As president and COO for Hedman Manufacturing in Whittier, California, Ron Funfar embodies the kind of success story that parents tell their children when seeking to provide positive motivation. He attended Catholic grammar and high schools and took a couple of college classes, but the bulk of his education and his accomplishments in the specialty-equipment industry came through his own hard work and willingness to devote himself to a sometimes strenuous but always worthwhile career. Funfar has been with Hedman for 33 years (as of 2007) and has been a major part of the company’s growth and accomplishments.
Funfar was introduced to the Hedman Hedders company in 1968 while serving in the California Army National Guard with Ken Hedman, whose father Bob owned the company. In 1974, Hedman had a position open for a warehouse manager, and Funfar landed the job. Funfar knew virtually nothing about the exhaust business, since he had been working in the beverage industry after the service, but he had been a self-described car nut since his early years, so he was at least familiar with what the company manufactured and sold.
Funfar gradually worked his way through the ranks, developing his operations and organizational skills, learning the sales side of the business and understanding how the distribution network functioned. When Bob Vandergriff purchased Hedman Manufacturing in 1978, he encouraged the company’s employees to become active in industry organizations as well as within Hedman itself. Over the next few decades, the company acquired other businesses, including J.R. Headers, Trans-Dapt Performance and, most recently, Hamburger’s Performance Products, and Funfar followed Vandergriff’s advice to become active in all facets of the business and the industry.
“The experience I gained working with PWA and its membership helped me tremendously,” Funfar said. “We also spent a lot of time at the SEMA offices in the early days when I chaired the Technical Committee. The people I was surrounded with were tremendous. Jim McFarland, Russ Deane, Bob Burch and Bob Keller worked so hard with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and its section 27156, which eventually allowed exhaust manufacturers to receive California emissions exemptions without having to go through the rigorous Federal Test Procedure. There I was, surrounded by these industry giants with so much knowledge and passion. I couldn’t soak it up fast enough.”
In addition to his work on a variety of SEMA committees—often as chairman— Funfar was elected to the SEMA Board of Directors in 1987 and served three consecutive two-year terms until 1992. He also served as SEMA’s secretary/treasurer and was a focus group leader for the National Management Conferences, which (as of 2007) was revived and revised as the National Education Conference. His work with Bob Keller of Turbonetics Inc. in researching the possibility of SEMA having its own emissions facility fostered a relationship with the American Automobile Association (AAA), and he worked with Rick Rollins to found the World Motorsports Society, which eventually opened the door to the foundation of today’s Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council.
Additionally, Funfar was a major supporter of segmenting the SEMA Show—grouping similar or related exhibits and companies into centralized locations to allow buyers better and quicker access to pertinent businesses, and he made Hedman one of the first manufacturers to field dual displays in Racer’s Row, as well as in the traditional Racing & Performance section of the Show. On another front, he was instrumental in reformatting the association’s early print publication into the in-house trade magazine now titled SEMA News.
On the personal side, (in 2007) Funfar commemorated his 10th wedding anniversary with wife Laura, who is the executive secretary and office manager at Hedman and will soon celebrate 20 years with the company. His daughter Nicole, 32, who will be married in July, and his 28-year-old son Erik, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, are both college graduates who are well settled into their own careers. But Funfar’s extended family at Hedman also claims a strong hold on his heart.
“Fortunately for me, most all of my mentors are also good friends,” he said. “Jim McFarland, Dick Van Cleve and the late George Bozanic gave me tremendous guidance through the years. More recently, Rick Rollins has been a tremendous asset in helping me with some of the challenges our company has faced. Rick and I served on the SEMA Board together and were each other’s wingman for many years. There are so many others, such as Bob McJannett, Van Woodell, Bob Keller, Jeep Worthan, Bob Cook, Don Smith and Mike Rao. I could go on and on.
“Working for both the Hedman family and Bob Vandergriff gave me tremendous confidence because both allowed me to do my job with few restrictions. The fact that I have been allowed to run these companies for so many years has taught me that hard work, good business ethics, uncompromised scruples and integrity and doing the right thing definitely have their rewards. Because of Bob Vandergriff’s belief in this industry and his willingness to allow us to be so active within it, we have received several personal-achievement honors. We have tried so many things over the years that have been revolutionary to the industry, and we have been rewarded time and again with numerous new-product awards and two PWA Manufacturer of the Year awards. When we receive these awards, we sometimes forget that we wouldn’t be able to help our industry if it weren’t for the hard-working people back at the shop. They are all a big part of these honors.
“I’ve had 33 years in this industry with a great company. I have a terrific wife who is always 100% behind me. I have great children who are well on their way to successful careers, and I have the best friends a person could have.