|Edelbrock Honored at Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. by William Groak (12/26/04)|
The Edelbrock Family and Company Honored at Wally Parks
NHRA Motorsports Museum. By William Groak
Vic Edelbrock Jr. was speechless.almost! Standing in front of a
highly vocal group of more than 350 of his friends, family, employees
and industry associates at the podium in The Wally Parks NHRA
Motorsports Museum's Hall of Champions, a visibly emotional Vic
Jr. looked upward and said, "My dad is watching this." Very fitting
because both Vic Jr. and father, the late Vic Sr., along with the entire
Edelbrock company legacy, were being honored by the Parks Museum
with a gala tribute on December 2. The event, which also served as
a Museum fundraiser, brought out the heavyweights in the performance
industry, including NHRA Founder Wally Parks, racing legend Parnelli
Jones, the NHRA's Peter Clifford and Dick Wells, SO-CAL Speed
Shop founder Alex Xydias, car collector Bruce Meyer and engine
builder Ed Pink. All this was part of the Museum's current exhibit,
"Edelbrock: A Performance Legacy," which runs through Feb. 14,
2005, and features a number of historical Edelbrock vehicles, including
the 1932 Vic Sr. Ford Roadster, the #27 Kurtis Kraft Midget and
other never-been-seen before company and family artifacts. As the
guests began arriving, Vic Jr. and his family arrived in style: they were
picked up at nearby Brackett Field in the NHRA Safety Safari wagon,
an exact replica of the famous 1954 Dodge wagon that took the
original crew across the country 50 years ago promoting safe drag
racing. Arriving in the NHRA Safety Safari wagon set the tone for
the evening. Not only was one American icon being driven by another
American icon, it showed the long history between the 66-year-old
Edelbrock Corporation and the NHRA, as well as highlighting the
roots of drag racing, hotrodding and the entire performance
aftermarket. Awash in "Edelbrock Red," the Museum began to fill
as a "Fun Team" bus with Edelbrock employees pulled up. Vic Jr.
was already warmly greeting old friends and being congratulated.
The party was just getting started. An hour or so of reception
festivities transitioned into story time as the crowd gathered to hear
the evening's speakers. First up was Greg Sharp, curator of the
Parks Museum and a walking/talking hot rod encyclopedia. "This
event means a lot to me on a personal level," Sharp began. "I
remember reading car magazines when I was 12. Edelbrock was
in every one of them." Joking around, Sharp told everyone how
difficult it was to convince Vic Jr. to let his and his father's toys
(i.e., cars, racing memorabilia, etc.) come to the Museum for an
exhibit. "We had a panel discussion here," Sharp explained, "and
Vic said he'liked the place.but I won't let the Midget out of
my sight!' Thankfully Parnelli Jones and Wally convinced him it
was OK." Sharp also read from an article he had written about
Vic Jr.16 years ago for an award presentation. "Speculation in the
industry in 1962 after Vic Sr. passed away was what would happen
to Edelbrock? I'll tell you what happened: Edelbrock got really,
really big because of Junior." Sharp's opening speech and
personal stories began to weave a thread that would carry
throughout the evening: Calling the young Vic "junior" and how
he took his dad's strong company and turned it into an industry
juggernaut. It seems at every special event in the performance
industry, Dave McClelland is there to handle the emcee duties.
And McClelland was there for the Edelbrock celebration, once
again casting his smooth, verbal magic. "Everyone here understands
the impact Vic Sr. and Vic Jr. and the Edelbrock Corporation
has had on this industry," he told the audience. "It was, still is
and always will be at the forefront." Hyping the crowd on some
of the evening's door prizes, McClelland picked up a snazzy
leather Edelbrock company jacket. "Great Edelbrock jacket
to giveaway.Nancy [Edelbrock] will probably win it!" Sam
Jackson, executive director of the Parks Museum, likes to
refer to the Museum as "living history." As Wally Parks carefully
walked to the stage as the next speaker, the crowd got a sense
of how historic this evening really was. "My knees are 91 years
old but the rest of me is 35," Parks said smiling broadly." Parks
has been the face and the soul of the NHRA since he founded
it more than 50 years ago. As with Edelbrock, he's one of the
true originals in the history of hot rodding and drag racing.
'There were a lot of similarities between Vic Sr. and me," he
said. "We both came here from rural parts of Kansas. I met Vic
Sr. on the dry lakes in the '30s-liked him right off the bat. We
both became members of the Roadrunners." Parks eyed Vic Jr.,
who was at the table in front of the podium. "Vic Jr. was a gangly
kid," he said. "Vic Sr. told me to keep on eye on him. He would
come in from getting beat up playing football then start sweeping
and cleaning the shop." Thanking Vic Jr. for letting the Museum
"borrow" his family's treasures, Parks said, "This is our finest
exhibit at the Museum, bar none." When Parks left the stage,
Vic Jr. was the first to greet him and hug him. It was probably
one of 10,000 hugs Vic Jr. dished out during this special evening.
The next speaker offered a different take on the Edelbrock legacy:
Vic's daughter Camee, or as McClelland referred to her, the
"third generation." "My dad taught me what his dad taught him,"
Camee said: "work hard, play hard." Camee should know:
she's the VP of advertising while her sister Christi is the company's
VP of purchasing. "It's an honor to be here and hear the tributes
to my dad and grandfather from so many industry pioneers."
Looking at all the Edelbrock employees in the audience, Camee
suggested "We should do this more often-take the Fun Team
bus and just go somewhere - quarterly." Before exiting the stage,
Camee jokingly "informed" all in attendance, "When you see that
roadster in the exhibit, that's mine!" Christi Edelbrock began
clearing her throat quite loudly at that notion. "OK," Camee
conceded. "It's our car." Like father, like daughter, no doubt.
