(L-R)Dave McClelland - Moderator, Wally Parks, Alex Xydias, VicEdelbrock Jr., Ed Pink, Ed
When legends speak, people listen. And when the legends are from theperformance and racing industry and they share tales from their storiedpasts, people laugh, cry and, more importantly, remember the early days.Such was the scene at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona,Calif., where Wally Parks, Vic Edelbrock Jr., Alex Xydias, EdIskenderian and Ed Pink held court for 2-plus hours, keeping the pastalive and an audience of about 150 thoroughly amused during a paneldiscussion aptly titled "Living Legends."
The event was an offshoot of the Museum's current exhibit, "Edelbrock: APerformance Legacy," which runs through Feb. 14. It's also an ongoingpart of the Museum's "living history" agenda, where people can come andsee and hear their icons in action.
Alex Xydias signs an autograph.
"It's great to be here with my heroes," said emcee Dave McClelland tothe crowd. McClelland, who always asks the right questions at the righttime to evoke the best, and often funniest responses, was right ontarget once again.
He set the stage when he said, "we've come to celebrate a performancelegacy here today. Ask yourself, 'what if there was no Edelbrock?' It'simpossible to think about because Edelbrock has had such an influence onthe performance industry."
McClelland got tossed for a loss momentarily as a quick quip about USCfootball (Vic's alma mater) winning the championship spurred a debatebetween the panelists, especially Vic and Alex.
Ed Iskenderian contemplates a question during the Edelbrock: APerformance Legacy panel dis
"Enough about football, already!" McClelland said. The crowd and panellaughed and the real discussion about the history of the performanceindustry began in earnest.
The program covered quite a bit of subjects, ranging from various formsof racing (dry lakes, drag), engine building, first uses of nitro,famous cars such as the legendary SO-CAL Streamliner and Belly TankLakester, the scene at Gilmore Stadium and the early days ofmanufacturing and distributing performance parts. But two namesdominated the discussion: Vic Edelbrock Sr. and Bobby Meeks, his famedengine builder.
Every panelist told several stories about both. For Vic Jr., the storiesrepresented his childhood as he watched his dad and Meeks develop aspecial brand of performance parts and help forge a new industry.
Legendary engine builder Ed Pink signs an autograph.
"I feel very fortunate to have been born into the family I was," Vic Jr.said. He talked about the excitement from Meeks and his dad on usingnitro for the first time and beating the Offys at Gilmore. He also spokeabout learning about dynos and testing products as a teen, as well asdoing things right, the Edelbrock way. "My father would say 'hurry upand screw up the first so you won't screw up the second one.'"
Vic Sr. may have been tough on young Vic, but nothing like Bobby Meekswas, well, to everyone. Ed "Isky" Iskenderian, the 'Camfather,' saidMeeks was "pretty blunt and not too diplomatic on mistakes. He would sayyou were a dummy, you're doing it wrong, but he was sort of polite aboutit.
Panelist Ed Pink, a racer as well as an accomplished engine builder, wasschooled under Meeks, who he said was tough, but fair. "When I made amistake," Pink said, "at least Bobby Meeks didn't hit me like theteachers did back in school."
Vic Edelbrock Jr. makes a point druing the panel discussion.
Alex Xydias, founder of the famous SO-CAL Speed Shop, called Meeks, "Theengine guy - a true legend."
Of course, Vic Jr. knew Meeks before he got famous...and a little gruff."Bobby Meeks was 15 and hangin' around my father's place,' Vic Jr. said."He had no place to go. My father asked him, "wanna get your handsdirty?' Bobby became a brother to my dad. He would be here today, butsome of his parts are wearing out and they don't sell replacements forthose parts yet."
Vic Jr. also told of the time when Vic Sr. got Meeks a car "Bobby needsa car - it was time. My dad brought in a pile of junk and said, 'put ittogether.' He did it and that was his car."
Moderator Dave McClelland holds up a copy of Vic Edelbrock Jr. in HotRod magazine, at the
Pink told a great story of how he organized a bowling team thatconsisted of Meeks, Vic Sr. (and Jr. as an alternate), Don Towle and oneof Pink's customers. "We weren't out to break any records," to which VicJr. chimed in, "maybe beer-drinking records." As the crowd laughed,Pink continued, telling everyone how they did, uh, have "many beerframes and got real loud. We just wanted to let our hair down. And youknow what? We won the league championship...but they never asked usback."
