In the summer of 1969 Tim Beebe made the decision to switch from the old style 392 Chrysler hemi to the "late model" 426 version. He saw that the later engine was gaining a performance advantage in the field and felt they needed to keep pace. The fact that the Michigan based Ramchargers were willing to work with them on the change over also played into Tim's decision. The Ramcharges had been developing the 426 engine in Top Fuel since 1965 and had a handle on it by 1969.

 



OCIR with 426


Flag Start with 426

 


Mulligan vs Ivo at Atco Dragway

 


 

1969 US Nationals in Indianapolis, IN

 


Tim Beebe makes adjustments to the fuel system during a warm-up in the pits.

 


Candid pit shot of Tim beyond the engine and John walking behind the car.

 


Tim helps John get his gear on in the staging lanes.

 


During qualifying, John Mulligan ran the quickest time in drag racing history (6.43) to put him into the # 1 spot for raceday.

 


A bitter sweet photo for sure - Indy, 1969. After running the lowest ET in history on Sunday (6.43), the Beebe & Mulligan car prepares to push up to the staging lanes (below) to meet Tommy Ivo in round one on Monday.
Jay Lamka photo

 

 


This is the last photo ever taken of John Mulligan just before the first round of eliminations. Here he spends some time with "TV Tommy" Ivo who would be in the other lane when John would, at the 1000' mark, experience a violent clutch explosion and fire that resulted in a car destroying crash. Mulligan was thrown from the car alive but was severely burned. He survived for three weeks before succumbing to his injuries.

 


Moe's Last Pass (way out on Ivo)

 


 

The Aftermath & Questions That Followed

This is the story that I have researched through Tim Beebe and several others including Tom Hanna. To begin, realize that there were two cars with similar green striped paint. The first car started out as the Beebe Bros, Vincent and Sixt. It was a homemade chassis by Sam Vincent and the car was driven by Dave Beebe. Around 1967 the car was lengthened by Frank Huszar at Race Car Specialties and a full Hanna body installed as well as the famous green striped paint by George Cerny Jr. It was lettered Beebe & Mulligan and John became the driver. This car was campaigned until the middle of 1968 at which point Woody Gilmore at Race Car Engineering offered to build them a new car for a sweet deal so he could advertise their success. As it was completed and prepared, the old car was sold to Leland Kolb who painted it white and put a 426 engine in it. After a couple of runs at Lions and Irwindale, he pulled the engine out and took the car to Australia where he sold it to Jim Reed. It was raced down under for a time and even painted back to the original green stripes.

It eventually was converted to a rear engine car and before they made a pass, the push car ran up over the back of the car and destroyed it. It was cut up and that was the end of the first car. The 68 Woody car that I replicated made its first competitive runs at the World Finals at Tulsa in Oct of 68. They debuted with top speed and a runner up to Benny Osborne due to losing the clutch. After winning the Winternationals in 69, they went on tour in the spring and late summer. They installed a 426 that was purchased from the Ramchargers by Marv Rifchin of M&H. They ran faster and quicker than the Ramchargers the first weekend with the new engine. Tim and John returned to California for the PDA meet at Orange county and then headed east to resume the tour ending at Indy for the US Nationals. Tim decided not to run the nose on the car since NHRA wouldn't pay any appearance money and he knew that both Garlits and Prudhomme were getting paid. I guess it was his way of boycotting NHRA. As most people know they led qualifying with a 6.43 that was a new record that stood for almost a year. First round against Tommy Ivo, Mulligan was on an even better run that the qualifying run. Tim said they were starting to slip the clutch more and that was leading to some tire shake that they hadn't experienced before.

If there was one thing about this car in retrospect that was not right was the driveline coupler. Instead of the traditional Greek coupler at the rear-end, the B&M car had a conventional u-joint minus the needle bearing cross. The u-joint connection was bolted rigidly by four ¼" bolts. This arrangement worked well up to this point but Tim said they were starting to slip the clutch and that contributed to the record setting e.t. that they qualified with. On the fatefully run, Moe was on an even better run than the previous low qualifying run. From the initial launch the tires started to shake, something that they hadn't experienced before. At about half track the tire shake caused to coupler to break and that took the clutch out and one of the discs cut through the aluminum pan which led to the fire.

The car crashed and an oil & fuel fire burned John severely. John was taken to the Hospital where he appeared to be through the worst of it but died several days later due to kidney failure as a result of infection and complications from the burns to his lungs. After the race, Tim brought the engine and back half of the burned chassis back to Garden Grove. The engine went into McEwen's funny car and the remains of the back half of the chassis ended up at Tom Hanna's shop.

As a footnote, Tim said he never used Hydrazine as has been reported and said that the engine was not hurt during the crash. The nose of the car that was in the trailer during the Nationals also ended up at Hanna's shop where it was eventually cut to try and use part of it to repair Kuhl and Olsen's nose. That front 6-8 inches of the nose eventually ended up with an employee of Tom's who has kept it all these years. He brought it out to the CHRR a few years ago before we finished that car. It is the only original piece of that car that I know exists. He loaned the nose to Bill Carter when he painted the car to match the colors and stripes. The remains of the burned roll cage and what was left of the car sat in Tom's shop for almost a year. They finally cut it up and that was the end of the legend.

I hope this explains a little of the history of this car and dispels some of the stories that have gone around since 1969. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting John Mulligan, I know that he was the genuine article and I've never heard a negative thing said about him. I think that is one of the reasons they were such a popular team. After getting to know Tim Beebe, I can say he is one of the sharpest engine men out there including today's tuners. He is also a very humble, unassuming person who I am very proud to say I know. In building this car I have come to respect both of these guys as the legends they are to this sport.
Commentary from Dave West

 


 

Johnny lived for 17 days and was in terrible pain most of the time. The cause of Johnny's accident was also a clutch explosion. Fragments put a hole in the oil pan about 2" X 1" and fueled the fire which eventually took Moe's life. 1969 was not a good year for Indy top fuel and I've always been thankful I never watched the telecast on Wide World of Sports which ran the crash, almost a first for NHRA. (Back in the 60's and early 70's Wally didn't want crash shots run on television or in the newspapers, trying to keep the image of drag racing clean).
Commentary from Suzy Beebe

 

 

 

 

The death of John "The Zookeeper" Mulligan stunned the drag racing world. He was not only one of the most popular drivers in the business, but was tagged as a sports superstar going into the 1970's. His death was not in vane as several new safety standards were put in place including steel liners in the clutch cans.

To this day John is sorely missed among his peers and fans. It is a fitting tribute to Mulligan and Tim Beebe that Dave West chose their 1969 Winternationals winning car to lovingly recreate and share with the world.

 


This is a scan of the Eulogy read by Tom McEwen at John's funeral. It says it all.





Related Story: The Reproduction


Beebe & Mulligan 1968 Page 1

Beebe & Mulligan 1968 Page 2

Beebe & Mulligan 1969 Page 1


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