Hot rodders didn’t assemble engines—you know, put them back together as the manufacturer intended—your friendly car dealer did that. Hot rodders built engines. That bunch of upstarts not only didn’t follow the instructions, they had the audacity to improve Detroit’s designs by miles … miles per hour that is!

Flat-out miles per hour was not just confined to land speed racing, but at the newly introduced quarter-mile track in Santa Ana called a dragstrip. As drag racing progressed, sheer brutal horsepower powered the sport.

That’s when the heavy hitters wanted a Black or Pink engine—and we’re not talkin’ color here! Black was the late Keith Black of the Greer-Black-Prudhomme dragster fame, and Pink is Ed Pink.

Ed’s engine of choice, the Chrysler V-8, the 426ci Hemi was so humongous in size and cubic inches that it became known as the Elephant Motor. You guessed it, Ed’s engines were known as Pink Elephants.

Hot Dogs

Too many calories you say? How ’bout a couple of Pink’s hot dogs? Ed’s late uncle, Paul, founded the world famous Pink’s Hot Dogs in 1939, with a three-wheel pushcart on the corner of Melrose and La Brea in Los Angeles, which, along with others, is still at the same location … minus the cart.

Ed became known in his early thirties as “The Old Master”. His so-called overnight success took years of hard work, while studying under and being employed by some of the finest high-performance engine pioneers of our time to rise to the top of such an explosive motorsport as drag racing, then onto the sophistication of Indy Car racing so spectacularly. “Back in those days I was like a big sponge,” Ed says. “I was very fortunate to be able to have listened to and learned from them.”

Ed Pink was born in 1931 in Los Angeles. In 1933 his parents moved briefly to Omaha where his mother was from, but returned to California in 1940. Ed’s dad was in the paint business, both household and automotive. Ed went to Dorsey High School in L.A., which was destiny because the school was just down the street from Vic Edelbrock Sr.’s shop on Jefferson Boulevard. (Vic Jr. went to Dorsey High as well.)

Ed didn’t have a car in school, “but my friends did,” Ed smiles. “I walked to school, but I was mechanically interested at that point, taking the shop classes that were offered. That’s when I started reading Hot Rod magazine, right when Robert Petersen came out with it.”

Ed’s first racing experience was going to El Mirage as a spectator. “That’s when I got my ’36 Ford coupe. It was a stock, street-driven car that I converted to all Edelbrock speed equipment.”

Besides Edelbrock, Ed had an off-the-beaten-path speed shop he frequented called F.E. Zimmer Co. (established 1938). The catalog read “Plenty of Ford parts, no shortage here.” Zimmer was on 16420 Ventura Boulevard in Encino, California, back when Ventura was a two-lane road. “You had to go through an orange grove on a dirt road to get to Zimmer’s,” Ed recalls.

When Ed became a dry lakes racer he joined the Russetta Timing Association and became a member of the Coupes Club. The Coupes was aptly named since racers with closed cars weren’t allowed to participate in the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) until 1950. That combination would change Ed’s life, as Bob Pierson and Bobby Meeks were members of the Coupes. (Meeks was the fearless guy who severely chopped Pierson’s ’34 Ford three-window coupe to give it that look that so many copied.)

Fast Company

It wouldn’t be long until Ed became fast friends with the racers in the Coupes who would influence his career path in the evolving high-performance industry: “My three buddies, Fran Hernandez, Bobby Meeks, and Don Towle in the Coupes all worked for Vic Edelbrock Sr.” (All three of Ed’s friends have since died.)

Hernandez, who earlier worked with Fred Offenhauser, was shop foreman at Edelbrock and later had a distinguished career at Ford for over 30 years creating their racing program. Regarding the legendary engine builder Bobby Meeks, “Bobby, to my knowledge, only had one job in his life, other than the four years he spent in the Navy, and that was at Edelbrock.” Towle was a master machinist and crack engine builder, adding to the early success of Edelbrock. “The three of them befriended me and were my mentors,” Ed states. “Bobby Meeks taught me how to build race engines.”

Trade School

Remember when gas stations were places to get a job, to learn how to work on cars, build hot rods, a race car or two after hours, and hang out? Oh yeah, and buy gas with the change in your pocket? Well, Ed did all of that. “The very first job I had was in 1947 when I worked for Lou Baney who had a Golden Eagle gas station and speed shop called Hot Rod Haven on 52nd and Normandy in West L.A. On Saturdays all the racer guys used to be there, like Isky.”

At that point Ed was working for his dad and Baney part time. “I learned how to lay floors and put linoleum down … asphalt tiles. I could’ve taken over the business from my father when he retired, but it just wasn’t exciting enough for me … I didn’t like it.”

The Korean War was on, and Ed decided to join the Army and became an infantryman. “Afterward, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” Ed says. “I went to work for Louie Senter at Ansen Engineering for a while as a mechanic. Then my friend Jack Landrum and I decided to open a little garage and Richfield gas station on Manchester Boulevard across from Manchester High School in 1953. We called it Pinkland (a combination of Pink and Landram). I was working there full time; Jack had another job, he was just there whenever he had time. Jack helped me run the ’34 at El Mirage but the partnership just wasn’t successful. It was something we tried together and it didn’t work. We remained friends until the day Jack died.”

That lasted a couple of years before Ed quit the partnership and went to work for another giant in the speed equipment industry. “I worked for Frank Barron, who was partners with Bob Tattersfield, of Barron-Tattersferld cylinder heads and intakes. Barron had a stock automobile repair shop. Barron taught me how to repair stock automobiles.”

