The 12 Port Story

The 12 Port Story Pt. 8
Herbert Hall
(originally printed in Vol. 2, Issue 3 of the 12 Port News)

    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 Issue #3)

    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 trade.

    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."

    What ever 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.