Born the son of an Armenian shoemaker in Tulare, California in 1921, Ed “Isky” Iskenderian is one of our most coveted hot rod pioneers.
Armed with tremendous enthusiasm for all things mechanical from an early age, Ed enrolled himself in every technical and automotive course available to him at his Polytech High School in Los Angeles and would gain hands-on experience with everything from drafting to machining to engine work. Ed’s first big assignment at school was the conversion of a model T Ford truck into a stripped down roadster, something that Ed excelled at and would set him on a lifelong path of pursuing speed and efficiency. While still in school, Ed and his best friend and fellow tinkerer, John Athan, experimented with everything from pattern making and casting their own speed equipment to engine building, chassis modification, and camshaft re-profiling, with much of this experimentation occurring on Ed’s now-famous ’24 T roadster that he had purchased from Athan.
This hot rod, which Ed has kept for his entire life, would be his only mode of transportation during his teens and early 20s and would have him involved in street racing as well as land speed racing with his fellow hot rodders on the area dry lakes outside of Los Angeles.
Showing that Ed was as much a hot rodder as he was a scientist, Ed would shoot across the lakebed in his Model T at 120mph at a Western Timing Association meet in 1942. A very impressive speed for the time and proof that “Isky” knew how to make a “gow-job” really go! His fascination with camshaft technology led young Ed to become friendly with, and learn from, some of our earliest known aftermarket camshaft designers like Clay Smith and Ed Winfield. Although Isky famously credits Winfield as having the biggest influence on his life as a mentor, it was, in fact, Smith who pushed Iskenderian into the cam business after Ed’s request for Smith to grind him a dual-pattern camshaft was met with a three month estimated time of delivery from Smith.
It was with this news that the young Ed Iskenderian realized there was room for another cam grinder in town and soon a second hand cylindrical grinding machine was purchased to which Ed designed and fitted a special rocker bar attachment of his own design. With this machine and Ed’s one employee, Norris Baronian, Iskenderian Racing Cams was launched in the back corner of an existing machine shop ( Mercury Tool and Die ) in Culver City, California.
Through the years Ed would develop camshaft and valve train designs that would help propel some of the world’s most famous racers to victory, not to mention a few whiskey runners in the south. He would also take the position of president of the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association during its first two years. But it has always been Ed’s curiosity that has kept him up with the times, whether it be the development of speed equipment for exotic multi-cam multi-valve powerplants or designs that focused on lower emissions and better fuel efficiency… Ed has always been there.
Thanks to this unending enthusiasm, curiosity, knack for promotion, and a lifelong love affair with hot rodding, Ed has now built Isky Cams into a multi-million dollar business and one of the most recognized and respected speed equipment manufacturers in the history of auto racing. Considering the fact that Ed has experienced the majority of the known history of what would come to be known as hot rodding makes Ed “Isky” Iskenderian’s presence on the American Hot Rod Foundation advisory board invaluable. We thank him for his participation.