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SEMA Heritage: Tom McMullen

SEMA News—February 2012

By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Source Interlink Media Archives

Street Rodder

  automotive history, automotive industry news
In January 1963, Tom McMullen posed in his flamed Deuce highboy for Hot Rod magazine’s Eric Rickman in front of Beckman Instruments, where McMullen worked as an electronics technician. The photos Rickman shot became the cover feature for Hot Rod’s April 1963 issue. This view of the car is an unpublished outtake, showing the rear of the ’32 and the pinstriping done by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Roth also laid out the car’s flames, which McMullen painted.

The Deuce was a triple threat: It was not only McMullen’s daily driver, but drag raced by him at local strips. At the time of the Hot Rod cover story, his best run was an 11.59 at 127 mph—but McMullen also took it to the dry lakes, where it would top out at more than 150 mph. A few months after this story ran, the roadster appeared again in Hot Rod at a Muroc meet covered by Tex Smith for the August issue. There, McMullen set an A/Street Roadster record of 154.10 mph.

McMullen owned the ’32 until 1969, when his new Harley-Davidson parts business occupied so much of his time that he sold the car. That new business, though, led McMullen to publish a catalog. Soon, TRM Publications was born, named for Tom and his wife Rose.

In addition to the parts catalog, McMullen launched Street Chopper magazine and then revisited his love for hot rods in 1972 with the start of Street Rodder magazine. It wouldn’t be long before his publications stable would compete for enthusiasts’ attention—and newsstand dollars—with the magazine in which he had appeared 10 years before.