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Vic Edelbrock, Sr., with one of his Ford V8-60 powered midget race cars. (Photo: Edelbrock LLC Archives)

SEMA Pioneers: The Edelbrock Family

John Gunnell has been writing about classic cars since 1972. He is also the owner of Gunner’s Great Garage in Manawa, Wis. He owns 11 cars and seven motorcycles.

Editor’s Note: THE SHOP magazine is paying homage to industry pioneers who attended the first SEMA trade show 50 years ago with a series of profile articles by contributor John Gunnell. The first profile covered Joe “Mr. Oldsmobile” Mondello; today, the spotlight turns to the Edelbrock familiy. Enjoy.

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Meet the Edelbrock family—a clan with members who participated in the first SEMA Show in 1967 and members who were at this year’s 50th anniversary SEMA Show. Edelbrock family members have also served as high-ranking officers in the SEMA organization.

Just like SEMA has changed its name over the years—from Speed Equipment Manufacturing Association (1963-1970), to Specialty Equipment Market Association (1970 on)—the Edelbrock Equipment Co. that participated in the 1967 show has become Edelbrock LLC. Time brings changes, but it hasn’t changed the Edelbrock family’s dedication to the SEMA Show. 

Vic Edelbrock, Sr., started making Edelbrock speed equipment in 1938. Vic Edelbrock, Jr., who was born two years earlier, grew up in the company as it grew. Vic Edelbrock, Jr.’s daughter Christi Edelbrock also works for the company as vice president of purchasing. She also road races a Camaro and supports a variety of educational programs aimed at keeping future generations of enthusiasts involved in the automotive hobbies. 

Edelbrock Equipment Co. was one of 96 exhibitors at the first SEMA Show in Los Angeles. Today, Edelbrock has seven locations with over 500,000 square feet of floor space in Torrance and San Jacinto, Calif. Less than a mile away from its headquarters is Russell Performance, a Distribution Center, and Vic Edelbrock, Jr.’s Garage. The Garage houses the Edelbrock Collection of street rods and classic cars and the company archives. Edelbrock remains committed to U.S.-made products.

The same spirit that drives that commitment existed 79 years ago when all-American boy, Vic Edelbrock, Sr., designed his own aluminum Slingshot intake manifold for the flathead V8 in his 1932 Ford roadster. He had grown up near Wichita, Kansas, and moved to California in 1931. Since he had a natural talent for mechanics, Edelbrock, Sr. became an auto mechanic. He met and married his wife Katie in 1933 and ran a repair shop with her brother. In 1934, he moved into his own shop on the corner of Venice and Hoover in Los Angeles. The roadster that he built for everyday use and weekend racing was his speed products test bed.

Edelbrock, Sr. raced at Muroc Dry Lake, 80-miles northeast of Los Angeles. He would head there after a week of work, remove the car’s fenders and install parts like the Slingshot manifold to determine how they would work under real world conditions. Three weeks before Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II, he was clocked at 121.42 mph in his '32 Ford at Rosamond Dry Lake. 

Edelbrock, Sr. worked as a machinist during the war. At the end of the conflict, he purchased his a building in Hollywood and designed his first aluminum cylinder heads for Ford flathead V8s. They proved very popular and Edelbrock transitioned into more of a performance parts shop than a repair shop. In 1946, the first Edelbrock Power and Speed Equipment mail-order catalog was printed. Its availability greatly expanded the market for Edelbrock’s cylinder heads, intake manifolds, pistons, crankshafts and steering wheels.

Edelbrock had driven several midget-racing cars and after WWII he put a team together that included mechanic Bobby Meeks and drivers Perry Grimm, Walt Faulkner, Bill Vukovich and Rodger Ward. Since Edelbrock, Sr. had always been into flathead Ford engines, he built a midget with a hopped-up version of the smaller V8-60. It walloped the seemingly unbeatable Offys and, with Ward at the wheel, became the first and only V8-60 to win at Los Angeles’ famed Gilmore Stadium. 

In 1948, Edelbrock relocated to his first all-new facility on Jefferson Blvd. The 5,000-square-foot building had a small machine shop, repair bays, an engine dynamometer, a small stock room and office space. With this 200-horsepower Clayton dynometer, Edelbrock, Sr. had actual data to prove that his parts not only helped racing cars win, but also produced measurable performance gains. By the early 1950s, he began racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, 

Bill Kenz and Roy Leslie of Denver knew the Edelbrock name from their own midget racing days and used two Edelbrock-equipped Ford V8s in their famous No. 777 Kenz & Leslie Streamliner. This car ran at the first Bonneville meet in 1949 and became the first piston-engined car to go 200 mph there in 1950. The first single engine streamliner to go over 200 mph was the Edelbrock-equipped So-Cal Special of Dean Bachelor and Alex Xydias.

Don Waite’s Edelbrock Special was one of the fastest Bonneville roadsters of that era. After Don reached 160 mph with the car, he asked Edelbrock and Meeks to help him make it faster. By 1952, they had streamlined the 1927 Model T body and built a 304-cid flathead V8 with a four-carb intake and Edelbrock heads and pistons. It went 192 mph on the salt and many years later, from 1990 to 1995, Waite worked as vice president of engineering at Edelbrock.

Edelbrock grew and its catalog added parts made by other speed equipment pioneers like Paul Scheifer, Ed Iskenderian, Harmon & Collins and Ed Winfield. When the small-block Chevy V8 arrived in 1955, Edelbrock was quick to start making hop-up goodies to fit the new engine.

By 1960, Edelbrock, Sr. was an important person in the hot rod industry, but cancer took him two years later. 

At that time Vic Edelbrock, Jr., and a group of trusted employees such as Bobby Meeks, Don Waite and Robert Bradford took control of the company. In 1964, Bob Joehnck convinced Edelbrock, Jr. to offer his C-49 intake manifold for the small-block Chevy and this marked a turning point in Edelbrock Equipment Co. history. The 1960s and ‘70s saw successful introductions of Tunnel Ram, Tarantula and Streetmaster manifolds.

From 1971-1974, Edelbrock, Jr. served as president of SEMA and worked to educate both the public and legislators in Washington to the benefits of a strong and legal performance parts industry. This helped to start an interest in education that continues today, both in the political arena and in initiatives like the creation of the Edelbrock Academy at Ohio Technical College in Cleveland. 

Edelbrock Corp. was formed and developed a wider product line that added carburetors, camshaft kits, valve train parts, exhaust systems, engine accessories, fuel system parts, cylinder heads and more to the company’s parts catalogs. The Edelbrock foundry will also do custom casting.

Edelbrock, LLC continues to produce a diverse range of parts for specialty vehicles, hot rods and modern performance cars and trucks—from custom-made “unobtainum” heads, to vintage reproduction speed equipment to retro-fit EFI systems and E-Force superchargers for the latest muscle machines, Edelbrock serves specialty automobile owners throughout the world.

UPDATE: Article corrected to reflect the number of exhibitors at the first SEMA show in 1967. The initial amount listed, 72, was incorrect and replaced with the correct number of 96.