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Drivers are seeing Pink for racing engines

SUNDAY DRIVER -

November 13, 2005|By JASON STEIN

At just a shake over 75 years in this life, Ed Pink doesn't live in a complex world. You can still find him tinkering in the garage on weekends. He still loves spending his free time at the track, smelling the methanol as it wafts through the air.

And his 15,000-square-foot engine shop in Van Nuys, Calif., still doesn't have a sign out front.

"People know where to come to," Pink once said.

For nearly 50 years in the engine business, the customers have come and the customers have won.

To them, Pink has one name: The Old Master.

"I'm just an old racer," Pink said recently during an interview with Machining Magazine after he developed a new four-cylinder Ford race engine.

When leading race teams need help developing stronger and more innovative powerplants, they see Pink. When an engine isn't running right, they see Pink. Most of them eventually see the checkered flag.

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He has been called an engineering savant, the last of a dying breed of self-owned, non-conglomerate engine shops in the United States.

Through the years, Pink has helped everyone, from drag-racing legend Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen to McEwen's nemesis, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, to open-wheel legend Al Unser.

Top Fuel. Funny Car. Indy Racing League. It doesn't matter. Pink is a player for everyone.

"People come to me because they want to win races," Pink says. "They are not trying to save a buck or get the lowest price. To maintain that clientele, I have to deliver the goods."

And Pink has.

Each week of every year, Pink's 23-man team churns out the most powerful engines the motorsports world could ask for.

More than 6,000 have gone through his shop. He's produced winning powerplants for just about every type of vehicle, from nitromethane burning Top Fuel dragsters to boats and world-class open-wheel racers.

The secret, he says, is in the testing. Ed Pink Racing Engines (EPRE) fine tunes its equipment with the highest level of production equipment. That means more volume and consistent quality.

"Better information leads to better products."

But it runs deeper than that.

Pink has always been a racer first and a businessman second, developing an emotional relationship with every engine that leaves his shop and often personally calls his customers long after the purchase to make sure everything is running just right.

"When you buy an engine from Ed Pink," says Steve Lewis, a longtime customer, "you still don't own the engine, you just get to pay for it."

It all started out of a women's bathroom.

Pink first caught the racing bug on a trip to El Mirage drag strip in California when he was just 16 and was running his own 1937 Ford coupe with a V-8.

"If I went to run it, it would take an hour and a half to get to the other end of the track," Pink remembered.

Soon after leaving high school, Pink went to work in a friend's garage, called Hot Rod heaven, inside a Golden Eagle gas station on the corner of 53rd and Normandie Streets in Los Angeles.

"There was a men's bathroom and a women's bathroom in there," Pink remembered. "Well, there weren't any women there, so we took the (fixtures) out and that was our little engine shop."

Things got better.



Pink eventually opened his first shop in 1948 when he built his first Top Fuel dragster, a car to compete in the top level of professional drag racing. Working with driver Mike Snively, Pink began winning. With that success, customers followed. First came McEwen, then Prudhomme and then a litany of others who all wanted to tap into the success Pink was having with the Chrysler Hemi engine.

With that success under his belt, Pink then moved into the Funny Car class (essentially shorter Top Fuel cars with bodies) building a little more tradition with each engine and each race won.

In 1965, he formalized his racing-engine talent by establishing EPRE. Within a decade, his company's business (and victories) were off the charts.

He collected title after title as his horsepower numbers kept climbing: 2,500 and beyond, from one engine.

By the 1970s, Pink was collecting title after title and was selected four times for membership in Car Craft magazine's "All-Star Drag Team." He was also inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

But Pink didn't just create fast cars. Over the years, his shop has built engines for marine drag boat engines, Indy cars and Porsches in international racing.

When Pink teamed up with national Midget-class oval-track champion Steve Lewis, Pink won again, five years in a row. And when Pink teamed up with Infiniti in the Indy Racing League, his motors won there, too.

But, even at 75, Pink isn't immune to changes.

His shop just began automating the build process, moving away from the decades-long tradition of hand-building every engine component.

And last April, Pink partnered with Toyota Motorsports and Toyota Racing Development to build a new four-cylinder race engine for the 2006 United States AC Midget season.

"We'll try to win there, too," he says.

More than 75 years running and the Old Master hasn't missed a beat.

Jason Stein is a feature writer with Wheelbase Communications. He can be reached on the Web at: www.wheelbase.ws/mailbag.html.

Copyright 2005, Wheelbase Communications

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