Rest in Peace, Mickey Rooney – Racing’s Billy Coy in “The Big Wheel” …

Posted: April 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

Billy Coy (Mickey Rooney) is from Carrell in California and wants to be a racecar driver. He manages to get hired as a mechanic by Arthur “Red” Stanley (Thomas Mitchell) at his garage, after mentioning that he is the son of a famous driver “Cannonball” Coy, who had died in an accident at the Indianapolis 500 a few years back.  Red used to be a mechanic working for Cannonball, and still has the hots for his widow, Billy’s mother, Mary (Spring Byington).

2At the garage, Billy befriends a tomboy named Louise Riley (Mary Hatcher), whose father owns the nearest racetrack. Soon Billy gets a chance to prove his skills as a driver in a qualifying race, but is too arrogant to follow his employer’s advice and is unsuccessful. He goes on to ask Louise to meet on Saturday night at the racetrack, and thinking it is a date, Louise makes an effort, putting on a dress. It turns out Billy needed her help with changing some carburetors and Louise has to hide her disappointment.

Billy gets another chance to drive in a qualifying race, for different car owner. The car is green, which is the same color as the one his father drove when he crashed. Despite the superstition, Billy drives in the race, but is run off the track by a driver named Vic Sullivan (Michael O’Shea). Billy survives the crash, and after another man driving for Deacon Jones injures his hand, Billy is offered his ride instead.

Billy wins the next race and gets to continue driving for Jones, together with his other driver, Happy Lee (Steve Brodie). But Billy manages to get arrested for speeding after a night out at a club when he has too much to drink. Red comes to the rescue and bails him out, and contrary to Red’s advice, Coy goes on to race that same night. When the steering wheel in Happy’s car fails during the race, Billy crashes into his car and Happy dies in the flames. After the race, the other drivers avoid Billy, and he is fired from Deacon Jones’ garage. He decides to move from California.

Billy stays in contact with Louise, and promises to meet her again on the next Memorial Day, at Indianapolis. He travels east and starts over as a race car driver. During the time he is gone, his mother and Red become a couple and get married.

On the day of the next Indianapolis 500, Mary, Red and Louise are all at the race track and about to watch Billy’s return as he drives one of Red’s cars. He drives well, but when he has only on lap left, the engine catches fire. He still finishes the race, ending up in third place, and manages to save himself by leaving the car just before it explodes in a sea of flames. The 500 winner gives the trophy to Billy for his bravery, and he reunites with Louise.

  1. geofftn says:

    “I’ll run right over him!”


  2. says:

    Actually… It was a very badly written script acted on by many actors who knew absolutely nothing about how life is in the real racing world and their garage areas. Mickey Rooneys’ real Hot Rod was a stock 1935 Ford convertible-4 door- sedan, brown in color. The car today, sit’s on display in the Justice Brothers Museum in Duarte CA. Bob Falcon