After a small hiatus from the modified car world, Bruno Gianoncelli is back and building turn-key cars for customers at his shop – Rod & Kustom Garage (RKG) in Malaga. I got to shoot the car at this stage last year, in 2018.
Bruno is best known for his incredible creation Mercules – a radically different take on a Mercury custom. The car was an instant show-stopper when it was built back in the 2000s. It attracted non-stop crowds at the 2007 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, and it even won the coveted Custom Sweepstakes ‘Best Custom’ Trophy at Blackie Gejeian’s invitation-only Fresno Autorama, in 2008. In Australia, the car cleaned up at both Summernats and MotorEx, being recognised as one of the most polarising and influential cars of its time.
The first big project for the shop belongs to Bruno’s brother – Ronald. The EH station wagon is known as Legacy and for a good reason too. “The car was bought brand new by my father in 1964. Me, my brother and my sister all came home from hospital in it, and we all learnt to drive in it as well. My father passed away when I was 5, so that’s almost 42 years ago. Then mum drove it until about 1985, and then it was handed down to my brother who drove it for a couple of years and then parked it up.”
“It was only recently that Ron had the urge to rebuild the car, and initially, it was going to be a full-blown, resto back to factory specs. After we did some additions, I showed him that a restoration was still going to cost big bucks and it wasn’t going to be that exciting to drive at all. The more talking I did, the more he came around to my way of thinking,” laughed Bruno.
Truth be told, all it took was one major modification for the build to ‘slightly’ blow out. “I first worked on making a one-piece electric tailgate with flush fitting glass. That looked good, so then I moulded the bumper in, lowered the beaver panel to accommodate the exhaust outlets, and then the rear wheel openings were shifted back slightly and down 130mm,” explained Bruno.
Bruno has also worked his magic on moulding the front bumper to match the rear, the front sheet metal has been lowered, and a custom roll pan added. Like the rear, the guards have copped some massaging to fit the American Legend 3-piece 18 x 9 rear wheels, while the bottom sills of the car have been lowered all round by 120mm.
One look at the side of the car and you know something is up. The rear doors now work in a suicide fashion and are styled with flush-fitting handles. With the doors open you can truly appreciate the interior concept too.
Four HSV bucket seats are split by a custom-made centre console that reaches into a custom-made sheet metal dash. The one-piece hood liner is a standout item as is the paddle shifts on the steering column. The whole interior will be covered in leather, from top to bottom by the talented Matt Gilkes, from Inside Rides in NSW.
“We have gone pretty full-on with the engine bay as we wanted it to look unique. The first idea we ran with was scrapped, and then we have developed the recent look to the motor with the throttle body set- up. Lots of work has gone into making the induction set-up look right,” said Bruno. The flat firewall has been matched to new, rounded inner wheel wells. Bruno still has some tricks under his sleeve for the bay too. The car is set to run an LS1 with some decent power and backed by a 4L60E box with a Gear Vendors overdrive that makes for an 8-speed ‘box!
The underside of the car hasn’t been overlooked either with a flat floor being constructed that allows for the 3-inch exhaust system to run through. Fully welded chassis connectors and strengthened rails add to chassis rigidity. A shortened 9-inch with a 4-link and Wilwood brakes are utilised on the rear with a complete IFS up front.
The plan for the Gianoncelli boys is to have the car completed in time for MotorEX next year. “I like to do all the work on the car in-house. Anybody who works on the car comes to the shop and does their thing. I will be doing the same with customer cars, overseeing complete builds to help other people like my brother achieve their automotive dreams,” concludes Bruno.
My brother for letting me run with my ideas
Owen Webb – American Legend Wheels & Meguiars
Matt Gilkes – Inside Rides (interior)
Nathan at Quads Mods
Dom at Prestige Exhausts
Jayden Barlow from RKG
Stan from Hicraft Wheelmodz