by Jeff Smith
He had traded the dust and fine silt of Muroc's dry lake for the wet, sticky clay of Gilmore Stadium, the prestigious quarter-mile that pitted snarling, carbureted midgets against each other wheel to wheel.
To everyone else in attendance, it appeared to be just another night of racing. But Vic Edelbrock had a plan. Tonight, August 20th, 1950 would be special. The universe appeared to align itself behind this crew, their driver Roger Ward, and the Number 27 Ford. The field was filled with Offys, unconcerned with the mere V8 60 Ford flathead that powered the Edelbrock midget. The Offys always won – always. But Vic had a secret.
He had been torturing that V860 for weeks and had come up with a solid combination of a new Isky cam, some porting work – and a model airplane fuel called nitromethane. No one had ever run it in a circle track car and the word was that it was unmanageable - too volatile - and it destroyed engines. But Vic, Sr. was an innovator and learned through more than one broken engine how to tame the liquid beast. Now his time had come and he was confident enough to let Fran Hernandez and Bobby Meeks make the calls in the pits while Vic, wife Katie and son Vic, Jr. watched from the grandstands. It was a rout –Roger outdistanced the Offys, kissed the trophy girl, and created another Edelbrock moment in history.
If the true value of a man be measured more by his close friends and associates than by his accomplishments, then the list of people who called Vic, Sr. their friend is truly telling. Create a list of racing's elite during the decades spanning the '40s through the '60s and the common denominator could often be traced to Edelbrock's Southern California shops.
The men that were his close friends were like a nucleus of influence that shaped nearly everything that would later become organized drag racing, and later still the burgeoning performance market. But those were accomplishments decades still to come. We could recount the innovations that cast out of the North Highland shop and later from Jefferson Boulevard but you won't find the truth in the parts or the accomplishments – it's in the man.
Commitment is a word that is too often lost in the zeal to create a "brand". But commitment was exactly that in the early Edelbrock days. It was Vic, Sr. and a few select men toiling over a post war drill press, cutting new threads and new trails that would permanently cast its creator's name in all those aluminum parts. It had to be right if it was going to carry his name.