Engine builder, hot rodder Joe Mondello dies

Joe Mondello with the “project car” Olds station wagon he owned.

By John Gunnell

Legendary engine builder Joe Mondello passed away Wednesday, April 6, 2011. Mondello, 74, had undergone surgery to treat an intestinal blockage, leading to complications that claimed his life. He had been involved with high-performance cars since the 1950s. He was particularly well-known to Oldsmobile collectors.

Mondello set benchmarks in the performance industry in every decade since the ’50s. In the 1960s, Mondello developed the Posi-Flow Combustion Chamber design. He was responsible for many GM head designs. Mondello cylinder heads were used by Dean Moon, AK Miller, Craig Breedlove, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and legendary Mickey Thompson. Early drag racing records, including the first 5-, 6- and 7-second runs, were set with Mondello heads.

When Oldsmobile won the Pike’s Peak hillclimb in 1966, it set records with a Toronado, and then took the Mexican Road Race three years in a row. During that time, all the winning cars had Mondello heads. Mondello also assisted in the design, testing and troubleshooting of many Olds racing engines.

In 1969, Mondello won Car Craft magazine’s “Engine Builder of The Year” award. He also drove as a factory-backed racer for Olds, setting two NHRA records. In recent years, Mondello built racing engines and cylinder heads. His company did blueprinting and design, as well as head porting.

Mondello also taught engine building techniques at his Mondello Technical School, in Crossville, Tenn. The school is dedicated to auto manufacturing, engine building and education. Mondello also owned two collector cars thart he brought to classic car auctions and car shows — Mondello owned a 1970 Oldsmobile W30 station wagon and a 1971 Olds 4-4-2 Holiday coupe.

One was a very special 1970 Oldsmobile — one of two W30 seven-passenger station wagons built. Both were taken off the assembly line by Oldsmobile Engineering and turned into W30s with all of the special 442 parts.

Mondello’s car was originally a project car for Popular Hot Rodding magaine. Another wagon went to Car Life magazine and is believed to have been sold to someone in Japan. Mondello’s second car was a Jade Green ‘71 Olds 4-4-2 Holiday Sport Coupe with 497 hp and 530 lbs.-ft. of torque.

Mondello had a deal with Spike TV to film a full, complete half-hour feature on the Mondello Tech Center do a step-by-step rebuild of a 455-cid Olds engine. They approached the build as something that a guy could do, at home, in his own garage, but the result was a high-performance engine that produced 456 hp and 537 lbs.-ft. of torque on 92-octane gas.

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One thought on “Engine builder, hot rodder Joe Mondello dies

  1. James Finlaw

    I have a 68 455 that I want to be built. It has only 50,000 miles on it. I would like rough price price to totaly update the motor to what the best motors out today would have. I want it to still fit under the hood with the H/O scoop. Everything computerized and all electric items such as water pump, fans exc.. I m by no mens even a rookie at designing the entire system. I have the #1 engine block produced for olds and the best heads made from the factory. I dont know if you sell all computerized crate engines with twin turbos. I have looked over the years for a aluminuim block. I dont know if mondello produces a light weight block like that and I also seen the 455 hemi. I also heard of way to turn of cylinders from 8 to 6 to 4. I know its being done but I do not know how bad on the engine it would be. I am wanting it to produce up to 1000 HP and the torque that would turn a factory fram like a pretzel. I want to have a 455 with a system that is hooked right in to the computer with an Ipad screen to monitor and adjust everything. I was always looking for a blower that I n produce the HP and still fit under the hood. As you read I built the rest o the car with a body that was welded to jack stands in a hospital that the speedo only has 1,323 miles on it. The car set inside the hospital sense 1969 and used as a theropy uses to help teach people how to get back in a car again. Like from a wheel chair nd other situations. Till this day it hs been in a clean,dry,warm area. It is like it came off the line. I have ll the paperwork and the vin numbers and the id plate on the fire wall yet for some reason they removed the vin plate out when they denoted it but I still have the warrente papers lmao I think they were usein it to test mabey even the hurst or the w 30’s. dont know 100% becuse the paper work with the numbers is so faded so I am going to have to find a way to bring the numbers out clearer. If you have any info on who to call about history and vin number information I sure would be thankfull. and 1 last question would you go with? I was planing with an Art Morrison after market frame or do you know some one that builds better or equal at a better price. Arts are 17,000 with the works so to speak. No matter what I will be
    be useing all your products and blueprinting exc. I come across an old catalog that is about 20 years old I think. Could I get sent a new catalog so I can see what you guys have developed in 2 decades my address is 2252 greenville rd, Cortland, Ohio 44410. I will need your help, work done an all the parts and building it selling what I have and buy and have you guys design setup.
    the whole.
    Thank you so much for your time and guidence to find out the end product and what I should use what I have or crate.


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