Mario Rillotta’s injected big-block Corvette

What's better than a customised Corvette? An injected big-block customised Corvette

Mario Rillotta's Corvette C3
Photographers: Geoff Paradise

Dreams of many but one realised by very few. Adelaide businessman Mario Rillotta has seen his dream come true, his Corvette being the culmination of a series of bitumen-burners that have led to this fast piece of glass.

First published in the Feb/Mar 1982 issue of Street Machine

Sure, it has a 454, four-on-the-floor and a lot more such as extensive body modifications, wild paint and Enderle fuel injection; but at no small cost — try $30 000 — and the spending isn’t finished yet, with another two grand being allocated for underside detailing, a repaint and a new exhaust system.

“l want a Corvette I can put in any show and one that will earn me a trophy.” Powerful words from the unimposing manager of the El Rio Pizza Bar and distributor and manufacturer of “My Secret” cosmetics. Mario’s not doing too bad for starters with the Corvette earning “First Street Mild Custom” at the 1981 Adelaide Hot Rod Spectacular where the car made its somewhat rushed debut.

But the show scene is a long way from Mario’s initial introduction to hot cars. At 16 years of age Mario had a supercharged Holden EH running at the old Brooksfield dragstrip. Next up came something a little hotter — a six cylinder HB Torana. That was sold to make way for a 390ci Mustang fastback. An XY GT converted to Phase lll specs was the next car and (dare we say it) an MGB.

The Corvette was spotted in a local Adelaide car yard so Mario traded in both the GT and the sporty car and drove home in the Corvette.

The car needed nothing more than a repaint, but like many projects it was at this point that all good intentions were ignored completely. “I thought I’d go all out for a different look,” said Mario.

“It was a chain reaction, I fell in love with Truespoke wires, and putting 10 inch rims on the back meant I needed four inch flares.” The front wires are eight inches wide which also entailed an extra two inches being spliced into the front glass panels.

The next area tackled by Mario and panel shop proprietor, (now business partner) Al Gallagher, was the front end. The original pop-up lights were discarded to clean up the engine bay. Four Datsun Stanza lights have taken their place behind the modified egg-crate grille.

An extra two and a half inches was added to the front end, with the front spoiler being moulded into the pan and front guards. A functional A9X bonnet scoop gives a power bulge appearance as it serves its function of protecting the eight stubby chromed injector stacks. The bonnet itself has been extended six inches, eliminating the vacuum operated windscreen-wiper panel.

For practical purposes a fastback window has been added, allowing Mario’s two young children to ride in the back with headroom to spare and a little comfort. The rear bumpers were removed, with the final body change being the rear spoiler increased in height by one inch. Interior comforts run to rust coloured velour trim over standard seats and interior panels — expertly handled by friend Charlie Vignali.

Before Al Gallagher applied his spray-gun wizardry (he also painted Trevor Cass’s “Starfire” EH) the Corvette was taken back to a bare shell and areas like the firewall were smoothed and generally tidied up.

The striking paint is a special mix of blue and red pearlescent mixed in Acran clear combined with red candy.

The spectacular results proved to be a problem combination with any dust specks leaving dark spots on the base as the coats were built up. To anyone but the owner the result is perfection. Mario says the car is going to be completely resprayed.

For power Mario had the ultimate in yank-based GM muscle motors — the big-block 454. But that alone just wasn’t enough, “l wanted something to make the car both eye catching and quicker,” he said. A blower was purchased but shelved when a suitable street manifold couldn’t be quickly located, leaving Mario to opt for the second best — injection.

In fact his heart was so set on a huffer that he had Max Bowman Engines do a complete rebuild on the 454 to suit a 6:71. Max bored the block 60-thou’, fitted flat-top TRW pistons, TRW rings and a Crane cam. The rods are standard and the entire assembly has been balanced.

The heads are large chamber items and run Crane double valve springs with stock valves. The pushrods are standard while the rocker arms are of the roller variety.

A game man is Mario running constant flow Enderle injection on the street, but numerous sorting sessions have ironed out many problems that were encountered initially. The pill size in the pump is down to a 154, while the nozzle jets are currently 20s with a set of 18s on order to hopefully cure occasional loading up. A tap under the dash is used immediately the motor is switched off to stop the petrol flow into the fuel pump.

A small 12 mm Gilmour belt drive supplies motivation from the crankshaft pulley to the pump which is mounted low down on the left side of the motor, Gearing is 2:1. The radiator top tank has been modified to accept the two hoses from the injection manifold.

The end result is a tractable performance car that has performance plus with Mario adding that the only way the injection will come off is if the blower goes on. Backing up the motor is a close ratio four-speed gearbox and Schieffer clutch and pressure plate.

The suspension has been dropped two inches all round with the rear transverse spring reset to add to the car’s low slung appearance. When asked if such expensive cars are worth it, both in the initial cost and the countless hours in bringing them up to first class show condition, Mario was quick to answer with an emphatic yes!

“They bring back your youth,” replied Mario. “If you like good-looking, fast cars the Corvette has to be the ultimate.” Plus, he added, it’s an ideal avenue for future promotions of “My Secret” cosmetics.

He did admit that his next car will be a Rolls. “It’s not as fast as the ‘vette but it has a bit more room for the wife and kids.”