A Story Untold – Part Two

My first exposure to the California environmental agency that morphed into the California Air Resources Board of today was in 1966. I attended a meeting between a handful of major specialty parts manufacturers based in the Southern California area and the later-to-become CARB agency staff.  As I recall, the meeting’s purpose was to alert core high performance parts manufacturers of the agency’s intention to include such on-road components in their emerging emissions regulations. Vic Edelbrock attended the meeting and got his first sniff of what lay ahead in how his parts would eventually be impacted by emissions controls.

At the time, the CARB noted that high performance parts coming out of the OEMs would set the bar for what would be allowed in the performance aftermarket. No emissions tests required, only specifications limits for such parts as camshafts, ignition distributors and other items of potential impact on emissions. And while it was clear CARB was still becoming focused on how it would treat high performance parts on the streets of California, regulatory controls on emissions-related parts were clearly crystallizing.

Four years after that meeting, Edelbrock decided to become proactive with the CARB. Amid some criticism from industry members who preferred to let a “sleeping dog lie,” Vic chose to meet the situation head-on. The fact of the matter was the “dog” wasn’t asleep at all, only deciding on where to dig first. Vic had just been tapped by the industry to serve his first of two terms as SEMA’s president, so taking a direct approach to environmental issues potentially problematic to emissions-related parts was a logical step to take. So he took it.

While other issues for which the industry was receiving some criticism were evolving (safety and noise), Vic formed three new working committees, one of which was labeled Emissions Committee. The membership of this group allowed voluntary participation for the purpose of staying abreast of emerging regulations and an opportunity to make or keep their products compliant. Vic had me Chair the committee and I’ll share that doing so was akin to the proverbial statement about herding cats. Only a few members were conscientious about their attendance and participation. The remainder simply wanted a few members to carry the weight for all.

In the midst of this environment, Edelbrock took two additional steps. At the time, it had a working relationship with Holley (then owned by Colt Industries), to the extent Vic was using Holley sales reps to market Edelbrock products. Since Holley was already engaged in performance emissions testing for carburetors they were supplying the OEM, it was fortuitous that emissions testing Edelbrock intake manifolds could be performed in the Holley labs. So that’s what we did by massaging street manifold designs already in existence to become cleaner and fashioning new manifolds to incorporate what we were learning. By itself, the decision to actively begin testing and design products to include emissions-related features was clearly an industry first, for the day.