An iconic segment of the California hot rod culture is on display in a museum, but it’s a museum halfway across the country. The Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed is located in Lincoln, Nebraska, but is showcasing the famed little black Model T hot rod built by a youngster named Ed Iskenderian, who soon would become famous for creating high-performance camshafts. “Isky” anticipates celebrating his 100th birthday on July 10.
If the Nebraska location for the famous hot rod seems strange, consider that the car is displayed with Ed Winfield’s cam grinder that Isky used as well as with the only other pair of Maxi cylinder heads known to exist. The car is owned by Isky and is in Nebraska on a long-term loan.
As the story goes, Isky — the nickname given by school teachers who couldn’t pronounce Iskenderian — and a buddy John Athan grew up in the same Los Angeles neighborhood and were fascinated by the cut-down and hopped-up Model Ts people were building.
Athan built a T-based hot rod and then one based on a Model A (in the 1950s the car appeared in the Elvis Presley movie, Loving You). Isky acquired a T-based car from Athan in the late 1930s, replacing the 4-cylinder engine with a flathead V8 equipped with Maxi overhead valve head, and adding an Edelbrock triple manifold and Vertex magneto.
He made many other changes — 1932 Ford front axle with 1937 wishbones, Plymouth hydraulic brakes, Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels, modified 1933 Pontiac grille, gauge panel salvaged from an 8-cylinder Auburn, and a flying-skull hood ornament Isky created in a high school shop class.