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At 93 years of age, Ed Iskenderian is one of the very last hot rodders who was around before there was an NHRA. Although not directly involved in the formation of the NHRA, his status as a racer, innovator, manufacturer, and race car sponsor makes him an integral part of the history of drag racing. The camshaft business he founded, Isky Cams, is famous, both in the racing and high performance worlds. Although it is now run by his sons, Richard and Ron, Isky himself is as active in the field as he ever was, and he can be found there almost every day. We thought it was well worth the time to sit down and talk with a man who has seen it all.
: Where and when did you see your first drag race, either on a street on a strip?
Ed Iskendarian: Well that would be on the street. We didn’t have drag racing before the war. So we would meet at Hugo’s Hot Dog Stand or places like that on Pico Boulevard (in Los Angeles), and first thing you’d know, we’d try our cars out against somebody else. It was comical, in a way. We used to think that this fella, Morlan Visel, he had a nice ’32 Roadster, I had a Model T with a V-8 flathead in it; came just to race me out on Venice Boulevard. We used to think that he only hung out (and raced) around our neighborhood, west Los Angeles, but by golly, we found out later that he used to go clear to Santa Ana (to race) ! We found that out only a few years ago and this is almost sixty years later. He must have traveled all over the southern California area looking for racers
: Just looking for racers?
EI: Yeah. And I thought he was just a local guy, but no, he went to Santa Ana and raced other places. So anyway, that’s the way it was. We started out with bicycles of course, and we saw our first hot rods zip by every now and then. It would be a stripped down Model T, or maybe a Chevy, four cylinders you know. Of course they had to be lightweight cars because we didn’t have very much power, but they’d be hopped up a little bit, these four cylinder engines. We learned from the older fellows, there weren’t any magazines to learn from then , so we learned from the older fellows. Then we found out that if you really wanted to see a lot of these hot rods, or ‘go jobs’ we called them then. Or ‘hot iron’. Well you’d go to the dry lakes a hundred miles from Los Angeles and there we’d see hundreds of them.