The image of drag racers Beebe & Mulligan is that they are always the Top Fuel runnerup at big meets. They set new strip records wherever they go, often set top time and low e.t. as well, and wind up runnerup in heartbreaking circumstances.
John Mulligan isn't the biggest driver in drag racing, either in stature or in reputation, but he's double dangerous- in all but the final round it seems. The horsepower that Tim Beebe pulls out of a Chrysler, John puts to the ground with a professional touch, yet the textbook is no good for them when the money's up.
A close look at the substance and experiences of "Zookeeper" Mulligan, an Irish racer from Garden Grove, California, reveals that the frequent "close, but no cigar" finishes were leading to an eventual breakthrough-the 1969 Winternationals victory.
He had his
first taste of racing around a neighbor's midget car, but couldn't
drive until he was 21 without his parent's permission, so he
leaned to drag racing. His first experience was with a typical
"weekend wonder" car, a fuel-burning Chevrolet with
carbs in a '36 Willys coupe. It ran 106 at Long Beach.
Mulligan's first consistent driving experience was 1964-65 stint that began with Beebe Bros, roadster (above) and moved to Ward and Wayre fuelers. Their "Longshot" (top) was a colorful part of Southern California dragster action that made Mulligan a top contender. Seen with mechanic John Garrison (above), young "Mo" was rejoicing after big $750 win in "Longshot." Shorter team car, the "Bigshot," (below) broke into sevens during 1965 to put Mulligan in the limelight.
The winter of 1963-64 saw the debut of the famous Ward and Wayre car, the "Bigshot." The Chevy-powered Woody chassis was only 138" long, but soon turned into an e.t. terror with Mulligan at the wheel. The first weekend the car produced an 8.50-187-a preview of things to come. Running with the Chevy for about a month to check everything out, they switched to Chrysler, and not long after the debut of the "Bigshot," another car was entered, this one some 155" long called the "Longshot." John was beginning to get recognition, if only because the team had two beautiful fuelers and the setup was the first of the double or multiple rigs that are seen today.
He suffered his worst accident late in 1964 when the "Bigshot" made a pass into the sand at Long Beach after the chute ripped off and the brakes gave up, and the severe bouncing broke John's back, requiring 45 days in a cast. The cast eventually came off on a Tuesday after weeks of bench racing only, and John was in the race car on Saturday night! He was wearing a back brace, and it took help to get into the car, but he was there.