Fan Mail

 

Hi Dave

I am happy to see someone is still celebrating Johnny Mulligans life. Both he and Tim were great people to know and be around.We first met Johnny and Tim at the summer nationals in New Jersey and offered to help them when they were racing here in the east. It was not the “cave” but we provided space for them to maintain and work on the famous Bebee & Mulligan top fuel dragster. We enjoyed helping these guys and our brief friendship as well as with many other racers from the west coast. McEwen, Pruhdomme, and many others hung at our place and carried our company name on their car. The one we were most proud of was on the green car.

Myself (john gaines) and my partner Fausto Marino started Automotive Specialties in Hyattsville, Md. In 1966. We raced top gas for several years with a Dragmaster chassis and converted to top fuel with a Kent Fuller car in 1964. Our last car was a front motor woody Gilmore. Chops was always willing to help with our tune up with which we won several events at Englishtown, atco, new york national, aquasco, cecil co., capitol raceway, ect. Business grew into a monster so we stopped racing and since sold the business. I still see and talk with the snake and mcewen occasionally at a race or the sema show in vegas but I have not heard from tim bebee in over 30 years. I hope he is in good health and would love to hear from him. Thanks.

John Gaines

 


 

Hello Dave,

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm Rik Chidester and I grew up in Southern California (San Diego) and have been a nitro-holic ever since the first few whiffs singed my nostrils, which came out of the "Weed-Sprayer" style headers, of the Croshier-Baltes-Lavato "Old Yeller" AA/FD at San Diego Raceway in Ramona, California.... perhaps 1963 or '64.

Quite by chance, I met Jack Jones in 1965 and began hanging around his garage, as he, along with his partner Ralph Lincoln, were in the final stages of assembling what was to become one of the baddest Junior Fuelers on the planet. I "hung-around" that garage on Chateau Street every night the lights were shining and eventually they got used to this chubby high school kid with a flat-top hair cut with "wings," and red tennies. They began to "let" me wash parts and shine chrome and ask some of the dumbest questions ever. I guess Jack saw potential in me and with the car completed it was off to the legendary Lions Drag Strip in Wilmington. Jack asked me if I wanted to go along and crew with them. It was, as if, we were venturing to far-off OZ to see the Wizard, or something. The event was the Coca-Cola-Radio KFWB (Channel 98) "Drag-Bomp." And we won it! Don't think we ever ran better than 8.40's, but it was Jack's ability to "Leave-On-Them" that was the ticket.

That night was the beginning of a love affair with racing that has lasted right up to today. Having re-located to Western Washington in 1991, I still make my annual pilgrimage to Seattle to the Northwest Nats. I am still in contact with Jack nearly every week and I guess he really did see some potential back in that garage. I raced with him all through his distinguished career, until I joined the US Air Force in 1968. Only to be able to crew while on leave a time or two. He drove the Schultz & Jones AA/GD and in 1970, he retired and began to work with Leonard Abbott at Lenco in San Diego.

One afternoon, at Carlsbad Raceway, I had the pleasure to meet one of my heroes... I had watched him come-up through the ranks and always felt he was one of the best there ever was. It was John Mulligan and if I think real hard and imagine... I can smell the Antonio-E-Vega cigar and hear him laugh. What a guy. We chatted for a while and I was introduced to Jack Wayre and then, to "Lean" Gene and got to ride down to the starting line with them in the truck. I remember how personable John and Jack Wayre were. They asked a couple of us to help wipe tires and turn the car around on the starting line. Just a couple of kids, who loved the sport and the people. I ran into them many times through the years, at Fontana, The Beach, the 'Dale, Pomona, and Riverside. (HRM Nationals, which we won four years running... two J/F (Lincoln & Jones) and two Top Gas (Schultz & Jones). John always called us by name (he actually remembered) and Wayre even sent us the Adams & Wayre "Zookeeper" T-Shirts. What a treasure that was.

