In the following days, much will be said about Vic Edelbrock Jr. The man left a lot of friends, family, and fans behind. Almost everyone in the industry will have their own Vic Jr., story, and there will be a cornucopia of stories because of the numerous relationships that Vic cultivated through the years.
It’s the love affair of the automobile, remember that! – Vic Edelbrock Jr.
In the forthcoming days, journalists will characterize the man as an “icon” and a “legend,” both of which he certainly was. They will also tell you about his great business sense, and how he grew his family company into an empire. That is also undeniably true and worthy of celebration. What most journalists are going to miss in all the story telling, is how much Vic Edelbrock Jr., was, well, like all of us.
Many will miss the true story and explain how much he was identical to every man, woman, teenager, or kid that had ever held a wrench in their hands. He was a regular blue collar car guy that was always looking for a better way to make his pride and joy go down the street. He loved being around car people, and we all loved him. Vic Jr. rode tall in the saddle, representing the ideals that make automotive enthusiasts join together. His company’s products were made the way parts were supposed to look, they delivered the horsepower they were supposed to make, and he was proud to say they were made in the United States … those common beliefs that bonded Vic Jr., with his public.
Vic once said, “It’s the love affair of the automobile, remember that. We have it here in the USA more than any other country in the world. The car events that take place all over the country give car guys and gals a reason to build a car in their garage, and it’s beautiful.”
Power Automedia's CEO James Lawrence On Vic Edelbrock Jr.
“Vic was a very passionate guy. Of course he was an industry legend and an innovator. But what stood out to me was his tremendous passion about everything he did. One of my earliest memories was when I was responsible for the rules for the NMCA, and he called me in to his office to talk about some issues regarding cylinder heads.”
“He wore his love for competition and motorsports on his face. While that made for some fiery exchanges, you never doubted his love for Edelbrock’s products and for racing and cars in general. I am proud to have met and known him and worked with him. There will never be another Vic.”
As a recent college graduate and newlywed, Vic Jr., found himself at the top of the family business in 1962, when his father passed away after a brief but brutal battle with Cancer. In a time when many family businesses failed during a generational turnover, the Edelbrock manufacturing business not only carried on, it succeeded beyond anyone’s forecast. The younger Edelbrock was a natural leader that learned from his father, how important people and loyalty are. It was his passion that kept people like flathead engine guru Bobby Meeks with the company.
Meeks, who could have easily left and started his own business, stayed with the company’s new leader, which became a pivotal event in Edelbrock’s company history. Meeks continued to work for Edelbrock until 1993, having never worked for another company in his 57 years in the workforce. Superstar engine builder and dry lake racer Don Towle was another Edelbrock employee that started working for Edelbrock Sr., and saw a rising champion in the next generation of the family business.
It was that kind of loyalty generated by Vic Jr’s passion, dedication, and charisma that carried over into the broader challenge of leading the entire aftermarket industry through perilous times. Serving as SEMA President from 1971 – 1974, a period when the Federal EPA was started and the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act were passed by congress, Vic Jr., was an advocate for public education of aftermarket automotive parts. His careful guidance for the automotive parts industry were vital at a time when governmental regulations were seen as a threat. As a result, the public’s fears of environmental challenges were calmed and the industry actually grew.
The Right Tool For The Job
In addition to Bobby Meeks and Don Towle, Vic Jr., maintained friendships and relationships with some of the best automotive minds in history. When it came to racing, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Roger Ward, champion midget auto racer Perry Grimm, and next door neighbor Parnelli Jones were always on hand to test and talk about performance. King customizer George Barris was just around the corner, Ed Iskenderian was a confidant, and engineering genius Louie Senter was a frequent guest. It was safe to say that Vic Jr., surrounded himself with people that knew parts and performance – and he knew which ones to advise him when a problem arose.
As a company, Edelbrock always brought in the best and brightest. Vic Jr., knew the caliber of the people that worked in the company – from the top down to the people in the mailroom – determined the success of the business. His people always knew that Vic Jr., appreciated them too. It was “the Fun Team.”
