Say what you want about the youth these days, but not all of them are what you think. Take Hannah Maloof for instance. Hannah is as hard-working as they come. She’s a triple threat as an engine builder, a racer, a stunt car driver, and much more. She’s the daughter, and effectively a mentee of Sammy Maloof, who owns Maloof Racing Engines in San Gabriel, CA.
Hannah has benefited from her dad’s more than 35 years of engine building, racing and stunt driving experience and knowledge, and believe me, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.
“I was born into this,” Hannah Maloof says. “It’s a pretty funny story. The day my parents were able to leave the hospital after I was born, we never made it to the house. We came to the race car shop first. The first place I ever went was the shop. I’ve been here since day one and been by my dad’s side learning everything and anything that I could. There are pictures of me not even a year old yet and I’m sitting on the engine room table with a piston in one hand and a pair of pliers in the other and I’ve got a cookie on the table.”
Hannah has clearly been ingrained in the engine building and racing lifestyle her whole life, so when asked if she ever had other interests or if anything ever potentially pulled her away from this industry, she thankfully said no way.
“All my interests have always been here,” she says. “I’m so invested in it. I love everything about it. That’s why over the years I started adding other things to it like racing and doing stunts. I started learning precision driving and stunts and all that stuff when I was 13. Everything’s always been car related.”
Hannah’s fortress of all things cars and engines has always been Maloof Racing Engines. The shop has done a little bit of everything over the years, but primarily focuses on domestic V8 engine platforms.
“My dad has had the shop for well over 35 years and we like all muscle cars,” Maloof says. “We build Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, Mopar, and everything in between. We also do drag cars, boats, race trucks – a lot of stuff. We mostly like to stick to the old-school car engines and old-school fuel injection.”
As for Hannah’s own role at the shop, she also does a little bit of everything, but enjoys working on engines the most.
“I help a lot with building engines and doing all the prep work before,” she says. “I pull all the engines apart, clean them, prep them, and I also do work on customer cars. Of course, I do all this with my dad and my sisters. It’s a family run business. It’s just us here. We don’t have any employees. We do all the work to the engines and the cars – everything.
“My favorite thing about all of it is the detail that goes into it. I’m a very detailed person. I love the detail and the precision. There’s just so much that goes into building engines. There’s all the calculations you have to put in and the checking and clearances, and you’ve got to make sure everything is perfect and everything is super clean. That’s how we do it. Everything has got to be super clean, laid out and organized.”
Building high-horsepower engines can be a lot of fun, but don’t confuse it. It’s also tons of work, and some of it isn’t always enjoyable. However, Hannah has been able to learn all the ins and outs directly from her father Sammy.
“I learn something new every single day,” she admits. “However, my dad’s best advice has always been to be thorough and make sure that you do everything with perfection. You never do something halfway. You go all the way with it and you make sure that it’s done right with excellence. That carries through in every aspect of everything that I do. If I’m cleaning parts, it needs to look like it came out of the box and its brand new when I’m done cleaning it. I make sure I do everything thoroughly.”
That thoroughness shines through in Hannah’s work, and when it comes to her own engines and cars, she says she has a number of top platforms, but Chevy reigns supreme.
“I do favor Chevrolet engines more than any of the other ones, but I love Mopar too,” she says. “I drive a Mopar daily, but I race Chevrolet. I love all types of engines, so it’s tough to say if one rises above the others. We’ve built some really, really good engines.”
And speaking of really good engines, the Maloof family loves to race, and Hannah has been behind the wheel in recent years of a bracket car.
“My race car is a ‘68 Nova and I got it as a roller from a customer of mine,” she says. “The car was built in Oregon. I started racing this one back in 2019. I drag race it in the quarter mile. It’s such a good car. I really like the way this one was built. We built a big block Chevy engine for it and set it all up. This car is as consistent as they get.
“It’s probably got about 950 horsepower to it. We put all the good stuff in it. I bracket race this car, so we have it in the high nines, low eights, somewhere around there.”
Like any engine builder and racer, Hannah isn’t satisfied keeping the status quo. She has big plans for her racing in the near future.
“With this car, I don’t want to change a whole lot about it because it is such a consistent bracket car,” she says. “I’d like to keep this one kind of as is, but, I do want to end up going faster and moving up. I also want to get into other racing too, such as road racing and off-road racing. I like doing all that stuff too.”
If going fast down the drag strip wasn’t exciting enough, Hannah has also turned into quite the stunt driver, again, under the tutelage of her father Sammy, who himself has been a long-time Hollywood stunt driver.
“I’ve been driving for a very long time – almost my whole life,” Maloof says. “I remember one of the first cars I drove was a rental car that we had. It was a Mazda Miata. That was when I was seven or eight. Today, we have a stunt car – a ‘67 Camaro. That’s the car my dad trained me in. We have it set up for stunts. We put on stunt shows with it and people will also come to us to learn stunts in this car.
“I learned everything out in front of our shop with my dad just showing me things like 180s, 360s, reverse 180s, and all that stuff. The way he trained me was the best, in my opinion, because it was with perfection and being thorough. We set up cones out front and wet the street down and I’d go out there and he’d say, ‘Gimme a 90 right up to the cone. I want that cone in the center of your door.’ I would have to be out there until I got five in a row exactly the same. If I messed up, I had to start again from one and do it all over.
“Once I mastered a 90 on the right side, then I had to do it on the left side. Then it progressed to a 180 and then a 360 and it just kept moving up. I’m thankful that I learned that way because it wasn’t just, ‘I can do it, but I can only do it one time.’ I can do it 10 times if you need it done. That really helped when I was doing it for shows, movies and commercials.”
With many years still ahead of her, Hannah has already done more than most will do in a lifetime, and she’s not stopping yet. In fact, being a woman in a male-dominated automotive industry has forced her to work even harder.
“My parents always taught me to not pay attention to what people will say,” she says. “I brush stuff off. My dad kind of sets that tone. I realize there isn’t a lot of women in stunts or racing or especially engine building… but I don’t have anything to prove. My hands get put to work. There’s callouses and cuts and no super long fingernails or anything like that.”
It’s great to see young people of any gender getting more involved in this industry and showcasing a passion for cars and engines like Hannah has. She does what she can to get others to appreciate what this industry can offer.
“My biggest advice is to figure out your passion,” Maloof notes. “Find out what you’re passionate about and what you could get up every single day and be happy doing. Also, find a mentor. Find somebody doing exactly what you want to do. My dad is my mentor and this is his living. He eats, breaths, drinks, and sleeps it. I follow everything he says, because he’s battle tested and battle proven with it. That’s what mentors are. They’re there to train you and they’re there to bring you up and help you.
“From there, learn everything that you can learn, even if you’re starting by just holding a flashlight, because that’s how we all start. Everybody starts small and that’s foundation. You want to get that good foundation.”
Having a passion for what you’re doing is crucial, especially in this industry. Anybody who doesn’t have a passion for what they do means they’re just doing it for the money or fame, and that’s not how to get more people involved in engine building.
“The biggest struggle is just getting people to stick with it and have the passion for it, especially when it comes to this field with building engines and cars and drag racing and stunts, because they can be very dangerous things,” she points out. “If you’re building somebody’s engine and you don’t have a passion for it, or you’re just in and out with it, or your head is not in it all the way, you could be putting your driver in danger possibly. This is very serious stuff. I feel like it has to be your passion.”
As for Hannah, she’s always looking to better herself whether it’s more impressive stunts, faster racing or building more horsepower. Everything she does is positioning herself to take further advantage of what this industry can offer.