Tuesday, January 21, 2014

56th-Annual Starbird-Devlin Custom Car Show. The pride of Wichita

When you think of the early days of car customizing, it’s easy to think that everything worth talking about came from California.  But as it turns out, not every famous car was built by George Barris.  Wichita, Kan., was the unofficial home to one of those A-list builders, a guy by the name of Darryl Starbird.  Starbird created the bubble-topped Predicta, the Lil’ Coffin that was immortalized in model kit and Hot Wheels form, and the Big T, among others.  And for more than a half-century, he has also promoted a big indoor car show in Wichita.  This weekend, I was able to take in the 56th-Annual Starbird-Devlin Car Show at the Century II Arena.  Let’s take a look at some of the fun stuff that was on-hand.

If you want to go strictly traditional, this ’60 Buick known as “Cinnamon” is about as right as it gets.  This thing is straight out of Car Craft, 1963.  Every detail—the paint, the pancaked hood, the deeply Frenched headlights and ’59 Cadillac taillights, the chrome wheels and spider caps, the bucket seats, and even the material used to cover them, are all spot-on for this type of car.  The bongo drums between the seats are also a period-correct touch.  If you want to see the way a high-end custom was put together fifty years ago, this is an excellent example. 

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that I gravitate toward these limited-production GM ‘50s cars.  This 1954 Cadillac Eldorado was gorgeous.  ’54 was the second year for the outrageously priced Eldo, but the car was considerably different.  In ’53, it was a unique, hand-built body, while in ’54 it shared panels with the production Deville.  But it wasn’t a Deville.  This car had more chrome, leather, glitz, and gold than most humans could stand.  As far as I’m concerned, it would have been worth the trip to Wichita just to see this one car.  It was that spectacular—and I really am not exaggerating about that.

My wife’s favorite car was this ’33 Chrysler three-window coupe.  And to her credit, it was pretty spectacular.  We usually see this car at the Ol’ Marais River Run, and it never fails to make an impression.  It mostly looks like a full-on Classic, but make no mistake, this is a modern hot rod.  The wheels in the side-mounts are what it might have come with new, but the wheels on the ground are a present-day interpretation covering new-style brakes and suspension components.  A Chevy LS engine puts the power to the ground, just like a new Corvette.  With this car, you get all of the style of a ritzy ’33 Chrysler, but all of the reliability and creature comforts of today.

This ’63 Ford Galaxie 500, with all its fancy scallops, fades, and panel paint, belongs to Travis Scanlon.  Travis travels to traditional car shows all over the Midwest and takes pictures of them for his Royboy Productions website.  This old car gets a lot of use.  The paint is pretty cool, but other than that, it looks like a nice, original car.  It’s amazing what just a little paint can do to completely transform something.  I’ll bet whoever bought this car new never imagined it would be sitting there looking like that in 2014.

Here’s a ’39 Ford sedan that proves that simpler is sometimes better when building a hot rod.  There are no radical body modifications or anything outstanding here.  It just has deep black paint, subtle pinstriping, and a whole lot of TLC.  The interior is absolutely perfect, with pleated Naugahyde inserts nestled inside bright red bolsters.  ’57 Cadillac full wheelcovers wrapped with wide whitewall radials complete the look.  A venerable Chevy 350 provides the power.  What a great looking car.

You can’t look at this ’59 Nash Metropolitan and not crack a smile.  This little two-tone pink Metro was one of the nicest I’ve ever seen.  It wasn’t exactly a hot rod, but it did have some sharp, hand-painted pinstripes.  We did that hood ornament story last week, and this had a really spectacular chrome naked lady flying on an air blade or something.  I love the little model kit box that they made to display with this.  You’d have to have a heart of stone not to appreciate this cute little bugger.

I brought back 491 photos from the 2014 Starbird-Devlin Custom Car Show over the weekend.  As usual, you can check them out in the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.

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