What We Have Lost
Many people will spend days and weeks truly realizing what the automotive community has lost with the passing of Vic Edelbrock Jr. Practically everyone has their favorite Vic story. Jason Snyder, former Vice-President of Marketing at Edelbrock, tells the story of flying with Vic in a small, single-engine airplane when the electronics went out.
Vic Edelbrock was a seasoned pilot and loved to fly to his facility in San Jacinto, California. With the crippled aircraft down a system and thousands of feet in the air, he began hitting the instrument panel and cursing until the electrical came back on. He then proceeded as if nothing had happened.
Those individual memories will live and carry on, but no more will be made. In fact, Vic’s passing closes a door on an era where family businesses could become as large as any conglomerate. An era where a son would start working for his father by sweeping the floors of the family business and eventually take over the helm. That is what we have lost.
It may even close an era where new foundries are opened in California. ExxonMobil has been unable to open a new refinery in the state for more than 60 years. Vic Edelbrock Jr. was able to open a new foundry in 2007. These are similar industries with environmental regulations that are very similar, yet one giant company couldn’t do what a single man with vision, determination, and intelligence could. That is what we have lost.
Everyone that has ever seen an Edelbrock commercial on cable TV during a race or car show can remember hearing Vic solemnly state; “Proudly made in the U.S. Always has been and always will be.” That is what we truly have lost.
Vic Edelbrock Jr., Accomplishments, Honors, And Awards
- Vic Jr. was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1936, and grew up around his father’s business.
- After graduating from Dorsey High School, he attended the University of Southern California, where he graduated with a degree in business in 1959.
- He was an active alumnus of USC.
- Vic married his wife Nancy in Los Angeles on March 21, 1959, and the couple, who reside in Rolling Hills, California, have three daughters and seven grandchildren.
- When his father passed away in 1962 at the early age of 49, Vic Edelbrock, Jr., then only 26, assumed the position of Chairman and President of Edelbrock Corporation until 2010.
- Vic Jr. has built Edelbrock into a multi-million dollar plus corporation and an industry leader in state-of-the-art automotive performance for racecars and street cars.
- Vic’s philosophy of staying close to customers, car enthusiasts, and racers was very important to him. He regularly attended several events a year to autograph and chat with consumers.
- Vic was an avid racing enthusiast. In his youth, he began with racing boats and this passion continued through the later years with racing a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray and a 1969 302 Boss Mustang at vintage races throughout the United States.
- Vic was a fan of many forms of racing from NHRA to NASCAR. He was a regular at the Daytona 500 each year since 1971.
- Vic made sure that the Edelbrock Corporation was one of the early NASCAR contingency sponsors and has continued to be since the early 1970’s.
- Vic served as the president of SEMA from 1970-74, in addition to serving on the SEMA Board of Directors from 1967 to 1989.
- He was named to the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1989.
- He is a member of the Performance Warehouse Association (PWA) Hall of Fame.
- He was named “Person of the Year” by the PWA in 1982 and 1987
- Under Vic’s guidance with the company, Edelbrock was named the PWA Manufacturer of the Year in 1984, 1989, 1990 and 2008.
- He was honored by SEMA’s Street Rod Marketing Alliance (formerly the Street Rod Equipment Alliance).
- He was inducted in the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1994.
- He was a regional finalist in the 1995 Entrepreneur of the Year awards competition, sponsored by Ernst & Young.
- Vic was also given the 2005 Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Hot Rod Foundation.
- He was inducted in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2005.
- Vic was honored in 2016 with the NMCA and NMRA Victor Award by ProMedia LLC for his commitment to drag racing.
- On March 26, 1963, Vic, along with charter members Roy Richter, Ed Iskenderian, Willie Garner, Bob Hedman, Robert Wyman, John Bartlett, Phil Weiand Jr., Al Segal and Dean Moon formed the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA).