When people ask me who my favorite historical hot rod figure is I always blurt out the same name – Mal Hooper. And it’s funny, because I don’t really know a lot about who Mal was or what he did. There just hasn’t been much reported on him. In fact, I’ve only really been able to gather two things about the man:
1. He was nuts. The good kind of nuts. He was always up for anything. I mean ANYTHING. And he always gave what ever “anything” was, his 100%.
2. Because he was up for anything, he’s connected to just about everything cool in one way or another.
Much like the “7-degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, you can find some cool shit that went down on the salt in the early 1950’s and track it back to Mal in one way or another. Here’s a good example:
Recently, Jimmy B bought a whole mess of vintage images off eBay featuring shots of Fred Carrillo’s streamliner along with build shots of another streamliner that we have yet to identify. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
Fred Carrillo’s best pal was another hot rodder that went by the name of Bob Betz. Together, the two went to Bonneville in the 1940’s to witness John Cobb break the land speed record. After viewing such an epic moment in time, Bob and Fred were hooked. They wanted to go fast and quickly began constructing their own streamliner.
Of course, the fellas need some expertise and hooked up with some made men to earn an education. Before long, Fred and Bob were hanging out with guys like Tommy Sparks, Ray Brown, and Earl Evans. Those friendships added experience to the team and by 1953, Fred and Bob were ready to go 300 mph in a streamliner that was built primarily in the garage that you see in these images.
Of course, like it often does, disaster struck… During one of Fred’s record attempting runs, his right front wheel disintegrated at speed and sent the car on a 1500-foot ride in all sorts of directions that weren’t intentional. The car was a loss. Fred lost part of his leg, but didn’t loose his passion for speed. He went on to create Carrillo Connecting Rods and by all accounts, proved to be resilient beyond imagination.
Fred Carrillo is a hot rod hero, but how is he connected to Mal Hooper?
Easy. As mentioned, Fred and Bob struck a relationship with both Ray Brown and Earl Evans in the late 1940’s. Mal drove many a race car for Ray Brown and was good pals with Earl Evans. In fact, Earl and Mal pitted with each other at Bonneville almost every year between 1949 and 1954. I know this from my own photo collection…
So, it’s easy for me to imagine Fred and Mal sitting at the same bar sometime in the 1950’s. Fred would be bitching about his leg and Mal would be listening intently while at the same time sipping a beer and eyeing the leggy blonde across the room. Because, in my mind, that’s just how Mal was.
And these images just help me place Fred next to Mal. They are remarkable in their “unremarkableness.” Just snap shots. Casual. Fred as he was… Brilliant.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned. Later this week we will post some imagery of the incredible accident that Fred survived. And, of course, special thanks to Jimmy B for sharing these images with us.