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At 93 years of age, Ed Iskenderian is one of the very last hot rodders who was around before there was an NHRA. Although not directly involved in the formation of the NHRA, his status as a racer, innovator, manufacturer, and race car sponsor makes him an integral part of the history of drag racing. The camshaft business he founded, Isky Cams, is famous, both in the racing and high performance worlds. Although it is now run by his sons, Richard and Ron, Isky himself is as active in the field as he ever was, and he can be found there almost every day. We thought it was well worth the time to sit down and talk with a man who has seen it all. Make sure to check out part one here.
: Can you explain the 5-cycle and Polydyne cam profiles?
EI: Well, sometimes you learn from people that aren’t that well informed about engines. Remember Scotty Fenn? He started that Chassis Research. He was a good man, very practical when working with metal, and he had built a dragster. He used engines form the Yeakel Brothers, and Cadillac’s and GMC’s were in there. Did pretty well, but not outstanding. So he got disgusted and said he was going back to open wheel, he was through with all that stuff. I said, “Give me your address, and I’ll write you once in a while.” So he sold his car, and it happened to be picked up by Emory Cook and Cliff Bedwell. Well they went to Crower and got a U-Fab manifold, and eight 97 carburetors, and nitro and I fixed them up with a cam, normally aspirated. They started to run pretty good.
In the meantime, Scotty Fenn would come down at night while I was working. He was a lot of fun to listen to; he talked with a lot of authority. He had kind of a commanding voice, you know? He says, “Isky, why don’t you build a five cycle cam?” Wow, right away I saw that that would be quite a publicity stunt. How would I fit that in? I’m going to make a four cycle engine better with an extra cycle. It would have to be the overlap period, which came about accidentally when, as the cams got longer and longer, the intake and exhaust overlapped each other a little bit. That got to be kind of a significant thing in drag racing because it was also a cooling cycle. It would flush the combustion chamber when you’re highly supercharged or at very high compression. So there was the theory or premise that it could help. So later on, Cook and Bedwell jumped the record by about eleven mph, and I said, “By golly, that’s the five cycle.” And that was the proof, the extra speed.