As the evening went on, the Edelbrock stories became more
free-flow, personal, historic, touching and funny. None more
so than from Alex Xydias, founder of the famous SO-CAL
Speed Shop and more importantly, one of Vic Sr.'s best friends.
"My knees are 82!" laughed Xydias as he played on his good
pal Wally Parks' announcement. Admitting at the get-go that
he would probably tear up, a very emotional Xydias spoke
from the heart with dignity and wit. As he began, he reiterated
that "Tonight, whenever I say Vic, I mean Vic Sr. You're Junior,"
he said pointing to the son. "Vic Edelbrock was my hero before
the war," Xydias said. "SO-CAL Speed Shop and Edelbrock
are linked together. I try to separate SO-CAL and Edelbrock.
but I can't. Vic was always part of it. I started the speed shop
because of Vic. I could see the industry was going to grow and
I wanted to be part of it. It was a good business to be in."
Xydias spun so many fascinating tales, the audience was utterly
transfixed. The history of the performance aftermarket and
early dry lakes racing was brought to life by Xydias' memories,
some humorous, some bittersweet. He told a story about the
beginning of SO-CAL Speed Shop in Burbank, Calif., and
how he used Edelbrock to make it successful. "Vic was my
warehouse! Customers would come in the shop and I would
have them look around while I would drive across the hill to
Highland Ave. to buy a head from Vic and come back and
sell it. When you moved to Jefferson, you really screwed me
up!" Xydias delighted the crowd as he shared some stories
on the legendary SO-CAL Streamliner and Belly Tank Lakester.
"Vic Sr. not only gave us the engine for the Streamliner, he
threw in Bobby Meeks," he told the crowd. "The old record
at Bonneville was 160. We did 193 and the next year 210.
The Streamliner was the first car "Pete" Petersen ever sponsored.
Of course, his sponsorship check ran out by the time we got to
Blythe." As for the Belly Tanker, Xydias said, "In 1952 we
took it to Bonneville with Bobby Meeks and Junior. It was first
in each class." Junior, er, Vic then called out from his table,
"Tell everyone what was in the engine." Not missing a beat,
Xydias said, "40 percent nitro." Then he looked at Vic Jr.
"You're such a blabbermouth. That was my big secret. For
years we've been telling people it was how we grinded the
cams." The crowd roared. Now, speaking directly to Vic Jr.,
Xydias admitted that he did have a problem with Edelbrock.
over college football. "We always have a problem this time
of year," he said referring to the annual rivalry between UCLA
(Xydias' alma mater) and USC (Edelbrock's). "This is all just
in fun," he said, adding a beat later, "no it isn't. I hate the fake
sympathy from USC. 'Oh, we didn't mean to beat you by 50.'"
(Editor's note: Edelbrock is snickering, Xydias is groaning:
USC beat UCLA, 29-24 two days after the Edelbrock tribute.)
Joking aside, Xydias touched on the suddenness of his good
friend's passing - "he was the first of our group to go and he
was so young.it was shocking" - and praised Vic Jr. for
carrying on the proud tradition so well. Looking directly at Vic,
Xydias spoke with tears in his eyes: "You did a great job, kid!"
"This is an absolute joy to sit here and listen to the stories you've
read about by the people who did them," McClelland said after
Xydias finished. "To me, this is the highlight of the evening." Ed
Pink, the famed racer and engine developer who had close ties
with both Sr. and Jr., reached back and shared some memories
with the audience. "Back in 1948, when I was 17, Vic Sr.,
Bobby Meeks and Don Towle took me under their wing," he
said. "Vic Sr. said there's a kid who needs some help." Pink
spoke of Vic's Sr.'s generosity to help a fledgling young racer.
'I used to find a barrel of nitro on my doorstep on Monday
morning," he said. "No note, but I knew it was from Vic. When
I think of these memories, sometimes I get a tear, sometimes I
get a chuckle. I'm proud to know the family and be involved."
When Pink left the podium, it was time for the man of the night,
Vic Edelbrock Jr., to speak. "My knees are 68, and my heart
is still pumping nitro," he told the cheering crowd. 'I'm very
fortunate. This is a very rewarding honor here tonight.one I
will never forget.Thank you so much." Vic Jr. pointed to
both Wally Parks and Alex Xydias and thanked them again.
Then he told a story about working at Bonneville as a teen
with Alex. "I was 15 and was growing. I needed food. You
guys didn't feed me enough. You did give me vodka and
Squirt.and I've never touched Squirt since!" Like his father,
Vic Jr. gave praise to all around him, starting with his parents.
"I was the only son my parents had because I caused so much
trouble," he joked. "What a father I had. He had a knack for
knowing engines." Speaking about taking over the family
business when he was just 26, Vic Sr., said, "My father was
very conservative. When he died, the company had $250,000
in the bank and was debt free. Now I could have taken the
money to Las Vegas." "Over my dead body," Nancy
Edelbrock shouted out as the crowd laughed. "That's Nancy,
my wife, my best friend and my best partner for 45 years,"
Vic Jr. said. "I'd like to thank all the people from my
company. I succeeded because of good people. It's a team
at Edelbrock. I'm lucky to be a coach of a great team.
We're the 'Fun Team' and we're never going to stop. Keep
the nitro coming!" To a standing ovation, Vic Jr. and his family
personally led the crowd over to the Edelbrock exhibit where
the party continued. Work hard, play and keep the nitro coming.