Racing and Hot Rodding Legend Nick Arias Jr. Has Died – SEMA Hall of Fame Member Was Industry Titan, Veteran


Racing and Hot Rodding Legend Nick Arias Jr. Has Died – SEMA Hall of Fame Member Was Industry Titan, Veteran

The legendary Nick Arias Jr. has died. Arias was a huge figure in the world of racing and high performance and lived what he often called “The American Dream” when speaking about his life. Growing up as a car crazed kid in Southern California, Arias was a stand out young mechanic and a born hot rodder. He attended what is often referred to as “the first drag race” in Goleta, California during 1949 and from that point forward, the hook was set.

As a young man he worked at Wayne Manufacturing a company that was on the bleeding edge of cylinder head and speed part technology in the 1940s and early 1950s. It was incidentally located next door to piston business run by Frank Venolia. He formed a car club, he went and served the United States during the Korean War, he was laying the foundation for a career that would change the worlds of drag racing, tractor pulling, boat racing, and pretty much every big horsepower motorsports on Earth before he was done.

After the war he raced on the dry lakes, worked at Venolia Pistons and spent his days learning and thinking. Those years of gathering up information would be applied full force when he went into business for himself in 1969, opening the Arias Piston Company. All the years on the dry lakes, at the drag strip, and in the machine shop, all of that accumulated knowledge was now brought fully to bear. The company is still making pistons today.

1972 would be the year that Arias released the signature product of his life. The Chevy Hemi that for decades would be known as the Arias Hemi was his masterwork. It was first released in its massive 10-liter form and quickly began dominating the worlds of tractor pulling and boat racing. The smaller 8.3L (498ci) engine was devised for drag racing, specifically top fuel competition. Taking advantage of some advantages the Chevrolet big block design had and radically changing the cylinder heads Arias created a horsepower monster. His basic design is still used in thousands of drag racing cars of all shapes and sizes around the world.

Over the years he added a heavy duty four cylinder engine to the company’s line up along with hemi heads for a bunch of engines family from small block Fords all the way to the modern LS. In fact, the modern LS hemi heads are some of the most awesome speed parts one can buy today. Arias was also huge in the development of the New Century Aluminum block among other projects.

Arias loved racing on the dry lakes, he loved the high performance industry, and he loved what he did. He was an active part of the business until the end and that is certainly not because he had to be there everyday but because he loved it so much. We should all be so lucky.

Nick will be missed but his name will live on though the innovative and high performing products his companies still produce.

Here’s a great video from Nick Arias Jr’s SEMA Hall of Fame induction


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14 thoughts on “Racing and Hot Rodding Legend Nick Arias Jr. Has Died – SEMA Hall of Fame Member Was Industry Titan, Veteran

  1. Renee Reid

    So very sadden to hear about the loss of such a great visionary one of a kind car man. My thoughts go out to his family.

  2. Will

    I ate supper with nick a few years ago at the inliners cookout at bonniville. Super nice guy and very fun to talk with.

  3. blwnflattie

    I’ve been running 8 pieces of Nick’s forged jewelry inside my blown-flathead for 10 years…. and I feel bad I never shook the man’s hand.
    My condolences to Nick’s family ….and my appreciation to his employees.

  4. Larry Salisbury

    It was a true honor and privilege to have worked with Nick. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten. A very class act to the end. Thank You for the all great times we spent at the shop, Fabulous Burgers, and the Engine Masters Challenge. As the late Jim Travers of Traco would say “that was mighty fine of you”.
    God Bless.

    1. M neri

      Nick now you can Hot rod in the heaven so them how it done nick you are gone but you will never be forgotten my friend .rip. m neri

  5. Wayne King

    Proud to cal Nick my friend for over 50 years. Have used Arias pistons since he went into the business. Countless stories of from racing to fishing. My heart is heavy. A rip my friend
    The Boys from Bakersfield and
    The Smokers

  6. jeffrey laham

    I always enjoyed Nick and Isky having lunch together, every Wednesday. They were like two teenage boys, eating in the high school cafeteria. So young at heart! Truly inspirational on every level of life.
    R.I.P. Nick.

  7. Ken Huff

    I was honered to have Nick as a friend and a collaborator on special engine projects. I’m sorry that the project was not completed by the time he passed.
    I will miss our time together; it was always informative. He was truely one of a kind. Until we meet again.

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