Lions Drag Strip 1955, “That’s Scotty Finn’s dragster,” Nick says. “He was one of the firs
“I was helping out Don Rackemann (a member of the Screwdrivers, who also managed Saugus Drag Strip with Lou Baney, another Yeakel employee) a few months after I left Venolia. Don was making headers at Exhaust Engineering, renting the building from Louie Senter, of Ansen Automotive fame. (In fact, Nick, Rackemann, and Lou Baney teamed up to run Rackemann’s ’29 Ford roadster at Bonneville where it ran 176.227 with Nick’s 302-inch GMC motor—we’re talkin’ a six-banger here, folks.)
“Louie had a piston division at Ansen and he wasn’t happy with the quality. Louie stopped by to see Rackemann and we started talking. He kept talking about his piston division and I said why don’t you sell it to me? Louie went back to Indy for the month of May and when he got back I bought him out in August 1969 and started Arias Pistons.
“I ran some ads in Hot Rod and National Dragster. Then all my old customers I’d dealt with at Venolia started calling me. I was making Senter’s pistons and also mine. I’ve been in this same building 43 years.”
If you didn’t race at Santa Ana Drag Strip at some point before it closed in 1959 you neve
Remember, we said Nick had a head for business? Well, no one denied the advantages of hemispherical heads, yet not one company, including Chevrolet, had considered such heads for their V-8. It made good business sense to offer such heads; subsequently Nick developed the Arias Hemi cylinder heads for the big-block Chevy in 1972.
“When I was at Venolia all the fuel racers with Chevys competing against the Chryslers kept saying, ‘If we had a hemi head on our Chevy we could beat the Chryslers.’ I presented it to Bob and Joe in the late ’60s and they shot it down. I was surprised that Bob did because he also knew how to make heads working at Wayne with me.
“After starting Arias Pistons I knew where I was going with the company and I started doing the heads myself. Rudy Moller and I designed the heads. Rudy had retired from Northrup Aviation and did the drawings on the heads.
“I sold all my engine business and equipment to Joe Fontana 20 years ago, which included the four-cylinder Midget motor known as the Pontiac Super Duty 4. Joe was here renting my building for 12 years, but I brought back my redesigned Hemi heads for the street rodder running the LS Chevy. I’m doing the block again for the four-cylinder Pontiac engines.”
Married with children, Nick’s customer painted the ad on his ’57 Chevy. Nick was forced to
Nick’s peers recognized his contributions to the sport of drag racing when he was inducted in the 9th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield in 2000. Nick was also inducted into the Don Garlits International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2005 in Gainesville Florida.
Nick inherited his work ethic from his father who never missed a day’s work until his retirement from the railroad. Nick arrives at his office at 9 and leaves at 4, five days a week. “Retirement?” we asked Nick, to which he responded, “Why?”
The “Occupy” crowd is jealous of success and wealth. (But will take both if it’s handed to them.) They need to read this story, to see how success and wealth is accomplished ... that is if they can read. Nick worked damn hard for both, thank you. It takes more than an old-time hot rodder to make a legend; it takes guys like Nick, who is a legend.
Long after Mr. Arias (and we) are no longer, the Arias name will be remembered—remembered, not because of what we say, but what you say. There’s an element in this country with little desire to work for a living who despise those who’ve become successful. Sure these are tough times, but growing up during The Great Depression and during the Second World War, as Nick did, was a very, very tough time as well.
The Pisano brothers’ Studebaker at Bonneville 1966. Nick and his tight knit group did ever
Sleeping was/is a luxury at Bonneville, reserved for the spectators. Nick is seen here wor
SEMA started with a small band of speed equipment manufacturers displaying their wares at
We know you’re going to invest in a set of Arias HEMIsphercial cylinder heads for your big
There are few people on the planet who devoted their lives to making high-performance engi
Did you know that salt is a natural antidepressant? That special white stuff on the ground