Working for Pink
By Todd Hutcheson

The distant thunder of a digger roaring to life at the other end of the track has every ones attention. It bounces along the service track in front of a large crowd standing on their feet cheering. It passes by like a tiger in a long cage. The assembly of fans, of all ages, have sat in the summer heat consuming cheap hot dogs and pre-cooked hamburgers with their over iced Pepsi's. No matter, the clouds of burnt fuel and Goodyear dust can make any food taste better. After all this was Drag Racing cuisine.

The rail curved around the backstop and lined up in its lane. The same with its combatant. Like two ancients, they taunted each other before doing battle. Only one will win. This is the summer games, the fastest and the most skilled in the heavy metal arts on the 1320 track.

Just before they roll up to the first staging light, a white haired man strolls up to the waiting dragster on the right. This Pharaoh dressed in common attire is the very best with these chariots of speed. A handsome man, younger than his premature white crown, stands listening to his machine. Like master and pet, its rumble and roar speaks to him. A language he wrote himself. This is his and his alone. His touch can read out volumes of data. No computer, no books, it is soul to soul. An adjustment is made here and there. Now it is perfect as its maker had intended.

To the many bystanders watching, it is a mystery. Hocus-pocus. But they don't know Pink. I watched this man many times. Every time I made the journey to the straight track, I looked for him. I checked each Dragster for the tall tale sign. I saw his name on the few Dragsters that always seem to win. And there, right there on the engine, on a small black sticker lined in silver, it simply reads, 'Ed Pink Racing Engines'. That was the Gold Standard. With that masterpiece in any race car, Mr. Pink was not too far away.

Mr. Pink takes a last listen to his creation and walks away. It's ready to win. There are other engines and other engine wizards, great ones too, but there is only one 'Old Master'. He has told his engine what to do; now it is up to the driver to hold on and drive it through the lights to victory, if he is good enough.

Ed Pink is supremely confident in his world. When you buy an Ed Pink Racing Engine, you pay for the right to use his creation. But you never own its spirit. Like a father and his daughters; you can marry the daughter but the Father owns her soul.

Within seconds the winner is across the lights, E.T. and top speed recorded for the fans to see why Ed Pink is the master. By this time Ed Pink is out of sight and waiting for his next calling. There is best, there is great, and then there is Ed Pink.

As I always do I wander anonymously around the pits observing and learning. I spot my Uncle George approaching, dressed in his clean racing cloths. 'Hutch' printed over the breast pocket, George "The Stone Age Man" Hutcheson printed across the back of his red shirt. It is a thrill to see George. Before I could gush the usual 'Hey Uncle George, when are you up next…?'

He said, "Todd, I got you a job."

A job! A dream come true! Working with George! What will I be doing? Mixing the fuel…steering the Top Fuel 'Stone Age Man' back to the pits…maybe driving the push-car to start our beautiful long dragster…maybe I'll get to drive it for a few passes, maybe I'll get my NHRA drivers license, have my own dragster. We'll race as an Uncle and nephew team….

"You're working for Ed Pink, starting Monday afternoon after school."
As he walked away he turned around and added "Don't let me down, I'm counting on you." He was serious.

I stood there with my eyes and mouth wide open. My Team Hutcheson smile slowly melted to one of doubt and fear. "E..d…P..i..n..k…?!" At this point the camera would rise up and pull back leaving our hero alone with this shocking news. "Cue the rain" the director adds.

Sometime later George filled me in on the address in Van Nuys and the finer points of being a Hutcheson. At just 16, I was not prepared for this opportunity.

I learned that Ed gets to know you first, than he lets you into one of his many circles. I was invited into the first outer circle. George was deeper by several rings. It happened through a small boy named Billy. George was very friendly with everyone. Kids would stand around and ask questions and gawk. George would let all kids sit in the Stone Age Man dragster. He was a hero to so many. Kids would take their Dads over to the dragster to meet with George. After a while Billy took his Dad over to meet George "The Stone Age Man" Hutcheson. Billy's full name was Billy Pink; his Dad was Ed, as in 'Ed Pink Racing Engine'.

Ed Pink was fond of George. They had a special relation as in friend and mentor. Ed taught George the language of his engines. Visited him and joked with him at the track and at his office. An inner circle pass was given to George.

On Sunday afternoon I drove my first car, a 1957 VW bug, (worth $400 bucks) to the Van Nuys plant of Ed Pink. I lived in Reseda. It was a long drive to find it. The area seemed kind of desolate, hard to find too. Railroad tracks on one side, lots of open spaces. There it was, Ed Pink Racing Engines. Some trucks were around back, and a few long trailers. I didn't dare drive in and around. I just sat there and watched. A short while later I drove home, ready to face…whatever the heck I was going to do there.

I arrived on time. I ended up in Ed's office. Much of that I don't remembered. I was in a fan fog; this was Ed Pink's office. As he was talking, I tried to look around at the pictures, the famous cars and people. A stack of engine stickers on his desk; papers & invoices. Kind of cluttered like.

