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Sharing a House with Tom McMullen

by Dave Brackett    


mcmullen4ares

Tom set up this photo with a cop friend,
 just down the street from our house

     In 1962, I met Tom McMullen, he was cruising in his now famous 32' highboy roadster and I was in my hot rod model "A". He invited me to his house, I met his family and we shared ideas about hot rods and cruising. Over the next several years, Tom and I went cruising around Southern California, and we got together to work on hot rods at his shop in La Habra, California. His shop, Auto Electric Engineering, worked on custom car wiring, and sold kits to wire your own hot rod. Tom and partner Carl Sulkey, had started the shop in early 1963, but it closed in late 1963. Tom continued selling the wiring kits from his home.
     In 1964, Tom got divorced and he stayed with friends for a while. In early 1965, Tom started looking for a house to buy, but he could not afford the payments by himself. I was currently living with my parents, and was still in college, but my parents were moving to Seattle, so I had to move out. Tom proposed we share the house together, we decided yes, and Tom added one more person to help share the payments.
     On March first of 1965, Tom and I moved into his new house together, and started fixing up the shop, a two car garage. On one side was his 32' highboy roadster with 4.71 blown Chevy and on the other side, my 23' T bucket with a 6.71 blown Chevy. After organizing the garage, we started on the house.     

23 T 1cropres2

Tom shot this photo of me at a park near our house

     Neither of us had any furniture, so we started driving up and down streets.  When we found open garage doors with the garage stuffed full of furniture, we asked if we could have any for our new house. In several weeks, we had a house full of free furniture. The only missing item was a dining room table. Tom found an old door, and I hung it from the ceiling on four chains, with pillows to sit on the floor. It worked great, unless someone bumped the table and it started swinging.
     Tom started writing articles for an RV magazine, and we would test drive different  recreational vehicles. Tom loved the outdoors, and I did too, so we would spend some weekends test driving the RV's. During the week, Tom sold custom automotive wheels, and I worked at Hooker Headers. In the evenings, Tom would write the stories for the RV magazines, and because I was a touch typist, I typed them and corrected the grammar and spelling, Tom was a poor speller.
      We both loved puns, so that was a source of humor, when we were working on cars in the garage. Tom also loved practical jokes. I had brought an old vacuum cleaner to the house, it worked fine, but smoked. We finally got another one, and my old vacuum got moved around the house. One morning I was late to work, rushed out to my car and took off, Tom had tied the cord of the old vacuum to my rear bumper and shoved it under the car so I would not see it. I proceeded down the street, dragging the vacuum and waking the neighborhood. Another favorite joke of Tom's was to take a new clean shop rag, put a big glob of axle grease in it and place it near you. You would grab it to wipe your hands and what a mess.
     Tom took me to an L.A. Roadsters meeting in my 23' T bucket, but the club did not like my car and I could not join. This bothered Tom, but I was a bit of a loner and was not really a club kind of person. We enjoyed cruising and street racing better.
      In the early 1960's, Tom and friend Jim Clark, had built an Austin, with two small block Chevy engines, one in front of the other. The motors were mounted separately, and the coupler between the front and rear motor kept breaking or tearing the snout off the front of the rear crankshaft. Tom asked if I could fix it, so we put the motors in our garage. I remounted the motors properly and fixed the problem. This car, called "Chevy Two", was featured in a hot rod  magazine.     Tom and I had lots of fun helping each other, cruising and street racing in Southwest L.A. There were organized street races there in the evenings. One night, Tom and I took my 23' T bucket down to the street races. My car was running 140 mph at the drags in the low ten second range. This was 

Tom and Deannacropres

Tom and wife Deanna in their 32 tub around 1991

pretty fast for a street car, so no one would race me, but everyone wanted to see my car run. They took up a collection, and paid me $50.00 to make a single pass. I thought that was cool, to be paid appearance money to race on the street.
     Sadly, Tom's  wife to be was moving in the house, and I knew I would be in the way, so I moved out. I moved my tools and equipment to Anaheim Speed Engineers, and started building race cars there. I will always remember those great times living with Tom. Later, I went to work for Tom in early 1969 at "AEE Choppers", and remained there till November of 1972. Tom and I remained friends until his untimely death.



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