With so much going on in Darryl Starbird's career right now, we felt it was important to feature the man not only responsible for this column existing, but also for the fact that the "King of Bubbletops" has been hard at it creating brand-new custom creations and producing his many annual car shows. But before we go over Starbird's latest works, we will attempt to touch on the rich history of this Kansas-born automotive stylist.
Like many young men alive in the early '50s, the impact of chopped and slammed cruisers being featured in magazines, at car shows, and on just about every Main Street across the country was life-changing, to say the least. Darryl Starbird felt this impact and knew it would be his destiny, even though he had no experience with bodywork, let alone custom bodywork. In fact, not having any experience probably worked to Darryl's advantage by allowing his personal creativity to come out while he taught himself his future trade.
As proof of his natural born talent for building customs, Darryl's second creation, a 1955 Plymouth, was featured on the cover of Rod & Custom-an achievement that not many custom car builders, especially ones from a little-known shop in the mid-'50s in Wichita, Kansas, got to experience after only having built two cars. It seemed Darryl was quickly on his way to becoming a car builder to be reckoned with, which became a reality at the 1959 NHRA National Custom Car Show. Starbird's candy coated 1957 Ford Thunderbird, dubbed LePerle, took the top-honor Sweepstakes trophy there, which also earned his Kansas-based Star Kustom Shop the Top Custom Shop Achievement Award.
Starbird soon went to town building his first bubbletop creation to be introduced at the 1960 Oakland Roadster Show. As you may have already guessed, this totally new style of incorporating a clear bubble-shaped roof had a huge impact on not only the crowds that surrounded the Predicta, as it was named, but on the judges as well. They honored Starbird with yet another Sweepstakes Award. This car went on to win just about every top honor at shows across the country, as well as rack up many a magazine cover shot. The popularity of Starbird's bubbletop styling pushed him to create another 15 show-winning bubbletop customs.
During his 50-plus years of building customs, Starbird also had a hand in helping companies like Monogram Models Co. make a mark on the automotive world. During his consulting years with Mattel, 15 of Starbird's cars were produced in kits of 1/24th and 1/8th scale. Over a million of these kits were sold worldwide, influencing generations of budding custom car builders everywhere.
In 1957, after having much success in the car show circuit, Starbird began promoting his own car show "brand," Rod and Custom Car Shows.
Success followed with no less than 15 major car shows under the Starbird name, including the famed Oakland Roadster Show, which previous show promoter Al Slonaker had made so popular. The Oakland show alone had to be a serious handful, but Darryl continued building show-winning cars, consulting for Monogram Models Co., and managed to turn all 15 of his indoor car shows into a flourishing business.
Today Darryl Starbird is pretty much still at it from all angles. He still builds show-winning customs, still promotes a few of the country's largest indoor car shows (Darryl's Tulsa, Oklahoma, show has actually earned the title of being the largest indoor car show), and in 1995 created the country's finest tribute to custom cars with the National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame Museum on 80 acres of the beautiful Grand Lake O' the Cherokee's shoreline in Oklahoma. The museum holds 50 cars and an unbelievable collection of photographs and memorabilia from the heyday of customizing to the present. This last November, Darryl came out to Long Beach, California, to build a '51 Caddy for the popular "Monster Garage" TV show that is scheduled to air sometime in May 2006. If you attended Darryl's January Wichita indoor show, you probably saw the result of Darryl's involvement with "Monster Garage" by way of his own tribute car he built immediately after returning home from shooting the episode. Darryl was also involved with the finale of the "Monster Garage" series by teaming up with an all-star cast of car builders for an episode that should air in June 2006.
Needless to say, this is just a small taste of the accomplishments and contributions to our hobby that Darryl Starbird worked so hard to build. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude and respect to the entire Starbird family. If you still don't believe us, take the trip, no matter how far, to Darryl Starbird's National Rod & Custom Hall of Fame Museum and walk the halls, absorbing every bit of our hobby's past, present, and future. Take our word for it; the trip through the museum will open your eyes, no matter how much you think you know about custom cars. Oh yeah, if you get a chance, introduce yourself to Darryl and his lovely, overworked, and much-appreciated wife, Donna. They are truly some of the nicest people you ever want to meet.