"I need you to help clean up. Sweep and clean. I'll show you where all the things you'll need. I'll give you $1.10 an hour. Come on I'll show you around." With that Ed got up and led the way around the shop. I knew Larry Dixon, the famous driver of the Howard Cam Rattler; the others were machinists working on parts of new engines. It was hard not to just stand around and say "Wow! A Funny car on the shop floor." Engines on stands every where. A dragster in repair next to me. It was too great.

Never a mention that George was my uncle. But they all knew. They all stopped and looked me over, shook my hand. Larry was the first to ask about George. Larry was always very friendly and talked to me. As the others chatted with Ed, my mind kept echoing "Don't let me down, I'm counting on you. Don't let me down, I'm counting on you."

The job was taxing but manageable, cleaning up. I went at it 110%. I did the very best that I could do. I cleaned everything, top to bottom. Ed would watch me from a distance. That's OK; I was working very hard for him.

There were the memorable times. Here is a few:
* Big names owners and drivers filed in and out at all hours. Top fuel and Funny Cars was the standard eye candy.
* When Ed had an engine in the dyno the sound would blast through the shop area. There was a small station outside the dyno to control the engine Rpm's. It had an electronic read out of everything the engine was doing. Once an engine blew, Bang! What a mess.
* The door jam to the dyno broke and I said I could fix it. Well I screwed it up royally. Now it was a bigger mess. Ed looked at me and said, "You really tried too hard and F…ed up." I never forgot that lesson.
* One afternoon Ed gave me a bank bag, said there was five thousand in there. Instructions were to take it to the bank and get him a receipt. He was testing me. I passed. My nerves, however, took a beating.
* Ed asked me to move his big truck. He gave me the keys and off I went. It was no VW bug that's for sure. It had a stick shift on the column…? Never drove one of those. I figured it out somehow. It moved real slow and difficult like. I finally got it over to its new spot. Than I noticed the brake release handle and the smell of hot break pads. Ooops! Forgive me Ed.
* There was this older mechanic who smoked cigars. He would smoke them down to a soggy lump of goo. So as I was cleaning ashtrays, I saw this soggy lump of goo. Into the trash it went. A clean tray in its place.
Moments later he runs up to me shouting "Where's my cigar, it was in
the ash tray?"
I replied proudly "I dumped it in the trash."
This little round man started shouting something about, "It's the best
part, what are you doing!"
Larry Dixon was laughing real hard as he pounded the worktable.
I answered defensively, "It was just a disgusting lump and all wet."
"Don't ever trash my cigars; it takes me all day to get it there." He
yelled. I think he tossed in a few unholy words. Larry was still laughing.
It had to be a joke. Nobody would put that thing back in their mouth.

One time, Mr. Pink was in a relaxing mood in his office. I happened to mention that I saw him at the track doing his adjustments at the staging line. He told me a funny story. Once just before the final race between two great champions, Ed went to the waiting top fueler at the staging line and draped the engine and his head with a towel hiding his magic touch. A few moments later he stood up and took the towel away and signaled 'ready'. Ed's magic touch resulted in a new track record and win. I asked "What did you do?" Ed smiled and said, "I think I picked my nose or something, I was just trying to mess with the other drivers mind." That was Ed.

Ed Pink treated me real fine. He was a good boss to work for. It was an honor just to be there in his shop for a year in 1968. I have always been a loyal type of person. As a loyal photojournalist working for United Press International, I used only Nikon Cameras; I wore only Levi brand blue jeans, drank only Pepsi, and bought more Smith & Wesson's than any other brand.

I also had this strange need for stickers and decals. Anything. At the track I saw a Keith Black Racing Engines decal for sale. I bought it and put it on the side wing window of my little car (VW). It was the profile of a Top Fuel Hemi engine. I scratched off the name Keith Black and put an Ed Pink Racing Engines sticker over it. It was beautiful!

As I drove up to Ed's business and parked my car, Ed was watching me while he talked with some others. Like a flash he was at my car. The look in his eyes was like 'You trader, get that Keith Black decal off your window!' I knew what he saw and the mistake of unintended consequences was clear. Like a shot I turned the window to show him and said "It's yours, it's yours…is it OK Mr. Pink?" Ed could see I was no trader, just overly creative with the two rival engine makers. He said nothing, but his face relaxed and he sort of chuckled (I hope) to himself. Loyalty was important to Ed Pink. That was Ed.

As far as jumping into a closer circle in Ed's life, I was fine where I was. I fully respected Ed Pink and remained adoringly loyal to his legend. I never really knew what he thought of me, except he never complained about me.

I was really sorry that I had to leave Ed Pink Racing Engines. I hurt my lower back surfing at Zooma Beach, north of Malibu. The pain was too much and I got medical help.

When I informed Mr. Pink of my departure, I knew that he did not believe my story. Sad, but it was true. I would have done any task, any time, no matter how hard for Mr. Pink. But my young body could not hold up any longer.

If you're out there Mr. Pink and have read my little story, my deepest and most sincere, and always loyal to you, thank you Sir. You're still the 'Old Master'.


Working for Pink
Part of Todd Hutcheson Stories
in "The Time of My Life"
1996 - Revised in 2008


More Todd Hutchenson "The Time of My Life"

A Gathering of Long Trailers

Stone Age Man

Big Daddy and I

Taming of the Rat Trap

Email Todd


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