When we think of our friend Ed Iskenderian (known to most simply as “Isky”), we think of his child-like enthusiasm, curiosity, and youthful attitude toward everything. We most certainly don’t think of Isky as being 102. In fact, if you just listened to him talk, you’d think he was nowhere beyond his teenage years and had just discovered hot rodding the day before. He is in a constant state of excitement. Every time we spend time with him, we learn something from him that he had recently learned. Something he had just learned himself and was anxious to relay to a good listener. It’s the most wonderful quality, making any visit with him a very fun time.
This reminds us of when we met Ed for lunch on a Wednesday about eight years ago. He walked into the restaurant with his brother, Ben, and they were both head-to-toe filthy… carrying greasy engine parts in their hands that they had just retrieved from a “Pick-a-Part” salvage yard. Yes, THEY had retrieved them. Not a couple of Isky Cams employees… but Ed and Ben Iskenderian. Can you imagine working at a salvage yard and seeing The Camfather and his brother walking toward the entrance with tools in their hands??? While in their 80s and 90s?!?!
So Isky and Ben lay out a camshaft on the table along with some rockers that had roller bases and some other odds and ends, and Isky begins to tell everyone how this Honda engine has a mechanical cam profile adjustment that happens based on rpm/oil pressure. He was jumping out of his skin telling us all about it as he kept mocking the parts up in the order that they would be when assembled and saying things like,” And then when you hit the gas, whammo! This centerpiece locks in, and you get a higher lift profile. Isn’t that something? Gee-whiz.” And I remember that we specifically asked if he had been allowed to take these valve train parts from the first car he found with this engine, and he said,” No. They don’t want you to do that because they want the engines complete. No, I had to call around until I found one that was blown up.”
There’s something about that story we love, as we feel it encapsulates the man in a funny way. Isky can’t be stopped. He won’t be detoured. His curiosity won’t allow it. Most people would read a story in an automotive publication about a production engine development and feel satisfied by understanding it. No, not Isky. He had to hold the parts in his hands and feel the weight of them. He had to study them from the angles that he wanted to see them from. He wanted to hold them up to the light and then lay them out on a table and envision them functioning at speed…even if that table was at his local burger joint.
Nope, Isky can’t be stopped. He wasn’t going to be stopped back in the mid-1940s or at any other time in his life.
After all, it’s just a number… like, 400jr, or 404, or even 102!