Way back in issue #3, we left the story of Harry Warner and Wayne
Manufacturing somewhat unfinished. We did cover the fact that sadly, Mr. Warner is
no longer with us. However, we never went on to cover the story of what ever
happened to those patterns for the Wayne GMC 12 port heads. In this installment of
our continuing series we'll be taking a look at part of the story that deals with the
Wayne Chevy 12 port cylinder heads, after Harry Warner. I would like to thank Mr.
Nick Arias for spending the time to talk with me and to help fill out the details of this
aspect of the 12 port story.
First, we need to go way back a bit and fill in a little of the
history we left out in issue #3. The time is the Fall of 1952. In September of
that year Nick Arias and Bob Toros returned to Southern California from the Korean War.
Nick and Bob obtained the GMC engine that had formerly belonged to "Mr.
GMC," Kenny Bigelow. They purchased it from Kenny's mother after he was so
tragically killed at El Mirage earlier in 1952. During the Winter of 1952 and early
1953, Bob and Nick worked on that engine. From time to time, they needed parts and
this brought Nick Arias and Harry Warner together, as Nick was out to visit Harry and to
buy some parts. From this contact, Harry Warner offered Nick Arias a job, and after
thinking it over for awhile, Nick accepted the position of General Manager of Wayne
Manufacturing in the early Spring of 1953. It was at this same time that Harry
Warner also offered a position to Bob Toros, who also came to work for Wayne Manufacturing
that Summer. One of the first projects that demanded Nick's attention was the engine
for the 1953 Indy 500 attempt. This was the engine that was used in the Jorge
Daponte car, the "Wayne Manufacturing Special." (featured on the cover of
Nick Arias and Bob Toros both continued to work for Harry Warner for
the next few years. Bob and Nick were responsible for the majority of engine and
head work. Nick recalls them building some pretty famous pieces of machinery,
including the first Ike Iacono engine that is so well known. When Nick and Bob first
came to work for Harry Warner, Harry was still located at his house on Encinal Avenue in
La Crescenta, California. They helped Harry move from there to 1023 South Broadway
in Burbank in 1953, and later also helped him move to 432 South Victory Blvd in Burbank,
in 1955. This was a productive time for both Wayne Manufacturing and for Nick Arias
and Bob Toros. They still had Kenny Bigelow's stock head engine; Nick also had a
Horning 12 port GMC. They did well on the Dry Lakes and at Bonneville, running #1
for two years in a row for the Russeta Timing Association.
In late1955 and early 1956, Nick and Bob wanted to purchase Venolia
Pistons from Frank Venolia. However, Frank was upset with Nick and Bob over some
matter, so Harry Warner served as the mediator and got everyone together on the deal.
It was at this time (early 1956) that all three men; Nick Arias, Bob Toros and
Harry Warner, purchase Venolia Pistons from Frank Venolia. Harry Warner's
participation was merely to help Bob and Nick purchase the company from a partner in it
with them. Up to this time, Frank Venolia had never really had a formal business.
There simply wasn't enough of a market for racing pistons and there were many
established piston companies like "Jahn's" that were in the regular piston
manufacturing field. As another bit of history, Frank Venolia owned a 2000 to 3000
Sq. Ft. building that was in back of his house. This building fronted on Fletcher
Drive in Los Angeles. Frank rented a potion of this building out to Wayne Horning,
so Wayne could have an address on a Front Street. Frank Venolia continued to use the
back portion of the building for his piston business, as well as his regular machine shop
At first, in early 1956, Nick and Bob rented some space at 432 So.
Victory Blvd. in Burbank, from Harry Warner. They formed "Venolia Pistons"
and began the start of what would become a major supplier of racing pistons to all of
America.. Bob and Nick can be credited with making "Venolia Pistons" a
national brand name product. Later in 1956, Nick and Bob continued the business, but
moved across the street from Wayne Manufacturing to 439 South Victory Blvd., Burbank,
California. At this address Bob and Nick set up another company, Toros Equipment Co.
When Bob Toros moved across the street he took with him the blueprints and patterns
for the Wayne Chevy 12 port cylinder head. Bob purchase these from Harry Warner, and
Toros Equipment Co., continued to make the "Wayne" Chevy heads available to the
racing community. Naturally, Toros Equipment Co. prominately featured, Venolia
Racing Pistons, as Bob Toros continued to own Venolia and Toros after Nick Arias left to
get married in 1957. Toros Equipment Co., went through some changes over the years.
In 1959, Bob Toros brought in Bill Campbell and at that time, Bob and Bill formed
"Tor Cam Industries." Bill Campbell stayed about 2 years and when he left,
Joe Pisano came on board. At first, Joe sever mainly as the salesman. Enter
Nick Arias once again. In late 1962, Nick bought back in with a full 1/3
partnership, along with Bob Toros and Joe Pisano, in what was then "Venolia Racing
Pistons." All the efforts of Tor Cam Industries were merged into the one
business of Venolia Racing Pistons. By that time, the market for 12 port Chevy heads
had fallen off seriously, but more importantly Venolia Racing Pistons was making a major
move other than the realignment of the partners. It was in 1963, that Venolia Racing
Pistons first came out with forged pistons. Previously, pistons had always been
cast. This a major technical breakthrough, and further established Venolia Racing
Pistons on the top of the field. This 3 way partnership continued until 1969, when
Nick Arias left to form "Arias Industries." At that time Bob Toros and Joe
Pisano bought up Nick's 1/3 share and have continued to and currently still do, own
Venolia Racing Pistons as a two way partnership.
Nearly all of our readers are familiar with Arias Industries and the
racing and engineering accomplishments that Nick Arias has achieved. Arias
Industries had produced such notable pieces of racing machinery, as the 8 Liter Hemi Chevy
engine, which Nick built with Rudy Moeller. There was also the 8 Liter Arias Racing
Engine which is still strongly involved in the racing business. Arias will soon
release a 10 Liter Ni Cam V-8 engine, and Nick recently informed us that he will be sprint
car racing this coming Summer (1982) with a special new V-6 Ni Cam racing engine,
patterned after the 10 Liter Ni Cam model that has not yet been released. This V-6
engine will be in the 350-400 cu. in. range and have about 70 cubic inches per cylinder.
This v-6 monster is only 19 inches long and we are all certain it will be the
subject of much discussion, photograph and magazine articles. Nick Arias has been
involved with the racing and performance scene for many years. He is now been
intimately involved with so many with so many prominent racing businesses, starting with
"Wayne Manufacturing," then "Venolia Pistons," then "Toros
Equipment" (out of which came which came Tor Cam Industries and later the reformed
Venolia Racing Pistons), then once again "Venolia Racing Pistons" and lastly and
currently, "Arias Industries."
happened to those patterns and blueprints for the Wayne Chevy 12 port heads? Well,
Bob Toros still has them safely tucked away. As you may have noticed in the "12
Port News," Bob is considering remanufacturing those Wayne Chevy 12 Port Heads, this
time in aluminum, if sufficient interest is generated. In another segment of this series we'll visit with Bob
Toros and talk about those last years of production of the Wayne Chevy 12 port under
"Toros Equipment Co." including the 12 port head for the 261 Chevy six as well
as a report on the current remanufacturing plans.