June 23, 2016

Photo Essay: Under the Hood at a Hot Rod Shop (Update for 2021)

Update 1/30/21 11:36 AM PT—Edelbrock has announced the closure of its Torrance, California facility. Some operations will be relocated to San Jacinto, CA. 

In Southern California, "car culture" doesn't just mean cruising down the PCH with the top down.

In fact, in many ways, LA wouldn't be what it is today without its history of car racing—and I don't just mean the illegal drag races you see depicted in the Fast and Furious movie franchise (though, those too).

From the former raceways at Paramount Ranch and Ascot Hills to the midget car races at Gilmore Field (adjacent to the current-day Original Farmers Market), a lot of our racing culture has become archival.

But there's one place that has been around for 70 years, has played an integral role in our racing history, and is keeping hot rod culture alive and well today...

...and that's Edelbrock, currently in its third location in Torrance.

It all started in the 1930s, when Vic Edelbrock Sr. had moved from Kansas to California and designed his own aluminum intake manifold called the "Slingshot" for a Ford flathead.

Since then, Edelbrock has been putting the pedal to the medal, outfitting street legal cars with enough custom power to become racing roadsters.

And while they use their own foundries to create the metal forms of many of their performance parts (including carburetors, cylinder heads, intake manifolds, and so on), they're also leveraging state-of-the-art technologies like 3D printing to keep the process as up-to-date as possible.

Photos aren't allowed in their manufacturing room, where trade secrets and silvery shards of metal abound, but equally as fascinating is their "Dyno Room"...

...where parts are put to the test in engines put through various road conditions to determine their force, power, and torque using a machine called a dynamometer (or "dyno," for short).

In fact, Vic Edelbrock Sr. bought and used one of the first engine dynos in 1948, which solidified his products' dominance in race-winning cars—and now they have a total of three.

The Dyno Room isn't really where testers determine whether the parts work, but rather how well they work—and, ideally, it's better than whatever came before it.

They've even got a platform where they can rev a car up to racing speeds, without it ever leaving the shop.

This place is a gear-head's dream.

But there's a lot of history here, too.

Vic was able to use his own racing career as a springboard to creating a vertically-integrated corporation—all starting with a modified Ford roadster that he would drive out to El Mirage, remove the fenders and windshield, race on the dry lake bed, reassemble to make it street legal, and drive back home.

Eventually, Vic became a full-time machinist, designing and manufacturing pistons, crankshafts, and more that helped racers set and break records.

In fact, the first single engine streamliner to go over 200 mph was the Edelbrock-equipped Bachelor-Xydias So. Cal. Special.

But these performance parts aren't just for pro racers.

Any motorist who wants to pimp their ride can get in on the action...

...especially if they want to make sure it all fits under the hood.

Edelbrock can supercharge a number of different sweet rides, from classic to current.

And at any given time, there's a good mix of boosted beauties in a room they call the "Toy Barn"...

...which is a kind of playroom where they're always working on something in somebody's car (may of them are company cars).

This is where you can find out what's inside the highest performance vehicles on the street—and beyond—like the next-generation electronic fuel injection system that optimizes its performance over time, as it "learns" the kinds of demands you'll be putting on the car and its engine.

I keep thinking I'll find myself "racing for pinks" at some point—or, at the very least, I'll want to transform a car from drab to drag racer—so I consider my visit to Edelbrock a kind of scouting mission.

The technology will certainly change by the time I'm ready, but at least I will have gotten something of a head start.

Stay tuned for pics from Vic's private car collection.  

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: A Haven for Hotrodders
Photo Essay: Paramount Ranch & Raceway

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