Hot Rod Legend Ed Iskenderian Turns 100

·3 min read
Photo credit: Mark Vaughn
Photo credit: Mark Vaughn


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Ed “Isky” Iskenderian turned 100 on July 10, and large swaths of Southern California came out to celebrate.

By our count at least three birthday parties were planned to commemorate the event. The first took place a week ago at a place called LTR Racing Engines, way out across the desert and up in the mountains in a town called Onyx, California. Making that drive in the summer heat and then huffing the thin air at altitude would sap the will of someone half Isky’s age, but there he went. Last weekend, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles gathered some of its best roadsters and many of Isky’s friends and fellow hot rod legends and held another 100th birthday party for the great man. Word is there’ll be another celebration among the SEMA crowd next month in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Mark Vaughn
Photo credit: Mark Vaughn

We went to the Petersen party and we gotta say, Isky is as strong and sharp as ever.

“How do you put together 100 years of life and history and be that sharp and that fabulous still today?” asked Matt Stone, the man who literally wrote the book on Iskenderian. “And as curious as he still is about how things work and how things get done. And I mean, that mind, there’s a supercomputer buried in there somewhere.”

For his take on being a centenarian, Isky simply said, “It kind of snuck up on me.”

To what does he owe his remarkable longevity?

“I do like onions and hot chili peppers.”

Indeed, once the panel discussion was over and they’d whisked Isky off into the shade of the museum’s parking structure on the third floor, someone handed the CamFather a hot dog from Pink’s, the LA eatery famous for hot dogs since 1939 (by which date Isky himself was already 18!).

Photo credit: Mark Vaughn
Photo credit: Mark Vaughn

The Isky story is in many ways the story of the American century. Born before the Great Depression, Isky’s parents lost their vineyard in the Central Valley of California after several devastating frosts, ending what could have been a career for the young Isky as a winemaker. Instead, the family moved south to Los Angeles and everything changed.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

It was while in high school in LA that Isky built the famous black Model T Ford roadster that would define the best of that class of art and engineering. It is simple and elegant, from the laughing skull radiator cap that he cast himself in high school metal shop to the Maxi heads, Edelbrock triple manifold, and Vertex magneto that are still on the car. Notice, also, the timing tag from El Mirage attesting to a top speed of 120 mph. These guys were brave.

Ed served in the Army Air Corps in WWII and returned home to find a dearth of performance camshafts for hot rods, so he bought a used cylindrical grinder that he converted to a cam grinding machine and the performance car world would never be the same. Isky’s cams could get more power out of almost any engine with no penalty. From his famous 5-Cycle cams to the Ultra Rev-Kits with roller cams, Isky cams were the sought-after components for speed, horsepower, and torque. Still are. The company is now run by Isky’s sons Ron and Richard, who are still making performance under the Iskenderian name and reputation.

“Happy birthday, man,” said Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, one of the celebrity guests at the Petersen. “100 years old, that doesn’t happen very often. And I felt bad just getting out of bed this morning.”

We can all take inspiration from the CamFather.

Happy birthday, Isky! Share your thoughts on the life and career of the great Ed Iskenderian in the comments below.

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