Ever-sharp Wally Parks quickly added, "Not too many of us in the roomcan let our hair down."
Cam grinder Ed "Isky" Iskenderian signs an autograph for one of theaudience members as oth
Parks remembered Vic Sr. as "an innovator. He was an icon to me, veryhonorable. He was one of the top men I've ever known."
Xydias, a super-close friend of Vic Sr.'s, agreed. "He was my mentor andbest friend. He was also a great businessman. And Xydias would know: hesold Edelbrock equipment back in the 1950s. He told stories of runningback and forth between Burbank and Hollywood to get Edelbrock manifoldsas customers waited in his shop. "When I first opened up SO-CAL SpeedShop, the first place I went for product was Edelbrock. You'd sell oneEdelbrock manifold and it would make your day 'cause you'd make about$20 on it, and that was a lot of money back then. I was a good Edelbrockcustomer!"
Xydias seemed to remember his moments with Vic Sr. (who passed away in1961) like they happened yesterday.
(Standing - L-R) Alex Xydias, Vic Edelbrock Jr., Ed Pink, Ed Iskenderian,(seated) Wally Pa
Iskenderian also vividly remembered Vic Sr.. He told a story from the1950s about Mickey Thompson, who was trying to get the good-natured Iskyto work on a racecar for him and build cams for him for free. "Vic Sr.asked me one thing: 'Has that man ever bought anything from you?' Iheard the significance in that," he said as the crowd laughed.
Vic's business sense wasn't only about money: it was about the products,especially R&D. "Vic Edelbrock Sr.'s philosophy was, 'never have yourcustomer's do your testing. Make the parts the best they can be.'"That's why Edelbrock equipment was so superior," explained Ed Pink.
Vic Jr. acknowledged his dad "had an incredible knack" for engines. Hetold the crowd about the time performance guru engine builder KeithBlack wanted his manifolds on some engines for a power boat race. "Keithtold my dad the manifold didn't work. That was something you didn't sayto my dad." Vic said his dad, with Bobby Meeks, of course, built theirown engines and won the race.
Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum Executive Director Sam Jacksonwelcomes the crowd as NH
Speaking of products, McClelland playfully focused on Isky and hisfamous cams. "So Isky, "McClelland asked with a smile, "was it all BSabout the cams with the trick names such as the "404" and "5-Cycle?"Isky got a gleam in his eye and went along, admitting, "Yeah, it was alla publicity stunt. It could have been true it made them faster." Thecrowd loved it and roared with approval.
Isky told them what it was like to develop performance products in theearly days. "Back then, R&D didn't cost us anything. We did things bythe seats of our pants." He added, "A guy can invent something in hisbackyard and then an engineer will come along and put a formula to it."
Poking fun at fellow panelist Xydias, Isky told the time "Alexcomplained to Vic Sr. that his V8 didn't work. Vic switched two wiresand it ran fine." Xydias turned to Isky and deadpanned, "I don't knowwhere you heard that one..."
NHRA Founder and Museum Chairman Wally Parks (seated) and Vic EdelbrockJr. smile for the c
And that's how it went during the fast-paced event. The panelists notonly offered insight on the history of the performance and racingindustry, but we're not embarrassed to make light of themselves (or eachother) in the process. Vic Jr. told everyone how he was dropped into acan of super-thick "Gunk" as a youngster and how his mom wasn't toohappy about it. Parks immediately chimed in how that explained how "VicJr.'s hair is so blond when his dad's was jet black. It's because theybleached him to get the Gunk off."
Vic Jr. also made it clear that learning about testing engines andproducts from his dad and co-workers took time. "I was working on aflathead as a kid and they asked me, 'Jr., are you sure you checked thetiming marks?' I said, 'What timing marks?'"
The crowd appreciated the panel's humor and, of course, the history."I'd like to thank this outstanding panel," said Sam Jackson, executivedirector of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. Going with the funflow, Jackson looked over the panel and added, "It's kind of nice to beone of the younger guys in the room."
McClelland let Vic Jr. have the last word of the day. "This is what'sit's all about ladies and gentlemen," Edelbrock said. "These are thestories, of our past, of our industry, of our sport. We never want toforget them. We want them to live on forever."
And they will, as long as the Parks Museum continues to present livinglegends who people can listen to...and laugh with.