:  In terms of your business at your company Hedman Hedders is there a side of drag racing that is more important to your business than another?

Vandergriff: Well, it’s all very important, but the sportsman side is where the numbers are – and obviously we are in a numbers business.

:  The people who work for you at Hedman Hedders seem to have a similar passion as you do for our sport.  Do you look for that in people you hire?

Vandergriff: I have been very fortunate in that, for example, I was there before I bought the company and I don’t have short-term employees. Everybody has been around a long time and we have been very fortunate.

: Could you give us a little background about how you came to own the company?

Vandergriff:  I had left NHRA and bought into an advertising agency, McMullen Advertising.  Bob Hedman decided he wanted sell the business and asked me to find a buyer. He told me what (how much money) he wanted for the business and that they wanted all cash. Three or four months went by and I hadn’t found anybody to buy it. Bob called me and asked if I had found anybody to buy it and I said there was nobody who was going to give him all cash for it.  He answered that for the right people they might carry the paper since it (Hedman) was debt free. 

So I went into my partner (McMullen) and said if we beg, borrow and hock everything we have got we might be able to come up with the down payment.  So Joe Pisano borrowed a bunch of money from his bank and the banker asked what are you doing with this money?  Joe said “I’m going to give it to my friend.” The banker said, “Are you totally nuts?”  That banker is still a good friend today. 

We had money from all different kinds of places… my next-door neighbor was a dentist who gave me his entire retirement fund.  Then an investor from Pittsburgh gave me enough money to pay everyone back – nobody wanted any interest, they just wanted their money back.  That’s how we put the deal together.

: Why and how did you acquire companies like Hamburger and Trans-Dapt?

Vandergriff: We were very involved with Charlie Card’s family at Honest Charlie’s Speed Shop and when they decided they wanted to sell they called me. We were looking to expand, but actually I bought Trans-Dapt myself.  I had all those partners in Hedman in those days, and I remember we had a meeting one day and I said that I needed a raise. Now I’d made really good money at NHRA, over $100,000 back then, mostly commission.  Well, a year into the Hedman deal I was still making $2,000 a month from the ad agency and I am running out of money, so I had the three partners in the office in Culver City and I told them that I need a raise! 

They said, well we can’t give you a raise – so I packed up my briefcase, got up and told them  “I’m going to find a job.”  Their response was wait a minute, wait a minute, sit down we’ll talk.  You run this place and pay yourself whatever you think is right, that we can afford. OK, cool.  Eventually I was able to buy all the partners out.

Trans-Dapt was not a good deal. They were doing a decent number (in sales) but they weren’t making any money.  It took a while, but even today we are doing about a third of the business it used to do. But we are profitable, which is the right way that I learned how to do business.  If you sell something for more than it costs you, you should never go broke, unless you get stupid.

I bought Hamburger from the Mr. Gasket Company, but when I bought it the entire inventory in stock was junk and we ended up throwing it all away.  We paid it off, but it took us two years to rebuild the brand and the product line from what we had acquired. 

:  You were directly involved in the formation of SEMA. When SEMA came about did you have any idea that it would grow to the size and influence on behalf of manufacturers that it is now?

Vandergriff: That was the idea and goal of Lou Baney and all the guys who started it; we were all in it together.