This month we took a drive out to Santa Paula, California where we paid a visit with ARP Fasteners (Automotive Racing Products). ARP has been around for years and their products can be seen on some of today’s top built vehicles. This last SEMA had one of the best looking vehicles of the show; a 1973 Pontiac Firebird built by Detroit Speed. The build on this car was so clean it looked straight out of the factory, and upon closer look, we realized how they had gotten the build looking so perfect. They were using ARP bolts and fasteners.

Back in 1968, racing enthusiast Gary Holzapfel saw that many of his friends’ broken engines were caused by fastener failure. At the time, there were no commercially available studs and bolts up to the challenge, so Holzapfel called upon his many years of fastener-making experience for a leading aerospace subcontractor and founded ARP. In the ensuing years, the firm has grown from what was literally a backyard garage workshop into a highly diversified manufacturer, complete with five operational entities in Southern California with a combined area in excess of 200,000 square feet. These include forging, machining, finishing and packaging along with warehousing facilities in Santa Paula and Ventura, California. There is even a unique racing-themed restaurant at the main Santa Paula facility called “Hozy’s Grill,” which is open to the public.

Today, ARP’s product line contains thousands of part numbers, and has expanded to include virtually every fastener found on an engine and driveline. These range from quality high performance OEM replacement parts to exotic specialty hardware for Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR and NHRA drag racing and marine applications, or in our case, Lowrider engines and engine compartments.

Our tour was extremely informative, as we got to experience the making of a bolt from the beginning to the end. The bolts started off from round stock, and they were then sent to a cutting and press machine that created the shape. Once the shape was formed, it was given a tread before the bolt was hardened and given strength. The bolts were then polished and shipped to be packed and sent out for consumer use. The tour also gave us a sneak peak at the new R&D department, which almost looked like an automotive museum with a vast collection of first generation Camaros. This was the perfect way to end the tour.

I never have given too much thought about how bolts and fasteners were made, but seeing the ARP factory was an eye-opening experience. It just goes to show that if you slack on anything during your build, especially the smallest parts, you may be headed for disaster. This company’s tried-and-true fasteners really make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things and it was really educational for me to see them in development. Visiting ARP Fasteners gave us a true insight on how bolts are made and the complicated and delicate process that it takes to create each bolt. Check out the images we captured on the process of how the industry’s top fasteners are made.