California native Ed Iskenderian is a living legend with nearly a century’s worth of stories—and almost as many years of experience building performance racing parts. Iskenderian was smitten with the first custom car he saw at age 12 and, long before he could drive he began hanging out with fellow thrill seekers on the dry lake beds north of Los Angeles. Along the way he picked up some hands-on skills working in a machine shop, and later he played a crucial role in the America’s post-World war II hot rodding boom.
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The fact that Ed Iskenderian had an incredible career in this industry is great. My question is how did he live to 99 in this industry with all the chemicals in machine shops, car crashes and questionable things hot rodders did in the early days. Then to top that off he smokes a stogie that would make Castro proud!
I headed from Oregon to Southern California with another gearhead friend to look for used machine tools. It was the early 1980's and no trip like this was complete without visiting Mr. Iskenderian and his enormous stash of pre-owned machinery. Ed was extremely generous with his time, giving us a wonderful tour of his machine tool paradise. At one point, we passed through a door which led onto a low loft overlooking a row of cam grinders and their attending operators. As we stood there, an old dog wandered in through an open roll up door to our left and up to first operator he came to, dropping what appeared to be a light plane tail wheel tire at his feet. The machinist shut down his machine and proceeded to roll the tire for dog, over and over. After a few minutes of this, I turned to Mr. Iskenderian and said "I guess your employee is going to be in trouble after he realizes your watching him screw off". Ed laughed and responded "He's one of my best workers and the only way he would be in trouble is if he didn't roll the tire for Brodie. My workers know that one of my golden rules is that when old Brodie brings you the tire, you shut down your machine and roll it for him as long as he wants to play". This was the moment that I realized that Ed Iskenderian had his priorities totally straight.
My Gawd the footage at 6:00 is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. His office and shop look just as cluttered as mine - at least I'm in great company!...And is that a V16 cam at 6:25??
That was my era. Not quite as old as Ed but hope to get there. In those days if you didn't have the money for a cam you pulled the choke (remember them?) out so the car would have that loping sound, from running rich, and pretend you had one. I did put a 3/4 race cam in later. Dual carbs and a primer paint job and off to the races.