One special memory of mine took place at Carlsbad. It was sort of a funky Top Fuel show.... very little money, small crowd, J.S "Sandy" Belond had recently sold the place and it is kinda run-down from what it had been in the recent past. John was to race Jerry Andrews (a local Escondido gas station owner-Andrews American Station) in his new Woody-Car. Well, during the turn-around and staging process, the guy, who's job was to pull the push-bar, was having trouble getting it to slide-out. If, my memory serves me (and it doesn't sometimes) it was John's brother Gary? who pulled the push-bar. Anyway, I was assigned the right tire and another guy was assigned the left. During the tire-scrubbing I wiped with my right hand and held onto the shoulder-hoop of the cage with my left. I knew enough to avoid the chute cable, but I felt something brush my left elbow and looked back in horror. The push bar had clipped the right chute cable and triggered it.

It fell about 1/2 way out and there we were..... I believe it was "Lean" who began to stuff it down the seat behind Zoo and I think the idea was to cut the pilot-chute off and RACE. I personally believe it would have been OK, but the Carlsbad starter, Henry Hart gave the shut-off sign and we got pushed back to the small Carlsbad pits to re-run it later. I can't even remember who won the re-race. I was so scared "Lean" was going to blame me.... but the push-bar guy finally admitted it was him. I remember the push-bar had two bars that slid into two peaces of pipe in the back of the seat bars down sort of low. The entire push-bar looked like the "Pi" symbol. It was bent or rusted-up or something, that's why it was so difficult to slide-out.

The photo of the incident appeared in one of the trades and I was just out of frame. You included that shot in the website. The web-site.... what a wonderful job you have done and the love it took to re-store the "Fighting Irish" car. Gave me chills to see it. I'd like to personally Thank You for returning to all of us the memories of the Legend. I miss John and all the old days, where it was simpler, and seemed more genuine. I can't help to wonder what John could have done in one of the newer 4.50 Top Fuel rides. Or a Sprint-Car!

I remember the L.A. Top Fuel Racer unofficial Uniform. Black Red Wing Chukka Boot (we called them Fruit-Boots) the US Mailmen wore them, too. Black Levi 501's (we used to get into 501's back them) and a short-sleeved white t-shirt, either Venolia, or Reath Automotive, or the car you were crewing with. Foster Grants, an 18" piece of nylon parachute shroud cord tied to your front belt loop (for packing Simpson Cross-Forms) and a Flat-Top with wings.......Those were the days.

Thanks for the memories

Kindest Regards,
Rik Chidester
Poulsbo, Wa.
easyreeder@msn.com

PS. Mid-way thru 1969, while in the Air Force stationed in far-away South Carolina, when I received a phone call from my Mother reporting to me that Jack, his wife Linda, and crewman were involved in a late night towing accident at the base of the "Ridge-Route." The news wasn't good at all..... Linda, eight months pregnant with their first baby, had a broken neck and was in a traction device, while Jack was suffering from a broken back. Their crew member had fallen asleep and driven the tow-vehicle up under a slow moving semi, with a flatbed trailer and everything was a mess. No one knew exactly "how severe" Linda's neck injury was and how they planned to deal with the pregnancy. It looked grim enough, for me to get emergency leave to travel to Kern General Hospital in Bakersfield to see them.

As I arrived the next afternoon, I climbed into the elevator at Kern General to find Mr. Ernie Hashim going up to visit the Jones also. I began to talk to him and told me it was truly a sad day. I thought he had heard something bad about Jack or Linda, that I hadn't. Not the case..... Ernie, then told me that John Mulligan had died that day. I was stunned... I didn't even know about the Indy crash. Any current race news trickled down slowly to me back in South Carolina. I remember the "raccoon-shaped" burns on his face. It was at Lions one evening and was the last time I ever saw him.

Thanks again Dave, perhaps I might see you and the car, if, you get to Pacific Raceway in Kent, Wa. I'd love to have one of the die-cast models.

Regards, Rik


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