A Story Untold Part End

The last two of these columns pointed out some of the defining moments in the evolution of an industry giant; Edelbrock.  While the points raised might arguably not be the highlights other observers would offer, they certainly served as benchmarks in the company’s development during the nineteen-seventies and early eighties.  I think even Vic would agree with that observation.

Regardless, we elected to carve out some concluding cornerstones in the building of this organization that are, at the very least, meritorious. The first came in the vicinity of 1965. GM (Chevrolet), based on the urgings of Zora Duntov in a GM memo shared previously in “Technically Speaking,” was providing high performance parts through their traditional dealer-level distribution system. The fabled “Duntov camshaft” for small-block Chevrolet V8s was notably in the GM parts mix and, insofar as Edelbrock might have been affected, selling an aluminum, high-rise 4V intake manifold.  A long-time Edelbrock friend, Bob Joehnck, often made behind-the-scenes recommendations to Vic and this time he urged the company to simply make their own version of a single 4V, small-block Chevy manifold and ride on the company’s industry-wide reputation to build and carry its sales.  Although Vic questioned the wisdom in Bob’s suggestion, he nevertheless took heed and built the manifold.  It was an instant success, helping to solidify the company among all then-current makers of high performance manifolds for street-driven small-blocks, in particular.

Right on the heels of this success, Vic created a relationship with Holley who, coincidentally, had just introduced their version of a three-barrel carburetor.  The design incorporated two primary throttle openings but only one, oval-shaped throttle in the place of two secondaries.  He secured a two-year exclusive sales agreement with Holley to be the sole distributor of the 3-barrel carburetor.  Bingo again.  There appeared to be an abundance of low-hanging fruit and Vic was in harvest mode.

When the NHRA Points Finals (then held in Tulsa, Oklahoma) rolled around in the Fall of ’66, Jere Stahl provided a path to the next fortuitous event for Edelbrock.  He introduced Vic to a young Modified Production drag racer from Amarillo, Texas, in the person of Carroll Caudle.  Because NHRA M/P cars could run any intake manifold that retained the stock carburetion (even if a 2 x 4 package), Carroll had elected to lop the top off a GM FI intake manifold (the old “dog house” version), fabricate what amounted to a plenum box atop the runners and install the OEM 2 x 4 Carter carburetors.  As a point of fact, this arrangement morphed into the first Edelbrock “Tunnel Ram” manifold that took the industry by storm the following year.  Because it tacked on the potential for an additional 2000 maximum rpm for the small-block Chevy, other parts manufacturers got a new lease on life by providing camshafts, valve trains, ignition systems and other engine speed-related items to take advantage of the new span of rpm.  Vic never looked back.  He was plowing his way through an abundance of opportunities, each of which was elevating the success of his company.

And then came a biggie.  Just prior to joining the company, I had occasion to become friends with an entrepreneurial individual who, by coincidence, had spent time working for Carl Axtel (also mentioned in a prior “Technically Speaking”), the motorcycle engine guru with a widespread reputation for air flow and the building of national championship, flat-track motorcycle engines.  In fact, it was Carl who had just duplicated his own airflow bench for use at Edelbrock.  He also provided much of the tutelage in learning its use.  But I’m digressing.

My friend who’d worked for Axtel called one day and said he had designed a single 4V intake manifold that would out-perform any 2 x 4 combination that would fit under a stock hood.  He didn’t know Vic and wanted me to arrange an audience to present his design.  So the three of us met.  The outcome that was he and Vic agreed to agree on an arrangement of some type in the future and the idea was presented.  Turns out it was a drawing that presented the concept.  Vic gave me the drawing with instructions to build a prototype for evaluation on the dyno, and the meeting was adjourned.