Ed quit Barron, opening a second Richfield gas station with a repair garage in 1956 on Pico Boulevard with one employee working for him. “When Barron decided to retire he rented the building to me on Venice and Highland. I closed the gas station.

Ed built the business up but his heart wasn’t in it. “I hated the passenger car business because there was always someone down the street who would do a brake job cheaper. Ed built a small cliental with his racing engines; he liked the performance part of the business. He loaded up his pickup with the equipment in the shop and moved it to his double-car garage in West L.A. “That’s when I went to work for Eddie Meyer.”

Eddie Meyer Engineering Company in Hollywood was a phenomenal and magical place of employment when Ed worked there. Eddie’s brother Louis was the first three-time winner of the Indy 500. Meyer was not just a place to work; it was a place to gain knowledge.

“I told Eddie Meyer before I went to work for him that everything on my Flathead Ford V-8 was Edelbrock,” Ed laughs. “I didn’t have a lot of money in those days; I was making $85 a week. I worked at Meyer for a couple of years. Eddie also had a repair business. Most of his customers were movie people. I was his mechanic on regular cars. I learned a lot working there,” Ed says, fondly.

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.

Three’s A Company

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.

“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.

One More Time

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.”

There was no looking back. Ed’s business didn’t either, it went straight up. “People were happy with what I did.” Ed would move once more to a larger facility in 1965 to Van Nuys where they’re located today.

A Civil Rivalry

“Keith Black was very good at what he did. He was interested more in manufacturing parts. Maybe I should have done that same thing, but I was more interested in building the engines and tuning them to get the very most out of them. I was trying to build them as good as I could make them. I tried to come up with ways the other guys didn’t do or think of doing. The preparation of all the parts was critical to make sure everything fit. When I bought a part, I didn’t take for granted that the part was correct. We spent more time building the engines than others did. My main concept was first you have to make the engine live and then you make it run faster. Keith had his customers who preferred his engines, and I had my customers who preferred mine. If Keith had parts that I needed I’d buy them from him. We had a friendly rivalry, but I wanted to beat him, just as he wanted to beat me.”

The Shop Or The Pits

Drag racing was raking in the crowds and new racers. Ed needed to attract a much larger pool of customers who were already racing with competitors’ engines and get them to switch over to his. “I decided the best way to do this would be to get a dragster again and go race against them to prove they needed to be in my stable, not someplace else.”

Don Long, a well-respected chassis builder, built the “Old Master” dragster for Ed. (Mind you, Ed was in his thirties.) “The very first competitive race we ran was Long Beach; Mike Snively drove it and we won.”

Bakersfield

The 1965 U.S. Fuel and Gas Championship were where an astounding 128 Top Fuel cars had assembled when Ed and Snively arrived to do battle. Only 64 of the 128 dragsters were able to run on Saturday. “We were one of the 64 cars and we got down to the last round on Saturday, which I think we ran six or seven rounds. We were going to race Don Garlits and my engine wouldn’t start. Garlits made a solo run to win.

“We came back Sunday. There were 32 of the quickest Top Fuel cars from Saturday, which we were one of them who returned. We got down to the last round on Sunday and raced Garlits again and he beat us.” (The next weekend was the big Championship Race in Fremont where Snively beat Garlits in the last round.)

The Old Master ran with the same engine both days at Bakersfield and never had the heads off. After that meet every racer and fan had “Think Pink” on their minds. “That dragster was the turning point in my business. People saw how well it ran, plus the engine never came apart in between rounds. I started getting an influx of business, in fact I got so much business, I had to sell the car. I only raced it for two years.”

“Run Faster”

Remember Ed’s comment that he not only had to make the engine live but he’d also have to make it run faster? The “run faster” part would contribute to Ed’s, and the entire performance engine builder’s, downfall. Keeping a 2,500hp Chrysler together for the meet at Bakersfield was astonishing, but as the horses increased, teams began taking an engine apart between rounds. Why would the drag racers want to go to Pink, or anyone else, to have an engine built only to immediately tear it down?

For Ed, the end of drag racing came in 1980. He began to see the trends starting to change in 1975-76. They were running the engines harder and sponsorship money was changing everything. “We were doing fewer and fewer engines, but we were selling a few more parts than normal. My main thing, then, was consulting. I spent more time answering people’s questions and getting them out of trouble. I didn’t know how I could charge for consulting. I needed to look someplace else.”

The Old Master

The ’90s took Ed back to his bygone days when he hung out at Vic Sr.’s garage watching and learning from Vic Sr.’s success with his Ford Flathead V8-60-powered Midget. This time it was Ed Pink’s Ford Midget engines that dominated, to include eight United States Auto Club (USAC) Midget Championships with 100 National Event wins and four consecutive Silver Crown Championships.

No question, Ed Pink made his mark in drag racing and was honored for his contributions to the sport in 1995 at the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion at Bakersfield along with Ak Miller and Chris “The Greek” Karamesines.

Ed is not the retiring type. He still puts in an average of 20 hours a week as consultant to Ed Pink Racing Engines. Ed sold the company in 2008 to Tom Malloy.

“If they have a particular engine they haven’t run before on the dynamometer, they’ll bring me in to get it sorted out. I’m kind of a fireman, a troubleshooter. They’re taking advantage of all the experience I have. They’re plugging me into areas they need my expertise in. There will come a time when they won’t need me anymore.”

Ed, you weren’t called “The Old Master” at an early age because it sounded catchy, you were called that because you were. The passing years have given that name new meaning. As long as there is Pink Racing Engines there will be Ed Pink walking through that door.

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