Of all the current
breed of "Cacklecars" none has a more dramatic or tragic
history than the 1968-1969 Beebe & Mulligan "Fighting
Irish" Top Fuel dragster. Built at Woody Gilmore's Race
Car Engineering in late 1968 to replace their tired 1967-68 car,
it put the already popular team of Tim "Chops" Beebe
and John "The Zookeeper" Mulligan on the drag racing
map with their convincing win at the 1969 NHRA Winternationals.
In the 1969 Winternationals final
Mulligan left on Don Prudhomme and never looked back. Formally
known at "The Bridesmaid" - Beebe & Mulligan finally
got the respect they deserved.
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 Ramchargers had been developing the
426 engine in Top Fuel since 1965 and had a handle on it by 1969.
complete story visit:
The team toured the summer of
1969 getting the 426 dialed in for the US Nationals at Indy.
During qualifying (above), John Mulligan ran the quickest time
in drag racing history (6.43) to put him into the # 1 spot for
Mulligan was paired with "TV
Tommy" Ivo for the first round of eliminations on Monday.
Mulligan was several car lengths ahead of Ivo when, at the 1000'
mark, he 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.
The recreation story begins in
1999 when recently retired Dave West, for a fun project, went
searching for an old dragster to restore. When he couldn't find
a suitable car (with a history), West decided to do the next
best thing ... recreate his favorite car of all time, the Beebe
& Mulligan "Fighting Irish" AA/FD in its 1969 Winternationals
winning trim. Problem was, there was a short list of people truly
qualified to do the project to its exacting expectations. Few
of the original craftsmen are today active, able, or willing
to fill this need. The succeeding generation, while willing and
eager, have only a few of the bones as a guide, but none ever
got close to riding the dinosaur.
To West's mind there was a singular
exception for what he wanted done and that was Pat Foster of
Foster ProFab in Wichita, Kansas. Over the last 40 years Foster
had literally built everything from Gas Coupes to Land Speed
Record cars with every iteration of dragster and funny car in
between. Working with the likes of Woody Gilmore (where he built
the original Beebe & Mulligan car), Ronnie Scrima, Frank
Huszar (RCS), Jim Hume, John Buttera, Nye Frank, Tom Jobe and
Mickey Thompson... Foster was involved in virtually every aspect
of the Southern California cum national racing scene back when.
Beyond his craft and innovation,
Foster was the test pilot de rigueur. Best remembered as a touring
professional, he was generally the first one turned to for the
shake down runs in a newly designed car or to sort out a the
evil spirits haunting an existing ride. Neither reckless nor
foolish, Foster was the ultimate behaviorist when it came to
sorting out a hot rod. Today he lives and breaths due more to
his technical understanding than blind luck and bravery. Although,
the latter is subject to considerable debate.
Thus West commissioned Foster
to recreate his dream car from the ground up. Every effort was
taken to make the car identical to its 1969 predecessor. By all
accounts the end product was so excellent - so remindful of the
original - that it literally brought tears to many racers eyes
when debuted in October of 2000 at the California Hot Rod Reunion.
It all began on Foster's "operating
table" - this custom made aluminum chassis jig that takes
up a large portion of his home based shop. The handles allow
Pat to wheel the fixture in or out of the shop - depending on
the project. Small wheels on the far end make it basically like
a wheel barrow.The aluminum tube in the center emulates a front
axle while the spindles locate in the up-rights which are adjustable
for proper tread width.
Moving ahead, in a month Foster
had the basic chassis done and a mock up engine in place. Dave
West made the trip from Paso Robles, CA to Wichita to check out
the progress and get fitted in the car.
To do the roll cage correctly,
the person who is going to drive the car needs to be in the car
for the correct measurements to be made. Here Dave gets a feel
for the seat for the very first time. Foster also took measurements
for the clutch and throttle pedals.
Foster then finished
the chassis and it was a "roller". Next project - the
Once Foster had all the measurements
the cage was bent and tacked on. At that point West got back
into the car to make sure the hoop was correct before the final
welds are applied.
