HomeCar CultureIsky still frisky at age 100

Isky still frisky at age 100

The Camfather celebrates his centenarian birthday


Ed “Isky” Iskendarian has celebrated his 100th birthday, and we can report that Isky is still frisky as a centenarian.

He earned his nickname as “Camfather” after developing better valve lifters and drop-in-self-locking roller lifters (suitable for high-rev use) to serve the flourishing new supercharged fuel dragsters of the 1950s. Under a gentleman’s agreement with a young racer named Don Garlits, he created the first corporate sponsorship deal in drag racing, and the newly christened Don’s Speedshop/Ed Iskendarian dragster turned a record 8.36 second/180 mph pass with Garlits at the wheel. 

But Isky’s story goes way back to the 1940s when he went racing at Muroc Dry Lake, a bombing range for the Army Air Corps at Edwards Air Force Base in California enlisted himself in the US Army Air Corps for World War II, flying supply missions in the Pacific theater.

Living a century is maybe to some of us a dream but most don’t make it that far.  Isky did and as sharp as a tack. 

I made the almost three-hour drive to the middle of nowhere, to LTR Racing Engines in Onyx, California, which is owned and operated by noted engine builder Lanny Trefz. He has hosted Isky’s birthday for many years and recently Isky said, “Hey, pal, when are we gong to have another party, I’ve been waiting almost 100 years for this one.” 

Isky-sponsored ‘push vehicle’ was used by Garlits for many years
Vintage advertisement for early drag racing sponsorship

So on July 10, 2021, promoter Crafty Kate and Lanny Trefz attracted hundreds of friends, business acquaintances and fans to celebrate Isky’s centennial milestone with a nostalgic car show featuring the “Car Guy of the Century” and the “Camfather.”

Steve Gibbs, former NHRA director of competition and original director of the Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona, California, organized and supervised a small “cackle” presentation event with some outstanding Nitro-burning dragsters including Garltis’ Swamp Rat III slingshot dragster and “TV Tommy” Ivo’s first front-engine gas dragster powered by a 425cid Buick “Nailhead” engine. The sweet smell of Nitro during the “cackle” was as good as the BBQ lunch aroma to all the old timers.

Even though the temp was hovering close to 120 degrees, Isky seemed ready and willing and able to tell me of his most significant event in his 100 years on the planet, and how it gave him the success he achieved. 

Isky takes part in the cackle fest | Photo by Hot Rod Holly Ansman
Hot rods at the party

“I was 18 or 19 years old and went to buy a cam from Ed Winfield and showed these cylinder heads and he showed me his cam grinder and I was fascinated by that grinder,” Isky said. 

“So that’s the way it’s done and I thought ‘gee, I’m just an apprentice in a machine shop and I think I could build one of those, too’. 

“I was working on my Model T Roadster but the war interrupted my plans. After the war I made my first fast-action cam and I sold it to a kid for $20. Later, when he came to visit me with it in his flathead roadster it sounded loud and great and was very fast. 

Isky, 100, and Howard Koby, not quite there yet, have known each other for years as Howard has covered drag racing through the decades

“I had something I thought. That led to NASCAR calling and using the cam in race cars and that’s what started this 100-year journey to this “Isky Cams” phenomenon. 

“I’ve been very fortunate to get into something that I like and I was interested in and I’m still interested to this day!”

I’m happy to report all funds raised by the sale of T-shirts, the BBQ lunch, parking and memorabilia went to local charities.  

I’m also happy to report that plans for 101-year birthday celebration are in the works.


Howard Koby
Howard Koby
Howard graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has been a photographer and automotive journalist for 35 years out of his Los Angeles studio. He has been published in Hot Rod, AutoWeek, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jaguar Journal, Forza, Vintage Motorsport, Classic Motorsports, Robb Report, Motor Trend Classic, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and 50 Years of Road & Track (MBI Publishing). He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design. He is the author of the books Top Fuel Dragsters of the 1970s and Pro Stock Dragsters of the 1970s, both available on


  1. Fantastic! Met and Chatted with Isky 2017 Chrr. Asked my Last Name, said it sounded Russian.The Ukrainian and Armenians, did they Get alone I don’t know, But his cam sure worked real good in my Built Six In my 1964 Econoline! That Made him Smile!

  2. We drove out from Texas and had Awesome time there, spoke we Ed he sign my travel hat and heard the cackle fest. Looked at all the car’s and saw a Wicked super charged 35/36 ford it sounded great. We where sorry we didn’t get any T-Shirts. But saw a lot of great. One more thing off my bucket list.

  3. I had a great time at Ed’s 100th Birthday Party. Meeting all the notables I’d read about in Hot Rod Magazine since I was a teenager growing up in the Chicago area was an added plus.

    Back in 1964 I had a 1957 Chevy Bel Aire that I had installed an Iskenderian 3/4 race cam in. I raced it at the Oswego Illinois Drag Strip until I was Drafted into the Army. Back then I never would of given it a second
    thought that I’d be celebrating Ed’s 100th Birthday with him. It was an honor and a pleasure to have been there.

  4. I met Ed at the 2018 Melt Down drag race in Byron, IL. I had my wife with me. I introduced my wife to Ed, he automatically started talking to her in her national language. She is from the Philippines and Ed had been stationed there in the War. I had no idea he could speak her language. But man he didn’t miss a beat! I sat and talked to him for about an hour. He has such a down to earth attitude and was willing to answer all my questions. What a incredible man! Happy 💯 Birthday Ed, I hope you live forever

  5. Thank you Howard for coming to the middle of no where it’s really not the middle of no where but you can see it from here. Really was a great time great meeting you well done 👍


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