Coming from an entrepreneurial family, it’s no surprise that SCE Gaskets founder, Ryan Hunter, was destined to own a business right from day one. Now, his company, which began in a garage, is a recognized leader in the manufacture of engine gaskets for automotive racing and high-performance applications.
Growing up in the high desert of Los Angeles County in California, Hunter was inspired by both his father, Dan, and his grandfather’s love of racing.
“My grandpa built cars for bootleggers, and my dad had a ’31 Plymouth Coupe,” noted Hunter, now 63. When his father retired from his career as an engineer at Lockheed, the men partnered together on a new project.
“I heard of an opportunity to buy a guy’s garage-based business and went for it,” explained Hunter of how he acquired a gasket business with only $1,000 worth of product and a computer in 1990. Working out of his dad’s garage, the phones started ringing at Specialty Components Engineering and Hunter began expanding into manufacturing and design. “It was a lengthy process. I had been in construction management and had a lot to learn, but my passion was always racing and racing components.”
As the company grew, Hunter relocated it to larger and larger buildings around Southern California. In 2011, he had the opportunity to purchase assets from a gasket manufacturer in Iowa and moved the redundant operations from California to the Midwest, while copper gasket manufacturing remained on the West Coast. “As the political climate changed, I decided it was time to move again,” added Hunter, who packed up the California facility and headed to Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, with his wife, Janice.
In May of 2018, SCE partnered with Italian gasket manufacturer, Athena, to further improve technology and manufacturing.
“They are passionate about what they build, and so are we, and we were able to step up our technology game and leverage their intellectual property as a result of the partnership,” explained Hunter. “We choose to make the best products we can, even if it lowers our margins, because that’s what is best for the consumer in the long run.”
With the Tennessee plant ramping up production, the Iowa facility closed in late 2019. Now, SCE Gaskets employs approximately 20 full-time team members in a 38,000-plus square-foot facility. A new expansion is already in the works, which should double the company’s footprint and capacity.
While SCE offers many different types of gaskets and sealing solutions, the company mainly focuses its efforts on head gaskets.
“We had the first self-sealing copper head gasket in ’01, and the first self-sealing copper head gasket with a built-in O-ring in ’05,” said Hunter, whose company has since branched out into producing multi-layer steel head gaskets with enhanced combustion-sealing properties.
Similarly, SCE’s hybrid Vulcan cut-ring head gaskets use a composite gasket body with stainless steel combustion rings.
“They give us the best of both worlds for a nearly indestructible gasket for high-boost, liquid-cooled engines. We have even sealed over 40 psi of boost on a 10-bolt LS engine.”
“Over the years, things have fallen into place with people, connections, and opportunities, and I’m incredibly thankful for that,” said Hunter, who is amazed by what his team has accomplished. “We’ve had some bumps, and some readers who have known our company for its 30-year history will remember, but we appreciate their loyalty and their faith in us. We’re blessed as a family—and that goes for our employees as well as relatives.”
SCE’s commitment to cultivating a family-centric environment extends well beyond the workplace, too. Despite its impressive growth, Hunter is honored that his company supports the racers and sanctioning bodies—including the NMRA and NMCA—that are the pulse of motorsports from grassroots to pro levels.