You’re looking at the most...
You’re looking at the most celebrated slingshot dragster of all time: Kent Fuller built the chassis; Ed Pink built the winning engine for Louie Senter (left in front of Louie’s Ansens Automotive Engineering storefront) in 1962. Ed (right) and Louie won the AHRA Winter Championship at Fontana Drag City in the Ansen-Pink dragster with Rod Stuckey driving to an e.t. of 8.51 at 188.66 mph in the quarter-mile. Then Senter sold the car in 1964 to Tom Greer and the other fabled engine builder, Keith Black. An up-and-coming driver by the name of Don Prudhomme did the driving. Ed worked for Ansen for a short time after coming home from the Korean War. Ansen hadn’t gotten into manufacturing yet; Ansen was a speed shop when the photo was taken, according to Pink.
Another racer Ed became friends with was Tony Capanna, who had a shop on 103rd Street in San Pedro called Wilcap. His partner was Red Wilson. Wilson was the machinist and welder who was an early advocate of alternative fuel, such as benzene, ether, methanol, and nitro in race cars. He manufactured flywheels and bellhousing adapters. “I would run my engines on their dyno.”
Ed laid the black and white checkered floor in Capanna’s speed shop, becoming friends with Chet Herbert who rented part of their building where he had his cam grinding business. Herbert had a GMC six-cylinder in his ’32 Fordor with a Buick Dynaflow trans that ran on butane.
The word got out that Ed was a crack machinist who really knew racing engines. Ed began working out of his home garage. Up-and-coming drag racer, “TV” Tommy Ivo, was one of his early customers. Ivo, being a child actor, knew how to put on a show at the drags. Ivo was a formidable drag racer with wickedly fast equipment. His AA/GD (gas dragster) held the elapsed time record of 8.69 and was the first gas dragster with speeds of 180 mph in the quarter-mile.
Ivo scoured the junkyards for Hemi gold and would keep piles of motors in his mom’s garage. (Actually it was his garage. He purchased the home for his parents, where he still lives today, when he was 12 years old with his movie money.) “I did most of my own engine work,” Ivo begins. “I started out with taking apart and putting back together all of the clocks in the house, which progressed to my bike that was apart more than it was together, and then my car when I turned 16.”
Ivo’s mother would make deliveries to Ed’s house in her Cadillac. The Cad would be so loaded with Chrysler Hemi heads and cylinder blocks for Ed to machine, the Cad would be dragging on the ground.
Ed built this Hemi Chrysler...
Ed built this Hemi Chrysler dragster in the early ’60s. Joe Itow built the chassis, Tommy Dyer drove it. “We won a little bit with it, but we never won enough to pay for anything. I wasn’t working at the time and I was married. I tried to support my family and myself with the money I made off the dragster. I remember I went to Pomona, they ran weekly drags. By Sunday it came down to us … I can’t remember who the other guy was for Top Eliminator, which paid a $25 savings bond. I remember a drunk fell out of the stands. The only ambulance at the track had to take him to the hospital. By the time it came back it was dark, so we split the $25 between the two of us. It got to the point that I had to make a decision, sell the dragster and take care of business, or forget the business and go run the car. When I looked at how much money I made with the car and the potential of what I could do in business, I sold the car.”
“I was building race cars for something to do in between pictures. When I got them done, I naturally had to take them down to the dragstrip and run them,” Ivo says, jokingly. “I won two trophies in one day at Pomona, one for winning the class and the other for setting the record—it was like winning two Oscars on the same day. I gave up a 20-year movie career and went professional drag racing for another 20 years.”
Ed added to his early customer list the legendary hot rod/race car upholster and drag racer Tony Nancy and “Big John” Masmanian, famous for his immaculate Willys 392 Chrysler Hemi A/GS. Ed would to travel to Sherman Oaks to pick up Nancy’s parts and take them to his home garage to machine and return. What Ed did for the three racers was machinework—just heads and cylinder blocks—but enough work for his small home-based company to survive.
Tony Nancy planted a seed: Why didn’t Ed rent one of his shops? Ed tried general auto repair and was done with it, but this was different. The offer made good sense. Nancy’s shops were a miniature Gasoline Alley with dragster chassis builder Kent Fuller in one shop; Wayne Ewing, the aluminum artist who shaped A.J. Watson’s Champ Cars and the striking Greer-Black-Prudhomme dragster in another. Of course, Nancy had his illustrious upholstery shop as well. If you needed a body created, a chassis fabbed, an engine built to the hilt, or some hides stitched, your odometer wouldn’t move a muscle because it was all in one location. Lou Baney had his Hot Rod Heaven, this was Nancyland and Ed would be smack-dab in the middle of the action. Ed took the plunge in 1961, proudly displaying Ed Pink Racing Engines on the front of his shop. No longer would Ed have a shop in a gas station or at his house, but a real storefront.
“I was just getting started and because I had no recent business history, I had to put deposits on everything. The phone, gas meter, electrical—by the time I was done, I had $35 in my pocket between that and nothing. I was married and had two kids.”