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A Story Untold – Part One

So often, it seems, we pass through periods in our life unaware of the historical impact of events experienced.  For nineteen years, I was privileged to be a small part of an evolving company that had significant impact on the industry it populated.  It pioneered numerous activities, set the bar for many others and took leadership risks that seem more aggressive now than when they occurred.  Because of its influence on the specialty parts industry, likely some of the products you’ve used, I felt part of the “back story” would be of interest.  So, here it is as intended to broaden a perspective of how the company evolved from 1969 to 1988, beyond what you may have read in the company’s “Made In the U.S.A.” book published a few years ago.

My first encounter with Vic Edelbrock was circa 1966, in the fall of the year and a small, enclosed trailer out behind his shop in Culver City, California.  At the time, it was Vic’s “office” and focal point for meetings both internal and external to his company.  Little did I know that some three years hence, I would have the distinct opportunity to join his team.  But that was obviously later because the purpose of that first meeting was to map out a story for HOT ROD magazine, drilling into the benefits of multiple carburetor/manifold combinations for the venerable small-block Chevy.  We did the story and it ran in a subsequent issue, accompanied by a landmark bump in increased Edelbrock sales.  Pretty much standard stuff for the time.

But what wasn’t just a bump was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted for forty-three years.  Sure, there have been “bumps” of other kinds along the way, but the friendship has endured.  However, the point of all this rhetoric is to set the stage for a string of events that highlighted the company’s growth in the specialty parts industry and motorsports communities, during the time I was there.  Now the story.

Upon my arrival, Edelbrock didn’t have what you’d call a bona fide engineering department.  Many years of hard-earned experience building top notch engines and the equipment that made them race competitively was the core of the company’s product development techniques.  Plus, improving power levels of Detroit-built engines of the era was far easier than today.  Simply put, sophisticated engineering wasn’t a requisite, at that point.  So one of my on-going projects was to begin shaping these processes and adding staff, when it was affordable, to help continue the company’s dominance in the field of aftermarket induction system development, both street and race.

A significant issue in achieving this objective was the fact Edelbrock had one of the few engine dynamometers in the industry, at least from the standpoint of its regular use in product development.  This was a time before Neal Williams expanded his SuperFlow Corporation, initially only noted for airflow benches, to include water-brake engine dynamometers and electronics packages focused on data acquisition.   And although the Edelbrock Heenan-Froude dyno might have lacked some of the electronics bells and whistles of the SF design to come, it was an excellent barometer in gauging the performance potential of both parts and parts packages…street or race. 

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