In 1954, a young kid behind the wheel of a channeled '32 Ford Tudor came storming down Mt. Vernon Avenue in Wichita, Kansas. As the Ford passed the train tracks it slowed and made its way up to the doors of the Star Kustom Shop. The shop proprietor, Darryl Starbird, noticed the channeled Ford from the corner of his eye and made his way out to greet what he thought would be just another run of the mill customer. As the kid climbed out from the car Darryl hollered, "What can I do for ya?" The kid replied, "My name's Dave Stuckey and I'm here to see about a job." Dave had moderate skills with welding, bodywork and customizing, but his eagerness and enthusiasm to craft his talent was immeasurable. It didn't take long for Starbird to notice, so he decided to give the kid a chance, and gave Dave a part time job, which he worked after school got out.
Over the next few years Dave soaked up all that the Star Kustom Shop had to offer and perfected his skills. It wasn't too long before Dave was working side-by-side with Starbird as his right-hand man. Although he punched a clock on customer cars, building his '32 was always at the back of his mind. During downtime Darryl would lend a helping hand and help Dave work on the '32. Eager to see his dream unfold, Dave would burn the midnight oil after the shop closed, striving to give his Deuce that perfect look. Over the next few years the once fenderlesss, channeled and Flathead-powered Tudor would receive custom rear fenders with dual '53 Studebaker pans, Model A front fenders, custom running boards, a one-off Ala Kart-styled grille shell with chrome bullets, '40 Ford dash, a Buick Titan Red paint job with gold scallops, and of course, that classic DeSoto 331ci Hemi.
Another key element the sedan sported was the white and maroon Matlasha (a fabric imported from Belgium) interior, which a female onlooker said made the car look like a little coffin. The phrase seemed to strike the right chord, and the once car-with-no-name was dubbed, Li'l Coffin. The finished product then appeared on the cover of the November 1960 issue of Car Craft, and was also featured in Cars magazine's spread on the Star Kustom Shop's Best of '59.
In 1960, Dave parted ways with Star Kustom Shop to open the doors of Stuckey Kustoms in Wichita, Kansas. With him he brought his '32, and began what has become known as the "Wildest Deuce Ever Shown." The first order of business was to section the body and bring the beltline down to just above the rear wheel wells. Next, Dave reworked the cowl with '58 Merc headlight bezels frenched in with bullet accents. The DeSoto engine, mated to a '39 Ford transmission, received two more Stromberg carbs and was sucked up into the cowl to make way for a new one-off sleek nose decorated with six streamline tubes. Under the nose sat a '37 Ford tube axle with custom spring pockets. The most notable change, and defining touch, was when Dave reshaped and altered the roof to a unique cantilever-style top with a mid-mounted chrome roll bar for support. Inside, the car received a new dash with floating gauges, a custom steering wheel and four bucket seats (the bucket seats were later replaced with the bench style seat with tonneau cover). The car was well on its way to wowing the show circuit; only problem was Stuckey had run out of money to finish it. At this point Larry Farber enters the story. Larry purchased the car from Dave, but part of the arrangement was that Dave would finish the car for Larry to show. True to his word, Stuckey completed the '32 and Larry set out to show it to the world. From here the car went on to grace the cover of Rod & Custom in November of '62, and be featured in countless other publications.
In the early Sixties Darryl Starbird was head custom consultant at Monogram Model Company. During Darryl's tenure with Monogram they turned six of Darryl's full-size cars into models and contracted him to build one-off creations of his design for the company, lend his designing hand to a number of kits, and of course, act as a consultant. Monogram president Jack Besser told Starbird they were in the market to bring out a knockout kit based around a rod. Before the last word rolled off Besser's tongue, Starbird knew just the car that would stir a craze in households near and far: Stuckey's Li'l Coffin. Following the lead of their head custom consultant, Monogram purchased the car, and had Darryl freshen things up after the show circuit had taken its toll on the Deuce (on an ironic note, Stuckey was once again working for Starbird when Monogram dropped the car off for a little lipstick and rouge).
In 1967, muscle cars were in full swing and custom one-off creations, like the Li'l Coffin, were considered yesterday's news. The Li'l Coffin was of no use for Monogram, being that the public was after factory-styled model kits, so they gave Starbird a call and offered him the chance to buy it. Because these "nostalgic" rods had little to no value at the time, Starbird couldn't refuse the bottom dollar offer. Not only did the cars of this style have no dollar value, they didn't have much of a shelf life with the general public either, therefore the Li'l Coffin fell to the wayside like so many other rods and customs, and was restyled into something completely different. Darryl's first of many reincarnations of the Li'l Coffin was dubbed The Monkey Ward Delivery. The car was outfitted with an all-new nose, GMC 8/71 blower and a sedan delivery-styled upper deck. In 1980, Starbird went on to restyle the car once again, this time as a dual-cowl phaeton with a Jag IFS, Corvette IRS, dual-carbureted Chevy 350 and lift-off Carson-style top. Tragically, this version was short lived due to the fact it caught fire while unloading. The car, with Darryl in it, nearly burnt to the ground. Like a broken record, the car was once again resurrected in the early Nineties with, yes, you guessed it, a new look. This time the car received a full-bodied tilt nose with an aluminum grille nestled up front. Also new to the scene was a lift-off hardtop with a full-framed windshield.
A young Dave Stuckey has just...
A young Dave Stuckey has just finished installing the dual '53 Stude pans; it's now time to blend the characteristic touch into the body of the '32.
The rear fenders were entirely...
The rear fenders were entirely scratch built from steel tubing and sheetmetal. Here you can see Star Kustom Shop's own Darryl Starbird working the passenger side fender to perfection.
Although he may not be the...
Although he may not be the kid he once was, Darryl still hacks away in the shop six days a week with a steady 8-to-5 regiment. Here he's hard at work re-styling the Li'l Coffin (for the last time!) per Stuckey's design.