Ed Hamburger can rightly be called a hot-rodder's hot rodder, although the moniker "speed merchant" also fits him particularly well. Ed, who started drag racing in the early '60s, has been an innovator of speed and performance parts and is the founder, CEO, and the driving force behind SLP Performance Parts-a major manufacturer and supplier of high-quality, bolt-on performance parts for Corvettes and other marques.
As is usually the case with young and budding non-pro drag racers, funds were limited, so Ed relied on his own ingenuity and creativity to squeeze every possible ounce of horsepower out of his rides. He eventually opened Ed Hamburger Hi-Performance Parts in New Jersey, where he had virtually dominated all the competition at the dragstrips of the Northeast territory (NED 1). At the time, he was running 340-cid, small-block Mopars, and his consistent and awesome performances attracted the factory, enabling Ed to become the first Mopar Direct Connection dealer.
As Ed's business grew through the '70s, the latter part of the decade found him racing less and spending more time personally building customer engines. While concentrating on growing his business, he initiated and developed an eight-car race team that wrought havoc in the Sportsman ranks. The team took an impressive six out of eight Class wins at the season-opening Winternationals one year.
In 1978, Ed launched Hamburger Oil Pans as an offshoot of his Hi-Performance Parts business, which manufactured a line of high-performance pans for street and strip. In fact, the pans were so good that at one time or another his customer list included NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, the NHRAs indefatigable John Force, and other racing notables. Hamburger Oil Pans quickly became a tour de force as far as aftermarket brands go. He sold the highly successful company in 1995 to Mr. Gasket, which in turn sold it to TD Performance, where it remains today. Ed sold the company in order to devote the proper time and energy to his next venture, SLP Engineering, which came about in 1986. (The SLP stands for Street Legal Performance.)
Ed devised a plan designed to entice the performance-buying public back to American car dealers' showrooms; the heart of this plan was to modify brand-new GM vehicles. Special packages were developed for the Firebird (Firehawk) and Camaro (SS) that included increased horsepower, signature dress-up items, and superior handling. The first Firehawk was introduced in 1991, and the program was a huge success.
As with Ed's other business moves, the timing was right and so was the product. Every component added to both the Camaro SS and Firehawk was designed, engineered, tooled, and manufactured by SLP in its own assembly plant located in Canada, just minutes away from GM's F-Body plant.
SLP branched into two divisions: SLP Engineering, devoted to OE efforts, and SLP Performance Parts, the aftermarket division, which is now the sole SLP company remaining.
Realizing the huge market potential that existed and the desire for high-quality, bolt-on performance for Corvettes, SLP soon turned its attention in that direction with a series of mild-to-wild offerings to put more kick in the Plastic Fantastics. the company also develops and offers new performance packages for the GTO, fullsize trucks, Mustangs, and, of course, the C6 Corvette.
Ed says, "SLP's focus has always been and will continue to be on performance; performance is our middle name. We have divided our focus just like the car industry is divided: 50 percent of our business will focus on musclecars, and 50 percent will focus on trucks. We have quite a selection of GM light-duty truck packages that are 50-state legal, and we now even have a number of appearance packages for trucks and SUVs.
"Now, with regard to cars, our premier performance car is Corvette. I made a commitment to Corvette once the Camaro ended, and that will continue to be our premier performance vehicle because it is General Motors' premier performance vehicle. It will continue to be performance as it currently is with our ZL-465 for the '07 C6 and the 435 package. those packages, as well as the individual components that make them up, are our current focus. And, as you're probably aware, we also have a special relationship with Mid America Motorworks. We're doing that package we designed and now manufacture that was featured in Car and Driver; we're doing a limited edition of that. The performance components of the package are the same; what's different is it contains content from Mid America that identifies it as a limited edition-only 100 of those will be sold. There's a doorjamb badge signed by both Mike Yager and myself, and each will be numbered from 1 to 100. there's a console cover that says ZL-465 on it, and each package comes with a letter of authenticity. This is a really unique approach we've taken in our performance packages with Mid America, and it represents our continuing commitment in the Corvette arena.
"Of course, we'll continue to produce and offer all the other performance components for GM vehicles, including Camaro/Firebird parts, components, parts and packages for the GTO. we've even moved into the Mustang arena, and gotten a very positive response from that market segment as well, thanks to the high quality of our components. We also expect to get into performance for the Dodge Charger 300C and the Dodge Magnum very shortly. with the industry as it is today, you need to be as diverse as you can be."
Ed has an extremely active schedule that keeps him commuting between his home in Michigan and the SLP facility in New Jersey on a weekly basis so he can maintain his hands-on management approach. Based on his past successes and growing business, Ed, obviously, has the whole bolt-on performance market nailed, but that's what you'd expect from a true speed merchant now isn't it?