by Greg Sharp
Although now in his eighties, his expertise, experience and demeanor earned him the title of The Old Master more than fifty years ago.
He grew into drag racing along with hot rodding itself. Hot rodding exploded in post-Word War II Los Angeles, and by 1946 fifteen year old Ed Pink was part of it. He could have worked in his dad's L.A. paint store or his uncle's famous Hollywood hot dog stand. Instead, he took a job sweeping floors for legendary hot rodder Lou Baney. He learned the basics of building racing Ford flathead V-8's and raced his '36 coupe at El Mirage Dry Lake.
It is most appropriate that Vic Edelbrock, Sr. is also in this Hall of Fame class. Besides Baney, Pink learned from Edelbrock and his incredibly talented crew of Bobby Meeks, Don Towle and Fran Hernandez. Young Ed absorbed their knowledge like a sponge. "They taught me how to do things the right way", recalls Pink. "I started building engines for El Mirage and Bonneville. It's amazing what you can do when you don't know you can't do it."
After two years with the Army in Korea, he apprenticed with speed equipment pioneers Frank Baron, Eddie Meyer and Louis Senter before opening a small shop. By the mid-'50s, it was obvious that drag racing was more than a passing fad. Strips opened all over Southern California and you could race every weekend rather than monthly at the dusty dry lakes. To promote business Ed built his own fuel dragster. In 1961, it ran near-record times of 8.09 seconds at 177 mph. Even then it was expensive to race a fuel dragster. Without fanfare, Edelbrock would occasionally see that a drum of nitro ended up in Pink's driveway. But drag racing was not yet a profession. Ed closed up shop and did precision machine work at home, then joined friend and customer Tony Nancy in a business complex in Sherman Oaks dedicated to building race cars.
In 1964 Don Long approached Pink proposing to build an innovative new dragster if Ed would provide the engine and campaign the car. A 1965 series in Hot Rod Magazine introduced the project. The finished Old Master planted both Long and Pink firmly on the road to success. It won the Outstanding Performance Award at the legendary Bakersfield March Meet over a field of 125 fuel dragsters! Pink is extremely proud of the fact that during tire testing, the Old Master made more than forty full throttle runs without the heads coming off! His business grew to the point that he moved to his present Van Nuys complex and built an average of one blown-Chrysler per week. There was little time for racing, and he didn't like competing with customers, so the car was sold. In 1967 Ford introduced their SOHC 427 engine to drag racing. In Ed's first factory deal, Ford supplied parts and information and Pink built and tested the engines.
In the 1970's, drag racing's popularity shifted to Funny Cars. Soon Ed Pink Racing Engines battled cross town rival and Hall of Famer Keith Black for both Top Fuel and Funny Car supremacy. Their 2500 hp Chrysler Hemi's were dubbed "elephant motors". You needed a Pink Elephant or a Black Elephant to win. Pink Elephants helped Don Prudhomme, Raymond Beadle and Shirley Muldowney to multiple NHRA world championships.
By the end of the decade big sponsorships intensified drag racing competition to the point that teams rebuilt their engines for each round. Ed found himself consulting on the phone more and building engines less. Seeking new challenges he expanded his program to include Formula 5000 road racing engines.
In 1980 Pink was hired to do machine work for Indy car engine manufacturer Cosworth. Impressed by its quality, they asked Ed to assemble and dyno-test customer engines. Soon, Pink's turbocharged alcohol-burning DFX engines powered six Indy teams. He went from car to car helping crew chiefs with engine problems always obeying his drag racing code of ethics; never discuss with one team what he had done with another.
Before leaving drag racing completely, Ed won the 1980 NHRA Nationals Funny Car title with Ed "the Ace" McCulloch. When champ car teams went to leased engines, ex-Top Fuel racer Jim Busby asked Pink to help with his Porsche 962 program. Pink's turbocharged 183 cid engines soon outdid the factory's, producing 850 horsepower on gasoline. Impressed, Pontiac engineers chose Ed Pink Racing Engines for their Trans-Am team.
In 1996 EPRE was given the responsibility of developing the Nissan/Infiniti Indy V8. The program lasted until 2001 when Pink began developing Ford, Mopar and Toyota engines for USAC racers ranging from midgets to Silver Crown cars. His engines scored over 100 wins and ten national championships. With new owner Tom Malloy, EPRE now specializes in vintage racing engines and you're as likely to find a Duesenberg, or a Miller in the shop as a blown Chrysler.
Although Ed's being inducted in the drag racing category, he could easily fit several others. It's one of life's great ironies that such a soft-spoken, classy gentleman became famous for creating some of the most violently powerful—and ear-splitting—engines in auto racing history.