Ed Iskenderian Celebrates 100th Birthday - Engine Builder Magazine

Ed Iskenderian Celebrates 100th Birthday

The name Ed Iskenderian is a legend among racers worldwide. The racing and performance industry pioneer turns 100 on July 10, 2021! You can help celebrate Ed’s 100th birthday as Isky Cams will be throwing a birthday bash July 10 at LTR Racing Engines (29330 Highway 178 Onyx, CA). There will be a car show and cackle fest as well.

*From the Isky Cams website: Ed’s life history parallels the proverbial success story. He was born in 1921 in the grapevine country of Tulare County, CA. His future as a winemaker never materialized because several heavy frosts destroyed the vineyards. These conditions forced the Iskenderian family to move to Los Angeles.

While attending Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, Ed’s pet project was building a Model T Ford roadster. Ed learned the fundamentals of mechanics by working with the Model T Fords and later adapted the overhead conversion by Frontenac (more commonly known as Fronty), as well as the George Riley head known to the racers in those days as the “multi-flathead.”

Experiencing repeated crankshaft failure, Ed began searching for an engine with a stronger lower end. He examined the Ford Model A and B and found them to be only slightly stronger than the Model T. Turning his attention toward the later Ford V8 flathead engine, he found the crank to be much more rugged with larger bearings and a counter balanced crankshaft. He installed special Maxi “F” type cylinder heads (with overhead exhaust valves) and slingshot intake manifold. Ed had the combustion chambers in the heads cast iron filled and he then re-contoured the combustion chambers as advised by his good friend Ed Winfield. The actual compression ratio turned out to be a whopping 13:1, an extremely high ratio for the early days of hot rodding. This was Ed Iskenderian’s first hot rod and it still occupies a corner of his plant today.

After graduating, Ed obtained mechanical experience working as an apprentice tool and die maker. This is where Ed developed the skill and experience of always striving for quality and perfection. His career was interrupted by WWII. Because of his interest in speed, Ed decided to try his hand with an even faster vehicle and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served with the Air Transport Command, repeatedly flying supplies to the islands of the Pacific.

After his war time absence, Ed lost no time in getting back to his hot rod and getting it ready for California’s dry lake bed meets. When rebuilding his V8, he wanted to obtain a special camshaft. However, the boom had hit hot rodding and there was a great deal of business for the few racing camshaft manufacturers on the west coast. Their production schedules were taxed, which resulted in slow delivery. During the five-month waiting period for his special camshaft, Ed decided to enter the cam grinding business. He bought a used conventional cylindrical grinder and drawing on his tool making and mechanical experience, Ed converted it to a universal cam grinding machine. This machine produced camshafts with a noticeable improvement in performance over the conventional racing Ford camshafts. Ed’s cams were the first to produce 1 hp per cubic inch on gasoline in postwar OHV V8 Dodge Hemi’s and 1.3 hp per cubic inch on gasoline in postwar OHV 283 Chevy V8s.

Ed saw that racers could benefit from the advancement of higher-technology in racing so he created the first Hard-Face Overlay camshafts in the industry and became the first to employ computers in camshaft design. With the computer, Ed created the most advanced cam-profiles of the late 1950s and early ’60s like the famous 5-Cycle and Polydyne Profile 505 Magnum’s along with the very first hydraulic racing camshafts in the industry.

Not stopping here, Ed knew that these new camshafts needed equally technologically advanced components, so he developed the first High-Density Chilled-Iron lifters for the ever growing Fuel Burning Supercharged Dragster class (now known as Top Fuel Dragsters). These were the first drop-in self locking roller tappets and the first Anti-Pump-Up hydraulic lifters enabling hydraulic camshafts to produce higher rpm. This created a new challenge, however, as the new camshafts were delivering greater lifts and durations for higher rpm, the resulting higher lift rates required advanced valve spring designs.

Recognizing this, Ed then introduced to the racing industry the first Vasco Jet 1000 valve springs after having pioneered the first valve spring assemblies for racing a decade before. New cams and components were not the only thing Ed brought to the young drag racing programs. Under a gentlemen’s agreement, Ed and a young racer from Florida named Don Garlits entered into the first corporate sponsorship of a race operation. During this time, Ed was given the nickname of Isky the “Camfather.”

In addition to the numerous racing advancements, Ed also turned his interest to helping the stock/street enthusiasts. He offered, among many other things, the first coordinated cam and assembly kit to take the guess work out of ordering. To help fine tune racers’ engines he offered the first “Ultra Rev-Kits” for small block Chevy V8 roller cams and the first anti-cam walk kit for the Chevy V8s, along with the first offset cam keys and bushings for adjusting cam timing. In 1963, Ed in collaboration with a few other industry pioneers, created the “Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association,” now known as the “Specialty Equipment Market Association” or SEMA. Ed presided as its first president in 1963 and 1964 and led the group through its first crucial years.

With the advent of the new small cars and the consumers trend towards economy, Ed turned his efforts to enlarging his line of economy camshafts and components, creating a camshaft that would deliver economy without robbing performance. This led to the newest and strongest line of street/performance camshafts. The SuperCams for economy/performance and the MegaCams, the maximum in street/performance hydraulic camshafts.

Ed, although still overseeing the entire operation, has recently turned the reins over to his sons Ron and Richard who have continued their father’s traditions. Over the years, Ed has also been inducted as a member of Chevrolet’s “Legends of Performance” and into SEMA’s Hall of Fame.

Isky’s present location in Gardena, CA consists of a four-building complex of over 75,000 sq.-ft. Isky employs over 100 specialists, including engineers and technical advisers to assist the thousands of Isky dealers throughout the world and the hundreds of thousands of Isky customers.

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