After 30 years of building kustoms and hot rods Mario Colalillo needed a new challenge. The aim was to build the biggest, lowest, “baddest” kustom car with absolutely no limitations. And the result was the WILDCAD.
Mario stayed true to the original plan of fabricating his own mono construction chassis: “It all started to evolve after TJ at Camden County Customs chopped a serious five inches out of it and grafted the body to the chassis”, Mario explains, “I drew up plans for a full metal, hand-sculptured interior with the idea of a ’59 fin incorporated into the console and being used as an interior light. Even the roof lining is metal, using another ’59 roof as the headliner.” The donor car – a 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville – was found in the corner of an old friend’s workshop. “It sat on three wheels, had no front sheet metal, no motor, no interior, and the roof had been cut off and was leaning against a fence. It was perfect.”
With a build as serious as the WILDCAD, there were a handful of moments throughout it that Mario entertained the idea of pulling the plug on the project. However, he channelled the determination and commitment that blossomed as a 17-year-old – inspired by Hot Rod magazines from the US and Australia – and soldiered on. “My lovely wife Catriona was always an inspiration, showed 100% support throughout the hard times and still does,” Mario says. “I’m lucky because she is a car girl and has some awesome ideas and does all the pin-striping.”
In fact, the entire family has supported Mario through the WILDCAD adventure and has always been there to cheer him on. His son Andy has always helped with his projects, including the WILDCAD, which proved Mario’s ultimate challenge. He says he’s blessed to have the best bunch of bro mates who are always there for him and lucky to have “the greatest in-laws in the world”. In a compliment of the highest order, about four years ago, Mario was asked to join the Beatniks of Koolsville car club. “It’s a strictly invite-only policy and after building many cars and doing many road trips I was given my colours, which I am very proud to wear”, Mario beams.
The Beatniks are a selective worldwide organisation – their philosophy is ‘Applications not taken – We may contact you’ – and the club’s constitution states that members must be automotive artists, heavily tattooed and able to do the mileage. Interestingly, James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica, is a Beatniks member.
Through the Beatniks – more specifically, Little Mick, the Australian president – Mario was introduced to Gene Winfield many years ago. Quite simply, Gene has established himself as one of the premier customisers and car builders in the world. His innovative styling ideas and quality of work sees his reputation precede him, and he was even commissioned to build custom cars for Hollywood films including Blade Runner, Robocop and Back to the Future II. “I stayed in contact with Gene and kept him up-to-date with the WILDCAD build. As it evolved we made plans for him to come to Australia and create history with his first ever paint project Down Under” Mario explains. “It was extremely important to me for Gene to let his creativity flow throughout the painting process. We have a very close friendship these days. In fact, Gene Winfield is like a family member, we keep in contact all the time.”
As the WILDCAD was moments away from being unveiled at MotorEx 2010 the crowd was 10 rows deep and buzzing with anticipation. “They were blown away with the bitchin’ stance, paint, interior and overall impact, but when I operated the remote-controlled doors, boot and bonnet, they were totally f*cked over!” Mario exclaims. “MotorEx is the biggest and best show in the country. To win the Pinnacle Award for Custom Cruiser means the world to me, and recognition from this show is extremely satisfying.” When Mario and the crew drove the car to the weighbridge station for registration, he says onlookers “just drooled as if it flew in from outer space”. Mario and the WILDCAD received a similar reaction at the Long Beach Motorama in California – “It was an awesome event and the Yanks could not get enough of the WILDCAD. The American custom car builders were constantly talking to me about the creation and were very impressed.”
“MotorEx is the biggest and best show in the country. To win the Pinnacle Award for Custom Cruiser means the world to me, and recognition from this show is extremely satisfying.” The WILDCAD has since been part of the PPG display at The SEMA Show as well, winning the General Motors Design Award and helping PPG get the nod for the best display of SEMA. Longbeach Motorama, the WILDCAD also won one of 18 D’Elegance awards and was presented with a Master of Kustoms jacket.
At the time this issue of FreeStyle Rides went to press, the WILDCAD was residing at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, with the hope of doing a few more shows in the US. “The whole experience was rewarding for everyone,” says Mario. “This project has created friends for life.” He also admits that if someone offered him the right dollars, it’s a possibility the WILDCAD could go to a new home. Get those chequebooks ready, folks…
AND IN THE END…
Having undertaken such a monumental project, Mario was a changed man upon the completion of his ride. “I learnt that co-ordinating and planning the project are as instrumental as having a good network of friends and highly skilled tradesmen”, says Mario Colalillo, “Dedication and patience are a must, along with allowing for the fudge factor.
OWNER: Mario Colalillo
VEHICLE: 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville
ENGINE: Chevy 454 big block
TRANSMISSION: Turbo 400 auto
SUSPENSION: Four-link 9-inch rear-end; Jaguar front-end; Slam Specialties airbag suspension
WHEELS: Radir 15×7-inch wheels with knock-offs; Coker whitewalls
PAINT & BODY: PPG Vibrance paint (Liquid Crystal, Flamboyance and PRLX Crystal Pearl); custom flames and pin-striping; chopped roof; 1955 Desoto grille, 1955 Cadillac chrome dagmars; suicide doors; reverse-opening hood; custom glass
INTERIOR: Ford Thunderbird front and rear seats trimmed in white leather; oversized billet steering wheel; custom fabricated and painted dash, panels, console and headlining; 1959 Chevrolet gauge cluster; Classic instruments; 1959 Cadillac tailfin grafted into centre console
BRAKES: Jaguar rotors; Wilwood booster and master cylinder
THANK YOU: My wife Catriona, my son Andy, my family, Brian and Joe from Just Car Smash, Johnny H from PPG, TJ from Camden County Customs, and anyone who’s been involved in the WILDCAD build.
Story: Elias Velis
Photography: Shane Monopoli