SEMA News - April 2010

By Drew Hardin

Photo Courtesy Source Interlink Media Archives

If the company president’s desk is clean,” the old adage goes, “then someone else is doing the work.” That’s certainly not the case with Ed Iskenderian. When this photo was taken for Rod & Custom magazine in 1969, he was obviously still in the thick of developing the camshafts and other speed parts that bore the distinctive Isky name.

Like other performance pioneers, Iskenderian was a Southern California hot rodder in the years leading up to World War II, learning speed secrets in an effort to make his own T roadster go faster. Grinding camshafts came after the war, when a sudden demand for parts—fueled by returning GIs eager to get back to hot rodding—was so great that Iskenderian was faced with a long wait for a cam he wanted for his own car. Figuring he could do as well himself, he bought a surplus cylindrical grinder, converted it into a cam-grinding machine and went to work.

Isky cams made power, and Iskenderian’s business grew on the strength of that reputation. But he was also an innovator—mechanically and otherwise—and developed practices now standard in the performance aftermarket. For example, he was the first to use computers to create cam profiles and the first to develop cam kits. He recognized the power of marketing his brand early on and did so by sponsoring racers (notably a young Floridian named Don Garlits) and through a regular series of entertaining (and sometimes outrageous) ads in Hot Rod and other magazines.

In 1963, a few years before this photo was taken, Iskenderian Racing Cams was among a group of performance parts companies that formed what was then called the Speed Equipment Manufacturer’s Association. Ed was SEMA’s first president, serving in 1963 and 1964 and helping to guide the association’s early policies. His company had a booth at SEMA’s first trade show at Dodger Stadium in 1967, and Ed still attends the SEMA Show today.

If you happen to see him there and get a chance, ask him what’s on his desk these days.  

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