FRANK Piccolo made it two in a row for Ford by winning Street Machine of the Year in 1992. Here’s an abridged version of the first feature story on the car, circa July ’92.
Piccolo means ‘small’ in Italian, but there was nothing small about Frank Piccolo’s patience and determination when it came to building this blown, electronically injected XB GT.
Frank jokingly calls himself “a humble fruit merchant” – his best buddies, Peter Capiris and Maurice Fabietti, happen to be a couple of drag racing’s big bananas. So, with those two involved, Frank’s grown one monster wild orange.
Everyone asks me, ‘Why an XB? It’s not a real Falcon GT!’ But this is my second XB GT, and I just like them better than the XWs. Same with the coupes – they might look tougher, but I prefer the four door’s shape.”
The Piccolo family is no piccolo family, and 29-year-old Frank’s numerous brothers, uncles and cousins nearly all run tough Mustangs and Falcons. In the late 70s Frank built up his first XB GT. He used it and cruised it with Melbourne’s drag racing fraternity, drifting out of the car and the show-and-go scene when he got married.
Frank might’ve been out of the street machine scene, with both a business and a family underway, but he hankered for the Falcon flavour once more. It began to fall into place when his brother-in-law called from the motor auctions, reporting a stray XB GT up for $2800.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
Frank sped down there, visions of a blown and tubbed Ford already sprouting in his head. He didn’t like the look of the $2800 car, but as fate would have it, that wasn’t the only XB GT there that day.
“This one had a bit of rust, but it looked straight, had a reconditioned motor, and seemed pretty clean,” Frank recalls. “They wanted $4600 for it.” He promised his wife he wouldn’t touch it for six months, which meant that the next day the XB was over at John Taverna Chassis being poked and prodded.
“It was just the biggest heap of junk we’d ever seen!” Frank laughs. “Rusted out, a total waste of money. They’ve always had problems. The floors don’t rust, but the rest can, and this one had. Con (Herouvin, of Glaz Body Refinishers) said, ‘Dump it. You might appreciate the money that will have gone into it, but nobody else will.” And I said: ‘I’m not building it for anybody else.’
“I’m a stubborn guy. Once something’s in my mind I stick to it. I worry about the consequences later! The body alone was $13,000, but I didn’t want somebody else’s headache. I preferred to have one of my own.”
FIRST THINGS FIRST
When he started out, Frank wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted. The original idea had been a blower, mini-tubs and nice, original paint. With information and inspiration from Peter and Maurice, the XB just grew. Not much bigger, but more beautiful.
Glaz Body Refinishers handled the bodywork, which meant plenty of new panels, bare metal and six coats of Tango Orange Glasurit two-pack. From the outside, the only non-standard bodywork feature was the hole in the bonnet for the blower. Oh, and the sunroof. “I’ve always liked cars with sunroofs,” Frank says.
And that’s where Maurice kept getting Frank all hot and bothered. Using the original 351 Cleveland, Frank already had the heads machined (by Shane Cable and Athol Burns) and the BDS blower bolted up, when he offhandedly mentioned that he might be wanting more horses one day.
Jeez, Maurice had already stacked the Cleveland with plenty of tricknology, like 8:1 Venolia blower pistons with Childs & Albert gapless rings on shot-peened Boss rods. The cam’s a solid Crow unit, bumping Manley chrome-moly pushrods, plus Milodon rockers and stainless Milodon valves in ports you could lose a dog down.
Maurice casually suggested they go for a ride in Peter Capiris’s blown 400 Chev-powered speedboat. Says Frank, “I’m not really into boats, ever since I saw Jaws, but back on dry land I said, ‘Okay. How much?’”
Maurice told him electronic injection was the go, and that his offsider Ian Cleveland was the man to see. Says Frank, “If I’d known what we were taking on…” Clevo rigged up the EFI system – with computer control and twin Bosch pumps. Needless to say, the results were spectacular – the boys expect anywhere between 500 and 700 horses when they get it onto a dyno. Nothing small about that.
That’ll run through a Dominator torque convertor with 3000rpm stall, and a manualised Powerglide. A custom four-inch propshaft takes it down to a nine-inch Detroit locker diff running 3.5:1 on the road or 4.33:1 for the strip. Axles are shortened Ford, and brakes are also standard GT discs with a modified vacuum tank.
The six-leaf rear suspension is lowered by 3.5 inches, the front springs are shortened Lovells items, and adjustable Konis do the damping all round. It rides on suave Simmons wheels, 15x8 up front and 15x12 at the rear, wearing Goodyear Eagles and Mickey Thompsons respectively.
Inside Frank wanted to keep it original – brand new original. “People told me not to go with cloth inserts, but a mate had some original, black Ford cloth and hoodlining he’d got from the States,” Frank explains. The interior trimming was done by Reservoir Motor Trimmers in Melbourne.
The complete build took 10 months, and you just know Frank’s a street machiner when he says, “we look at it now, me and Maurice, and figure there are things we could have done differently… I’ve put everything into this, but next I want to do a Wild Bunch XB, or maybe some big Yankee iron.”
We like it. The guy deals in vegetables, but when it comes to minerals, he’s an animal!
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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