Tom Hanna reconstructed a perfect replica of the original body
(which he built in 1968). At this point the car was done at ProFab
and ready for its trip to California.
constructed the car, West was back in Paso Robles, CA gathering
engine parts. Just like the old days, you still find and grab
any 392 hemi you come across. Above is how the engine for the
Beebe & Mulligan was found.
parts gathering the end result sits on a stand in the West garage
waiting for its "home" to arrive. A period correct,
Tim Beebe built, 392 ready for nitro.
and paint, the car made its trip from Kansas to California. This
is what it looked like the day Dave took it out of the trailer
at his home in Paso Robles. Even in this state it was breathtaking.
With the 2000 California Hot
Rod Reunion rapidly approaching, the objective was to get the
engine in the car and make sure everything was perfect before
it was disassembled for chrome and paint.
West waffled for a time on whether
or not to debut the car, unfinished, at the 2000 California Hot
Rod Reunion. It was thankfully decided to do so - the main reason
being that Foster's work was simply too nice not to show before
being painted and chromed. Here Dave (center) poses with Tim
Beebe and Chuck Ridgley who was an original crew member.
However, there was another factor
that came into play with West's decision to make the 2000 event,
it was a thing called "Cacklefest". West had received
a call from Steve Gibbs presenting him with an invitation to
this new "thing" they were going to try after the Twilight
Memorial. Gibbs was trying to round up a few vintage dragsters
that were capable of push starting to recreate a 60's March Meet
style atmosphere for the fans. Thus West, in his Beebe &
Mulligan recreation will go down in history as one of the original
nine Cacklefest cars.
Even without its unique green
stripped color scheme, the car was immediately recognizable.
Drag racers old and young poured over this masterpiece the entire
weekend. The complements flowed like champaign at a million dollar
wedding... so did more than a few tears. Nobody with any sense
of drag racing history could forget this car and its driver or
their fate at the 1969 US Nationals. Dave West could not have
made a greater tribute to not only the late John Mulligan but
also to his partner, Tim Beebe.
As most fans know, the nose piece
was not on the car that faithful day at Indy so it survived in
tact. The nose of the nose survived to this day and was used
to match the paint exactly.
On Saturday West removed the
entire body to reveal the "naked" car - hiding nothing.
The words flawless, perfect, beautiful, bitchin and just plain
wow were heard in abundance. And now for you viewing pleasure,
enjoy these shots of B&M undressed. Later that day the car
was re-dressed and made its first Cacklefest appearance. The
first of many.
After the CHRR, In November of
2000, Dave West and Tim Beebe prepare to give the car its first
hardcore test ... a push start and burnout at a local airport.
West not only nailed the push start but did the cars first burnout.
The car was painted
by Bill Carter who did a perfect job of duplicating the scheme
done by the late George Cerny Jr. After paint, the final touch
was the lettering done in January of 2001 by the master, Kenny
Aside from its
unofficial debut at the 2000 CHRR, the "race ready"
Beebe & Mulligan car was unveiled to the public during the
2001 NHRA Winternationals at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports
Museum. Here Pat Foster, Bill Carter and Dave West pose in the
lobby where the car was predominantly displayed.
Since its "race
ready" completed appearance at the 2001 CHRR, Dave West's
incredible reproduction has been one of the most sought after
and popular cacklecars in the country.
waits for the signal to do a push start.
Aside from being
one of the feature stars of "Cacklefest", West has
perfected an "on call" push start and burnout at several
nostalgia events over the years.
2003 NHRA Winternationals
at Pomona, CA
However, the car was "born"
for was Cacklefest. Here is Dave West in the pre-cacklefest parade
in 2004 and passing the stands after his push start (below).
long version of the Beebe & Mulligan car visit:
173 inch Pat Foster chassis
built in 1999
Reconstructed in 1999 by Dave West
392 Chrysler Hemi by Tim Beebe
Horsepower: 2500 on 85% Nitromethane
If you plan on attending the
a California Hot Rod Reunion be sure to drop by Dave West's Beebe
& Mulligan pit and not only see this beauty up close and
personal but pick up a T-Shirt, hat or sticker. T-shirt or hat.