There is a good reason Ed Pink is known as The Old Master: the man’s command over automotive engineering is legendary and in a league of its own. He couldn’t help but be a hot rodder though because his dad owned J.J. Pink’s Paint Co. Located at 5702 Crenshaw Boulevard, Los Angeles, the store advertised “Custom Made Colors, Metallics – Iridescents” in the June 1950 issue of Motor Trend. Ed advertised the store on the decklid of a ’36 five-window that he raced at the dry lakes. There’s a shot of the car being pushed off in the September ’51 issue of Hop UP magazine. The caption reads: “Ed Pink with Chet Herbert’s G.M.C. engine in his Ford ran 133.82 mph.” Meanwhile, his uncle Paul founded the world famous Pink’s Hot Dogs.
Ed’s first car was a 1922 Model T. He recalled in an interview with John Drummond for the Goodguys Gazette, “I lived in West L.A. and a couple blocks from where I lived there was this old Model T in a garage. One day the people were home so I stopped and talked with them. I was 14. They sold it to me for $50. Later, I got a ’26 Model T. My very first actual hot rod was a ’29 Ford roadster. The year was 1948. I ran it at El Mirage Dry Lake and later I ran it at Bonneville. I ran a 3-71 supercharged 239 ci flathead on fuel.
When he was 16 Ed used to hang around Lou Baney’s gas station in Los Angeles saying, “The very first job I had was in 1947 when I worked for Lou Baney who had a Golden Eagle gas station and speed shop called Hot Rod Haven on 52nd and Normandy in West L.A. On Saturdays all the racer guys used to be there, like Isky.” Also, because of his membership in the Russetta Coupes Club, Ed got to be fast friends with Fran Hernandez, Bobby Meeks, and Don Towle who all worked for Edelbrock. He had the best in mentors.
At the time, Ed was only working part time for Baney, most of the time he was laying floors for his dad. The Korean War was on, and Ed decided to join the Army and became an infantryman. “Afterward, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” Ed said in an interview with Dick Martin. “I went to work as a mechanic for Louie Senter at Ansen Engineering. Then my friend Jack Landrum and I decided to open a little garage and Richfield gas station on Manchester Boulevard across from Manchester High School in 1953. We called it Pinkland (a combination of Pink and Landram). I was working there full time; Jack had another job, he was just there whenever he had time. Jack helped me run the ’34 at El Mirage but the partnership just wasn’t successful. It was something we tried together and it didn’t work. We remained friends until the day Jack died.”
After Pinkland, Ed went to work for Frank Baron of Tattersfield-Baron fame, however, he knew that wasn’t the answer so he opened another Richfield station and soon realized that repairing stockers was not his, however, he moved on to Eddie Meyer saying to Dick Martin, “Eddie also had a repair business. Most of his customers were movie people. I was his mechanic on regular cars. I learned a lot working there.”
Again, Ed knew it wasn’t right and so, in 1961, upon an invitation from Tony Nancy, he opened his own shop in Nancy’s Van Nuys complex alongside Kent Fuller’s chassis shop; metal shaper Wayne Ewing, who shaped A.J. Watson’s Champ Cars and the Greer-Black-Prudhomme dragster and, of course Nancy’s upholstery shop. He couldn’t have found a better home. Initially doing some ignition and cylinder head work, Ed found himself in the middle of drag city and his customers included Nancy, “Big John” Mazmanian and “TV Tommy” Ivo to name but a few.
The 60’s drag racing boom gave Ed a solid base from which to build his business—and build it he did saying to Dick Martin, “The preparation of all the parts was critical to make sure everything fit. When I bought a part, I didn’t take for granted that the part was correct. We spent more time building the engines than others did. My main concept was first you have to make the engine live and then you make it run faster.”
Ed’s attention to detail brought him to the attention of racers beyond the quarter mile, besides, that sport was changing and racers were starting to build their own engines. They only needed Ed for advice that was hard to charge for. However, a call from Parnelli Jones took him in another direction and he began building engines for Indy. After word began to spread about Pink’s talents, Cosworth Engineering asked him to perform similar work for its Indy Car programs including building its DFX engines. At the peak of this period, Pink was building engines for half a dozen Indy Car teams, including Tom Sneva’s, which won the 1983 Indy 500. This kept him busy until the late-80s, when again, the engine building shifted in-house.
Where next? Well, why not Les Mans? Pink began specializing in engines for the Porsche 962 and that got the attention of other teams including Pontiac who asked him to help develop an 302 ci aluminum engine for the IMSA Spice Car Series, in which the Porsches also competed. In addition, Pink helped develop the Indy Car programs for the Buick V-6 and Nissan’s Infinity V-9. Pink’s was also heavily involved in midget racing with four-cylinder engines for Ford and Toyota that won a combined 10 USAC National Midget Series championships and the Ford Silver Crown V-8 that won four titles in the USAC National Silver Crown Series.
It was a Nissan engine that gave Ed the toughest time saying to Drummond, “The most difficult project I have ever been involved in was the Nissan Infinity IRL engine. They came to me with a cylinder block 80-percent developed and some cylinder heads somewhat finished. That was it. I had to design the rods, pistons, and every component to make a complete engine. Turns out, they didn’t have the necessary budget. I couldn’t hire enough people to pull it off so I just put my head down and got it done. We were continually behind the eight ball. It ran good and we did win an IRL race. The biggest reason it was the hardest project I was ever involved in was the fact that the budget wasn’t there and we just didn’t have the resources needed. We were working six or seven days a week, 14 hours a day. I did learn a lot so it wasn’t all bad.”
Of all projects over the years Ed was the proudest of a Toyota saying, “All TRD had was a cylinder head and a valve cover! We designed the complete engine. The first time out in 2006 at the one-mile Copper Classic in Phoenix, it set quick time and won the race with Dave Steel driving. To this day, that Toyota engine is the one all the championship teams use. I’m very proud of that.”
That last sentence, “I did learn a lot so it wasn’t all bad,” sums Ed Pink up. He achieved what he did because he listened and learned and applied what he learned. In 1995, Ed received the NHRA Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the International Drag racing Hall of Fame.
In 2008, Ed sold Ed Pink Racing Engines to Tom Malloy and long time employee Frank Honsowetz runs that company. Ed, meanwhile, went into business with Bob Brandt (Don Prudhomme’s crew chief for 17 years) to launch Ed Pink’s Garage in Newbury Park, California. Far from retired Ed said of the new venture, “Our goal is to connect with those enthusiasts who want something special and value the knowledge and experience Bob and I bring to the party. We will also be doing consulting work and help customers develop highly effective engine combinations.”
By Tony Thacker