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The Specialty Equipment Market Association hosts an awards breakfast just before opening its annual show of automotive aftermarket products. Among the awards presented are those for the best new products in various categories.

One of the winners earlier this month noted the award was a great way to celebrate his company's 20th anniversary. Another mentioned that his company was four years old; yet another was celebrating its first anniversary. And then they called Barry Perlin to the dais to accept the award for best new product in the "wheel and related product" category.

"We've been in business 86 days," said Perlin. (Later, he added that his company's website had gone up just two days before the SEMA Show opened.)

Awards winners have limited time to say their thank yous. Perlin shared that he'd called his sister this summer and told her he'd reinvented the wheel.

"What did you do," she responded, "make it square?"

Not square, but what Perlin and his new company, Deluxe Wheels, did was to create a billet-aluminum wheel with a built-in white sidewall. Why? So those who want that classic look on their classic cars can get it without having to search for a retro-styled tire. With the whitewall built into the wheel, they can get the look they want while riding on any modern blackwall rubber and using updated suspension and braking components.

It was just a year ago that a friend from US 12 Speed & Custom of New Buffalo invited Perlin, a dentist from Chesterton, Indiana, to join him at the SEMA Show, where Perlin could explore all the parts he might need for the 1960 Chevrolet Corvette he was restoring with a retro-mod treatment, keeping the car's vintage look but underpinning it with updated mechanical hardware.

Updated fourth-generation Corvette suspension was installed, and Perlin wanted to add the upgraded brakes from the modern Z06 Corvette. But to do so meant changing the size of the car's wheels.

When size-appropriate wheels couldn't be found, Perlin started designing his own wheels, with help not only from his friend but from another friend's brother-in-law who was doing computer-aided design in the auto industry.

They came up with a solution, but then encountered another challenge. Perlin wanted the wheels produced in the U.S., but none of the 30 wheel manufacturers he contacted was interested in a small-production run. Finally, with help from a Chinese speaking patient who served as translator, he went overseas to get his wheels produced.

Those wheels will be available in two versions; both replicate an original 15-inch steel wheel but accept modern, even low-profile 20-inch black ball tires: Full Profile, which replicates the original steel wheels, and Half Profile, for people doing their cars on aftermarket chassis with modern suspension components and brakes. Prices range from $1,200 to $1,400 per wheel. The first shipment of wheels is expected to arrive in early December.

The whitewall section of the wheel uses Alsa soft-touch paint, which Perlin said has the durability of powder coat but the look, soft feel and texture of a rubber whitewall tire. For information, visit www.deluxewheels.com.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.

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