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Joe Mondello, Cylinder Head Legend, Engine Builder Columnist, Dies
Joe Mondello, known to the racing and performance industry as “Mr. Oldsmobile” and a genius regarding cylinder head porting, has died. He was 75 years old.
A regular contributor to Engine Builder magazine for several years, Mondello is one of the few automotive aftermarket legends to not only set benchmarks in the industry in every decade since the 1950s, but to eagerly share his knowledge with students. Until very recently, Mondello continued to hold regular classes at the Mondello Technical Center in Crossville, TN.
Mondello’s Posi-Flow® design combustion chamber was the first and only combustion chamber design that created a swirl, and Mondello was fond of saying “Now we know why my heads ran so much better than all the others.” Mondello’s design is a lung shape that’s pulled back on the intake side to swirl the air and fuel across the spark plugs and keep it swirling out the exhaust port. He created the open chamber big block Chevrolet combustion chamber and piston well before the car manufacturer. The design is still utilized more than 40 years later by many leading cylinder head manufacturers.
Mondello was the first high-performance manufacturer in the 1960s to create a national parts distribution program for hardcore racing parts, with nationwide stocking distributors carrying all types of Mondello Posi-Flow small block and big block Chevrolet racing cylinder heads that were out-of-the-box ready to run.
In 1966 and 1967, Mondello won IHRA Comp Eliminator titles back-to-back with his injected gas and fuel A Altered. From ’68 through ’70 the Mondello Matsubara blown fuel altered became the fastest altered of its era turning in an ET of 7.24 at 213 MPH at the 1969 Indianapolis U.S. Nationals, proving that a 427 Chevrolet wedge engine could set the NHRA record. This won the fuel altered class and was runner-up in Comp Eliminator. The record remained on the books for ten years before the class was dropped by NHRA. In 1968, Mondello won Car Craft Magazine’s “Engine Builder of The Year” award and in 1969 won Crew Chief of The Year. In 1969, Mondello was a factory-backed racer for Oldsmobile and set two NHRA records.
1972 saw Mondello set a national record in SS/JA at 11.47 @ 119.53 mph, won Super Stock at the Winternationals, and runner up in Super Stock Eliminator. In 1978, Mondello set 19 speed records in three years in Drag Boat Racing. Joe competed in Super Jet, Modified Jet, Comp Jet, and Super Comp Jet with a 95-pound young woman at the helm.
In 1996 he was inducted into Hot Rod Magazine’s Hall of Fame as one of 100 innovators in racing and in 1997 he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from Super Flow Corporation for his contributions to the high performance industry; the eighth person to do so. On September 28, 2002 Joe was awarded Manufacturer Of The Year as he was inducted into the Dry Lakes Racing Hall of Fame as a life member.
Mondello’s involvement with land speed records went all the way to Bonneville and the countless other dry lakes in and around California. In addition, Mondello rewrote record books in drag racing, hill climbing, road racing, junior drag racing and karting, and marine racing series.
Mondello invented, developed or refined a number of new high performance machining and lubricating products for the aftermarket and OEM industry, and they continue to be available from a variety of mjor warehouses and through Mondello Technical School.
In addition to his engine expertise, Mondello was known as a gourmet chef and skilled vintner. His winery in Paso Robles, CA, consistently produced high quality wines.
He is survived by his wife, Mary, and a grateful performance aftermarket.
Funeral arrangements are at Hood Funeral Home, 2371 Hwy 127, Crossville, TN, 38555 (take exit 317 off Interstate 40) Friday 1-8 p.m. and Saturday 1-6 p.m.; viewing in Los Angeles with service and interment at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA in the Chapel of The Risen Christ Tuesday, April 12 from 3-8 p.m. with Rosary at 6:30 p.m. and Mass on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
Joe is survived by his wife Mary, four children Bernard Mondello, Stephanie Mondello, Gina Ozanne, and Nica Mondello-Gomez and four grandchildren, Nicole Mondello, Ross Ozanne, Adam and Joey Gomez.
Those wishing to donate in Joe’s memory in lieu of flowers can do so to two of Joe’s favorite charities:
St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital
P.O. Box 1000, Dept 142
Memphis, TN 38148
(mark check “For direct care of children”)
Or to the Quarter Mile Foundation
6210 Beverly Avenue
Parma Hts., OH 44129