Frank Zucchi restores Carbajal Piranha

Frank Zucchi restores antique and classic cars in Livermore, CA. One day in 1992, while visiting another body shop in nearby Santa Clara, he spotted a small red car, covered with dirt, sitting under a tractor trailer. After inquiring about the car, he learned that it was an AMT Piranha. The shop owner had purchased it the car in 1973 from a young man, drove it on the street for a while, and then parked it. It had been sitting around the shop ever since.

Frank found Dick Carbajal's Piranha racer sitting underneath a tractor trailer behind
a body shop covered with years of dust and dirt.

Frank was fascinated with the car, and in a short time, had negotiated a price, pulled the car out, and hauled it home. After a good bath, the car looked a 100% better and got a major inspection. Soon it was towed to his workshop in Livermore. After a lot of research, Frank determined that the car was the AMT Piranha racer built by Gene Winfeild for Dick Carbajal that competed in various SCCA events in 1967 & 1968.

After a thorough cleaning, the Piranha racer looked alot better. A close inspection
gave clues to it's origin. Note the stock Piranha windshield.

After the car had been retired from racing, several modifications were performed to make it street-worthy. A Piranha coupe windshield was used to replace the low, wrap-around windscreen, turn signal indicators had been added, and a piece of iron had been added to the rear end as a make-shift back bumper. Also, the original hood, which included a scoop for a front-mounted oil cooler, was replaced with a flat piece of painted plexiglass.

Frank finally got around to working on the car recently. First the body was media blasted to remove the various layers of paint. The body was then removed and the chassis and all other parts disassembled.

Here is the media blasted Piranha racer chassis after the body was removed.
Note the uniquely shaped gas tank behind the right front wheel.

Most of the suspension pieces were powder-coated black, and the rest were cleaned and repainted. Frank tried several types of compounds before finally finding the proper material to repair the broken parts of the plastic body. After all the parts were repaired, the body was sealed and painted the original blue color with information furnished by Gene Winfield. Frank ordered custom decals to match the original graphics.

Frank Zucchi takes the Carbajal Piranha on it's maiden run at Sears Point in California.
Many other races remembered the car and shared their stories with Frank.

The engine was rebuilt and fitted with a single 4-barrel carb. The diagonal brace that had been removed from the roll bar was also restored. A new racing windscreen was soon fabricated and mounted in place. Headers are also being manufactured to match those shown in original photos of the car.

Here is a rear shot of the AMT Piranha racer in the pits at Sears Point.
Note the 4-barrel carb sticking out of the trunk lid.

Two unusual aspects of the car include doors that open downward instead of forward. Both sides are attached with "piano" type hinges along the bottom edge of the door. Also, the opening for the rear engine cover (i.e. trunk lid) is much larger than on the stock version of the car. The large air scoop is then mounted on the top of the engine cover.

Frank finished the car just in time for the Wine County Classic historic races at Sears Point held June 2-4, 2006 where the car made its' debut. The car was also displayed at the Champ Car race in San Jose, CA and competed in the 2006 Monteray Pre-Historic Races.

Frank was invited to display the Piranha in the convention center in San Jose, CA
during the running of the Champ Car street race.

There are a few more refinements needed to get the car up to full speed. Frank plans to work out the details and have it ready for the next series of historic races.

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Page Updated: 2010