|An advertisement for Willard Kendig's carburetor, used in a campaign with Dyno Don Nicholson.|
Willard Zareh Kendig, owner of Kendig Service Center and Automotive Repair and famous for inventing the Kendig carburetor, passed away on Wednesday, May 4, in Yettem, California. At 91, Kendig leaves behind three children—Martin Kendig, Marcy Tarbell and Kristi Kendig.
Kendig's passion for performance began early on, as he tore across the local roadways on an old Indian motorcycle and then made the switch to competitive jalopy races and, ultimately, hydroplane boat races. At a young age, it wasn't just a love for speed that developed, but also an intense curiosity for the mechanics behind high performance.
"He tore down his first Model T at 12 years old," said Kendig's son Martin. "And put it back together again. My grandpa almost beat him to death. It was their only means of automotive transportation and Dad dismantled it."
In the ’60s, in a Yettem, California barn, Kendig built the first prototype for what would become the Kendig carburetor. Martin clearly remembers when his father first explained the new design to him, jolting him out of bed at 1:00 a.m.
"He was on his way from Los Angeles to Visalia and he goes, 'Marty, I came up with an idea on a carburetor,' and he said, 'this damn thing is so simple, it's hard.'" With only the mental blueprint to start with, Kendig got to work and before long the Kendig carburetor was born. The simple design proved to be a winner and found it's way under the hood of Dyno Don Nicholson's pinto in the early ’70s. It even found its way on to Rickey DeMontrond's boat when he won the USA 1 competition with several Kendigs attached to the craft's high-rise manifold. Eventually, the Kendig carburetor was transformed by Pollution Control Industries into a popular unit called the Predator carburetor.
In a write-up sent into the SEMA eNews office yesterday, Kendig's colleague and friend Larry Lion added that his flair for sophisticated yet simple, was also reflected in his revolutionary Kendig Sonic Fuel Injection System. The system was totally mechanical and involved no electronics. The system was elite enough to be approved by the United States Coast Guard, and yet the write-up Lion submitted states that it could be installed in less than one hour by the home do-it-yourselfer.
Despite his amazing career, Kendig was purely self taught, having only enrolled for one year of junior college. Similar to his creations, Martin explains his father's ability in a sophisticated, yet simple way, "He just operated on a different plane of existence than the rest of us."
In one final story Martin described an occasion when his father was stopped by California Highway Patrol (CHP) coming back up the Grapevine from Los Angeles. Kendig was coming to L.A. to share ideas and race against other speed part pioneers such as SEMA Hall of Fame members Ed Iskenderian and Phil Weiand. As he pulled to the shoulder of the road, he was certain that his '36 four-door hump-back sedan was going well within the speed limit. Kendig asked the officer, "What was I doin?" And the officer replied, "You weren't doin' nothing. I heard about this car, and I want to see your engine."
In that brief story, Willard Kendig's legacy is clearly stated. When Kendig was working on automobiles, people couldn't wait to see his latest and greatest creations.
Services for Mr. Kendig will be held Friday, May 13 at the Mount Ararat Cemetery located in Fresno, California, at 1:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that all donations be made in Kendig's honor to the Central California VA Hospital System. Please send your contributions to VA Central California Health Care System, ATTN: Public Affairs, 2615 East Clinton Ave., Fresno, CA 93703.