Some of you may know the name Ed Iskenderian as one of the high priests of the early days of hot rodding and the birth of the aftermarket speeds parts industry in America. It’s true: Isky’s cams for the flathead Ford and Small-block Chevy V-8s are legendary.

What you may not be familiar with though is Iskenderian’s name and products are most commonly thought of in terms of drag racing or LSR racing at Bonneville.

Iskenderian rod and Iskenderian on the drylakes

Today, the 99-year-old Isky doesn’t exactly recall how he got connected with Jim Clark’s Lotus/Ford Indy effort in the early 1960s. It all happened just as USAC Champ Car racing was evolving from front to rear-engined cars. Ford was a long-time Lotus partner and was in on the deal with its own V-8 engine.

It’s essential to recognize that this production-based 256 cubic inch overhead valve was a progenitor to the later, far more exotic double overhead cam Ford Indy V-8 that dominated Indy-style racing from the mid-60s through the 70s.

Architecturally, the original Ford Indy V-8 was highly similar to what you could buy in a production Falcon, Fairlane, Mustang, or Shelby Cobra. Of course, Iskenderian Racing Cams produced hot camshafts for the little Ford motor and somehow was engaged in providing the bumpsticks for rookie Clark’s 1963 Indy 500 effort.

Clark Lotus 1963 Ford at Indianapolis 500. Ford Media Archive Photo

You may recall the ’63 Indy race as an epic duel between Parnelli Jones in his front-engined, Offenhauser powered “Ol Calhoun” Watson roadster and Clark’s more cigar-shaped, lithe and light rear-engined Ford Lotus 29.

After a semi-controversial finish, Jones won the day, with Clark runner up by mere seconds. Isky was, of course, disappointed that the car he provided components for didn’t win but performed admirably, earning a hard-fought second.

Another British connection brought Isky and his valvetrain hardware back to Indy in 1980. Jim Hall’s Chaparral team was running a turbocharged Cosworth V-8 engine in Johnny Rutherford’s car at Indy that year, essentially a turbo version of the famous Cosworth DFV four-cam V-8 that had been dominating F1 since the late 60s.

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By: Matt Stone
Title: Isky at Indy – When Hot Rod Camshafts Ruled the Brickyard
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Published Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2021 03:09:29 +0000

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