron was deemed the “HellBug”.
The Veyron captivated the world with its record-breaking top speed, incredible aerospace construction, and polarizing design. This particular model is the Vitesse (shorthand for Bugatti 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse), a targa-top roadster that once held the the world-record for fastest production car in the world.
Featuring the same 8.0L Quad-turbo W16 as the Super Sport, the Vitesse features bigger turbos, which propel to car to 186mph in a scant 16 seconds.
At the end of the Bugatti line stood the often unrecognized, not-so-prolific Bugatti EB110.
The last Bugatti produced before the Volkswagen acquisition, the EB110 Supersport presented in HRE’s warehouse is owned by social media superstar “BC”.
In my eyes, this is the pinnacle of 90’s super car design - funky, wedgy, and objectively ugly. However, those 3 characteristics are exactly what make it a beautiful car.
This Bugatti features a different powerplant than the earlier 3 - a
3.5L quad-turbo V12 producing 592hp, mated to a 6-speed manual.
6 speed manual? Stick shift?
Leaving the Bugattis behind, the warehouse was open to visitors to browse, marvel at, and get an behind-the-scenes view of the HRE manufacturing process.
Outside the warehouse, the Open House became a true car show with vendors, show cars, and food trucks.
By this time, I’d realized I’d always held a false notion that it never got hotter than 70 degrees in the San Diego county, for whatever reason. It was nearing 90 by noon, and I’d quietly accepted my inevitable farmer’s tan.
Anyway, enjoy this visual coverage of the show.
To the south of the entrance, the infamous GTRMY gathered in the street. Two lines filled with R35s of all flavors, and a single R32 bringing up the rear in a classic JDM motorsport style.
Back at the show, things were winding down as the time neared 2pm, raffles were being announced, and attendees started to leave. I grabbed a few more pictures, then headed my way back to my parking spot in the next city over.
And with that, my sunburnt neck headed home for the 96 mile drive. As daunting a nearly 2 hour drive in the heat sounds, it was absolutely worth it. With all the tension in the car scene right now, a respectable, good-natured afternoon surrounded with incredible cars was incredibly refreshing, and what I think more of the community needs to experience right now.
Thanks HRE, and happy 40th.