Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


April 14, 2011

Joe Mondello

CROSSVILLE — Aug. 6, 1936 — April 6, 2011

Drag racing and the automotive performance aftermarket lost one of its brightest lights, with the passing of Joe Mondello on April 6, 2011. Visitation was held from the chapel of Hood Funeral Home with visitation and services also held in Los Angeles, CA. Burial was held in Holy Cross Cemetery in L.A.

Mr. Mondello was born Aug. 6, 1936, in Los Angeles, CA.

His passion for all things mechanical, and particularly improving cylinder head airflow, led him to a 54 year career as an engine builder, head porter and later, a teacher. His talents led him to work with some of the most notable race teams and fellow engine builders during the 60s and through the turn of the century. He started racing at age 13, and his professional career started in 1951 working on flat-head Fords for his own '40 Ford Coupe for drag racing, as well as for other engine builders.

His talents brought him together with "Sush" Matsubara and the infamous purple Mondello-Matsubara Fiat Topolino blown fuel altered, which won two NHRA National events and is a National speed and e.t. record holder. (The record stands today because the fuel altered class was dropped from drag racing.) GM, Ford Chrysler, AMC - even Honda… his touch improved all of the breed's heads for racing. He was nicknamed

"Dr. Oldsmobile" for his highly successful developmental work on the Olds V-8 engine.

He took on every challenge presented to him - from helping develop the Briggs & Stratton engine for the Junior Dragster and Karting program, to off-road racing engines to off-shore and drag boat racing, as well as road racing (his hands were all over the 1966 LeMans winning Ford GT-40 from Carroll Shelby). His Posi-Flow® heads were on many of Don Garlits' Swamp Rats as well as many other leading racers - drag racing, land speed cars, boats, road racing and circle track cars.

His passion for excellence led to establish the Mondello Technical School in 1996, devoted to teaching the art of professional performance engine building and head porting design to all who came including young men and women who desired a career in the field. The school started in Paso Robles, CA and later moved to Crossville, TN.

His wife Mary says, "Joe's passion was for those young people in the school. He wanted them to understand what it took to be a professional in the shop and in customer relations. He also extended that passion to teaching many of them how to be a 'professional' drag racer. He taught them the technical aspects of their trade (as an engine builder and as a racer) and how to interact with people."

She also said that the Quarter Mile Foundation and the PROJECT 1320 documentary became a major focus of his life for the last year or so. Before his passing, he had begun work on a 555 cubic inch World Products Big Block Chevy engine to be raffled for benefit of the Foundation, and was planning two additional engines. Mary relates how impassioned he was about the PROJECT 1320 effort and the raffle engine. "He said, 'Mary, I did not qualify! I can't finish the PROJECT 1320 engine…I've DNQ'ed.'"

Survivors include his wife Mary, children, Bernard Mondello, Stephanie Mondello, Gina Ozanne and Nica Mondello-Gomez; and grandchildren, Nicole Mondello, Ross Ozanne, and Adam and Joey Gomez.

He was preceded in death by his daughter, Joni.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made, in his memory, to St. Jude's Children Hospital, P.O. Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38448 (mark check "for direct care of children") or to the Quarter Mile Foundation, 6210 Beverly Avenue, Parma Hts., OH 44129.

Hood Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC ( was in charge of the arrangements.


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