When anything lasts 50 years in this day and age, it's quite a feat. Those select few things that have reached the 50-year milestone have found a way to weave themselves into everyday Americana.Disneyland and the '57 Chevy, which have both reached the half-century mark, have become symbols of Americana, amusement, and enthusiasm. In Wichita, Kansas, the heart of the Sunflower State, a happening that has entwined itself into everyday lives can now claim 2007 as its 50th anniversary: the Darryl Starbird National Rod and Custom Car Show.
In '57, Darryl Starbird, the owner/operator of the Star Kustom Shop in Wichita, Kansas, saw a way to not only promote the up-and-coming custom shop, but to also fill a void in the Midwest hot rod scene. Starbird's revelation? To put on an indoor car show in the middle of winter to keep the scene alive. At the ripe old age of 24, Darryl and his wife, Donna, put everything on the line and took out a loan to rent out the now non-existent Wichita Forum and put on the first ever Auto Capades. (The name was later changed after the Starbirds received a cease and desist letter from the Ice Capades.) Not sure what to expect, the newfound promoters decided to set registration fees at $5 a vehicle and general admission at 98 cents. Much to the Starbirds' surprise, over 100 vehicles appeared in the inaugural show, and just a hair over 1,000 spectators walked through the doors of the Forum. At the time, Darryl and Donna were flabbergasted over the turnout, but little did they know that show would later spawn a 16-city show circuit dubbed the Star Car Caravan, and more importantly, turn into an annual family and hot rod tradition for 50 years.
The Darryl Starbird National Rod and Custom Car Show celebrated its 50th anniversary January 19-21 at the Century II Convention Center, which sits atop the old Forum in downtown Wichita. The show showcased some of the best cars and trucks the country has to offer and provided entertainment to all those who attended. This year's show was over five times the size of the inaugural show, and it displayed over 500 vehicles from all walks of the automotive life. Not to mention Darryl "The Bubble Top King" Starbird himself brought more than 25 of his own creations to celebrate the 50th anniversary. In fact, 90 percent of the center hall was filled with Starbird cars! Also thrown in the mix was the largest display of bubble top creations ever. There were a grand total of nine bubble tops, five of which were the Bubble Top Kings, on display in the center hall. In addition to that, some of the biggest names in customizing history, such as George Barris, Bill Hines, Joe Bailon, Jerry and Elden Titus, and Starbird, were on hand to meet and greet.
CCT attended the 50th anniversary Darryl Starbird National Rod and Custom Car Show, but seeing as how we were about to walk right into Kustom City, we were a little up in the air about what the custom classic truck scene would be. As it turns out, there was no need to worry at all, because the Wichita area is packed with custom haulers. There was a wide variety of all different styles and makes of trucks that, quite frankly, made us a little trigger happy with our cameras. For information about next year's show, log onto www.darrylstarbird.com, and be sure to check out the CCT Web site (www.customclassictrucks.com) for expanded coverage of the Starbird show.