Tom Trunzo's twin-turbo small block-powered '59 Customline is a classic cruiser with a ton of grunt
This article on Tom's Customline was originally published in the June 2017 issue of Street Machine
I’M CONSTANTLY amazed at the level of investment and perfection some people are prepared to commit to their cars. Race cars have always stretched the boundaries, but lately the build quality and engineering behind everyday street cars is like nothing I have ever seen.
Late-model cars are halfway there straight off the showroom floor, with EFI and modern fuel and ignition systems, but it’s cars like Tom Trunzo’s Australian-delivered 1959 Ford Customline that stand out in the crowd.
Tom’s Cusso has had a number of motors. Initially it was a V8-delivered car that had a mild Windsor, then a 4V Clevo combination that pushed the car into the mid-12s over the quarter.
His long friendship with fellow racer and engine builder Elvio Gonzales led Tom towards big-block power, after seeing how well Elvio’s old big-block Capri went. So when the old Clevo legged it, it was time to step up.
“Tom really wanted the big-block; something tough,” Elvio says. “Then there was talk of it being a family car – something his kids or the missus could drive – and at that point I wanted him to reassess things. I steered him towards a small-block with twin turbos, so that when he handed it on to the kids we could dial it back, not worry about noise, heat and fumes, and still have it as a sensible family car that he could do the odd wedding in.”
With the high cost of quality components, it took five years to get it all together. With a ‘do it once, do it right’ attitude, they started with a Dart Iron Eagle 9.5in-deck-height block, with a Magnum XL 4.1in-stroke crank, Howard extreme-duty 1500hp-rated conrods, and flat-top forged slugs, for a capacity of 445ci.
The cam is a Comp hydraulic-roller with over .600in lift, while the balancer and flexplate are from ATI. A big-arse Moroso oil pan keeps eight litres of oil circulating, and the engine is topped with 240cc Trickflow high-port heads with oversized Manley valves (shorter than standard to suit the hydraulic-roller) with PAC springs and Harland Sharp shaft-mounted rockers.
The intake is an Edelbrock four-barrel, specific to the heads, with a single carb elbow and an LS2 fly-by-wire throttlebody. Ignition comes from a set of LS coils with the distributor replaced by an AEM sensor to index top dead centre. The valvetrain is completed by bullet-proof, home-grown Jet Engineering pushrods, matched to Crower lifters. Shane’s Chassis, in Sydney’s south, took care of the plumbing, as well as the turbo manifolds and all the plumbing to the front-mounted intercooler.
Instead of big-dollar turbos, Elvio has elected to run with twin eBay GT42s, units he has had great success with. The wastegates are a set of Turbosmart 50mm Pro Gates with a same-brand blow-off valve.
Norm Alavanos built a stout Powerglide for the package, and it’s swinging a Converter Shop six-bolt, nine-inch torque converter.
The fuel system is pretty serious too, with three in-tank Walbro pumps in a custom cell, plumbed to an Aeromotive rising-rate regulator and ID2000 injectors.
“We are setting the car up with 1000rwhp on E85, and will have a tamer street tune for pump gas,” Elvio says. “We are mindful that the car has to be a good all-rounder for the family, and know it’s going to run into the low nines with ease; probably much quicker.
“With the MoTeC M130 ECU we can dial back the power to whatever we want and the system has all the bells and whistles, from GPS speed in the seven-inch data dash, traction control, fuel flex sensor input and a bunch of other features.”
Even though this car is all-steel and full trim, the boys hope that it will come in under 3500lb with Tom in the pilot seat. With over 20psi of boost pumping through this mega small-block, it’s bound to be one hell of a ride.