Sandwiched between the Halibrand magnesium wheels you’ll find a detailed ’67 Corvette IRS
Norm Grabowski set the rodding world on fire in the early ’50s with the design and development of his Lightning Bug T-bucket (which later evolved into the legendary Kookie T), inspiring hot rodders worldwide. The T-bucket offered a radical new platform combining a compact body and chassis capable of allowing builders to infuse a maximum dose of horsepower between the ’rails. Over the decades there have been a number of inspirational T-buckets created, covering a multitude of build styles from mild to wild.
One of the most evil, known as “Sunkist,” came from Randy Bianchi in the early ’70s. Sunkist featured a radical rake with a heavily chopped windshield, hinged convertible top, deep-seated interior, and a tunnel ram–fed, dual-quad big-block Chevy spinning a pair of magnesium Halibrand wheels capped with huge Goodyear slicks. The killer combination quickly became well known while racking up the miles attending rod runs from coast to coast. This all laid the groundwork for two hot rodders to become influenced by its spell. The late Willy Donato of North Bergen, New Jersey, was so taken with Sunkist that he actually set forth to work with Bianchi in the creation of his very own fire-breathing complementary car known as “Moonkist” in 1979. The pair of cars fast became legendary on the rodding scene each with its own unique features, causing pulses to race wherever they were. The other young rodder, Rich Hoefling of Wayne, New Jersey, never forgot the first ride he received in Sunkist with Bianchi at the wheel, lighting the fire deep in his mind of what a truly badass hot rod felt like. It wasn’t till years later in 1997 when Rich and his wife, Sharon, were searching for a new project that they came across Moonkist for sale. The car had languished for some time after leaving the care of Donato, as evidenced by its poor condition, non-running engine, and need for a full restoration. Undaunted by the condition, a deal was made and the car was towed back to their home shop. After evaluating it, they contacted Bianchi to enlist his expertise in helping them restore Moonkist to its original glory, which included a few updates.
To shake the ground nothing works better than a wicked 468ci triple quad-fed V-8 topped wi
To get started, the T was fully disassembled and laid out for review. The original Bianchi chassis had stood the test of time and was still in great condition, needing only to be freshened up. The rock-solid base was fabricated from a stretched and modified Total Performance unit with 1-1/2x3-inch rectangular tubing, including custom crossmembers, and a 101-inch wheelbase. Planting it to the ground, a ’67 Corvette IRS filled with 4.10:1 gears was set in place, complemented by Bianchi-fabbed control arms and traction bars accented by a transverse leaf spring. Up front it’s all business with a 4-inch dropped chromoly tube axle anchored suicide-style with a set of custom-fabbed hairpins, ’49-53 Chevy spindles, and transverse leaf spring to soak up the bumps in the road. To stop the mighty beast, fluid pushes through a Wilwood dual reservoir master to stainless lines with a pair of 12-inch Corvette rotors and four-piston calipers out back. Donato originally worked with Bianchi to dial in the spine and also give it a hard-core rake, thanks to a set of signature rollers. Out back 15x12.5 magnesium Halibrand wheels were capped with 33x18.5-15 Mickey Thompson ET Street slicks while up front the original Hallcraft wires were swapped in favor of magnesium Halibrand spokes topped with Firestone P135/78R14s. With the original engine in disrepair, Rich worked with friend Steve Sissman to bring back its thump. Built by engine master Tony Feil it was packed with a speed shop full of goods, including a pair of Feil-prepped aluminum heads. A magnesium Cragar intake and GMC 6-71 blower topped with a rare Weiand magnesium carb adapter plate and a trio of Carter AFB 500-cfm carbs sets the car apart from the rest. The engine performed flawlessly for 10 additional years, but by 2008 it terrorized the streets for the last time. Rich wasted no time in contacting Ron Ross at Simonek Performance in Wyckoff, New Jersey, to assemble a fresh ground-pounding 700hp V-8 we’re sure Willy would have been proud of. A ’70 Corvette 454ci big-block was punched to 468 ci and filled with a Callies crank linked to Callies H-beam rods and Diamond 8.5:1 pistons. For plenty of shake, a COMP Cams hydraulic roller cam was added to complement the freshened-up original Tony Feil aluminum heads while COMP Cams valvesprings and roller rockers complete the mix. Topside, an updated Mooneyham 6-71 huffer was perched on the original Cragar intake with a trio of Edelbrock 500-cfm carbs catching their breath once the Vertex magneto is sparked. Spent gases get dumped through a set of custom baffled zoomies while power moves rearward through the original-rebuilt ’68 TH400 by Andy Transmission of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, linked to a Donato-fabbed 21-inch driveshaft.
Nothing says “I’m here to party” like a Mooneyham 6-71 huffer topped with a trio of Edelbr
With the rolling chassis oozing endless attitude, Bianchi worked with Donato to channel the body (of unknown lineage), chop the windshield, and lay out the flip top. Donato did all of the bodywork and laid down the mile-deep PPG black lacquer, which stood the test of time quite well with only the vibrant orange pinstriping needing to be touched up. Outfitting the business office required a bit of trickery to allow driver and passenger to sit deep within the tiny confines in relative comfort yet also achieve the correct look. To do this, Donato fabricated the seat, which was covered in pleated orange Naugahyde. During the restoration, Rich had Gillin Custom Design in Middletown, New York, recreate the original pattern in matching orange Naugahyde, along with the addition of black Mercedes square-weave carpet. The original wood dash was restored and filled with Stewart-Warner dials to monitor the vitals while a Volkswagen steering box navigates the course and a custom shifter grabs the gears.
Rich and Sharon would like to thank all those involved in the restoration, along with family friend Jim Mullen for all their hard work. This is one Street Shaker that has made an impact over the years, easily earning its place in the history books!
Gillin Custom Design redid the original vibrant orange Naugahyde interior, while the origi
The Importance of Spring Pressure
When running the FAST EZ-EFI, be sure that there are no exhaust leaks. A vehicle with a collector gasket leak may cause the EZ-EFI to run less efficiently because the O2 sensor will pick up fresh air. Properly functioning gaskets will lead to optimal EFI performance.
Timing, then Tuning
When running an Inglese EFI system, be sure to set the initial distributor timing between 12 and 14 degrees depending on engine compression before tuning. Setting the timing too low or too high will throw off the tune.
COMP Performance Group
Check spring pressure on a regular basis. Weak springs will cause lifter bounce and premature lifter failure.
Watch for Exhaust Leaks