Although I had relocated to Garden Grove while still in elementary school, it wasn't until sometime later that I truly appreciated its geographic value. While in high school, along with my fellow junior-hot rodders, I realized we were just a 30, or so, minute drive trom Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach. We were also less than an using back roads) from the L.A County Fairgrounds in Pomona where drag races were held on various Sunday afternoons. An added bonus was that the fairground's drag strip was also the location of the National Hot Rod Association's season-opening Winternationals.
     I began doing photography while on the staff of the student newspaper One day the instructor handed me a camera and said, "go out and shoot some pictures so the girls can get some work done instead of talking with you." After graduating high school I began taking photographs of the drag races, since that combined two of my interests at the time. Fortunately, I displayed some level of talent and I was able to get hooked up with the right people to obtain the necessary passes to shoot from the starting line. Another piece of good fortune was that about a mile, or so, from my parents house was the old downtown section of Garden Grove. Located in an alley and parking lot behind the town's old shopping area stood a modest two-car garage. I believe the garage had a previous life as some type of auto repair or body shop, but at this particular point in time (the early-to-mid-1960s) it was affectionately known as "The Cave," a name bestowed upon it by its cave-master, John "Zookeeper" Mulligan.

     This was the period when Adams, Wayre, and Mulligan were one of the premiere top fuel teams and several evenings a week you could find Mulligan, Gene Adams and various assorted drag racers at The Cave bench racing and twisting wrenches. John Mulligan was one of the most endearing individuals you could ever meet. He loved to tell stories about his personal experiences and he could find humor in almost everything.
     Mulligan had moved to Garden Grove while still in high school. One of his neighbors and classmates after the move was Frank Fedak and the two shared an immediate interest in cars and auto racing. As Fedak recalls, John was into circle track racing at that time, both cars and motorcycles. Frank Fedak was into drag racing so each introduced the other to their favorite pastime. From that early age John Mulligan was very clear on what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to be a racer. He wasn't sure if it would be circle cars, motorcycles, or drag racing, but he saw racing as his future.
     John's ride at this time was a 1940 Ford with a full-race flathead engine. In order to pay for upkeep on the '40 Mulligan would get up early in the morning so he could drive one of his father's milk delivery routes before attending his high school classes. One morning John was pretty tired and he happened to fall asleep behind the wheel of the milk truck. Sound asleep, Mulligan fell out the open door of the truck while climbing a freeway overpass pass. As John explained it, there he was asleep in the street and his father was behind him in another milk truck honking the horn trying to wake him up. His father, Sam, was afraid that the driver-less milk truck would start to roll backward down the overpass and run John over!
     At this same period of time Frank Fedak had teamed with another high school friend, Tim Beebe, and together they had built a steel-bodied Fiat altered in which they installed a blown Cadillac engine. The Caddy engine was soon replaced by a blown small-block Chevy, but after a while Tim bought out Franks interest in the engine and installed it in a 1957 Chevy gasser while Fedak built a dragster chassis. In 1963 John Mulligan purchased the Fiat (his first drag strip ride) and Tim Beebe decided to join him. The team of Beebe and Mulligan campaigned the blown-Chevy powered Fiat for a couple of seasons running under the  sponsorship and colors of Roy Johnson's J&S Speed Center in nearby Westminster. At this time there was a dirt track racer named John Melinga who was making a name for himself. As it turned out his name was so big that John's friends decided to share it with Mulligan and started calling him "Melinga" also.
     By late 1964 John Mulligan had gone to work for local Garden Grove used car dealer and drag racer, Jack Wayre.
      By this time Wayre had teamed with local barber and fellow drag racer Glen Ward, and the team of Ward and Wayre assembled two full-bodied top fuel dragsters, one powered by a blown Chrysler, the other, a shorter wheel-base car, featuring a blown Chevrolet. At first, Ward drove the Chrysler, while Mulligan drove the Chevy-car. With the added weight of its full body, John affectionately called this dragster "The Bismark." Wayre was not as fond of this nickname as John, so Mulligan was careful to do this when Jack Wayre was within earshot. Within a short time Ward and Wayre split up, and Jack Warye then teamed with Gene Adams on a light-weight, Chrysler-powered top fueler, driven of course by John Mulligan.
     This was the time when drag racing drivers were affectionately nicknaming themselves after various animals, birds, reptiles and insects. First there was Tom "Mongoose" McEwen and Don "Snake" Prudhomme followed by Steve "Mandrill" Carbone, among others. John Mulligan decided that the only person, place, or thing that had control over all the animals was "The Zookeeper," so he became John "Zookeeper" Mulligan, AKA "John the Zoo," or just "Zoo," just as McEwen's close friends refer to him as "Goose."
     The Adams and Wayre Woody car originally had a shorty Hanna body painted black, but after some repair work it was taken back to George Cerny's paint shop and stripes were placed front-to-back in shades of blue. The paint scheme was simple, but beautiful and the car was always a standout. Next month we will revisit the exploits of Adams, Wayre, and John "The Zookeeper" Mulligan and John's tragic last ride, the Beebe and Mulligan "Fighting Irish" top fueler.

Reprinted from the Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette

Blast From The Past - Part 2


Always a Bridesmaid  ||  AA Fabulous  || The Fleeting Irish 
 Salute to the Top Rail  ||  Baddest of the Bad  ||  Wounded Elephant 
Beebe & Mulligan 1968  ||  Beebe & Mulligan 1969 
Mulligan - Early Years  ||  Mulligan - NHRA  ||  Tim Beebe
Lubriplate Ad  ||  Blast from the Past

Reproduction  ||  2000 Debut  ||  First Fire-up  ||  2001 Paint & Present 
Oldies Honored  ||  2004 CHRR  ||  2005 CHRR  ||  2006 CHRR  ||  Fan Mail
Beebe & Mulligan 2007 CHRR Video

Beebe & Mulligan at 2008 Goodwood Festival of Speed

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