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Kustom Kemps of America: 1980-1992

Kustom Kemps of America: 1980-1992

Автором Jerry Titus

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Kustom Kemps of America: 1980-1992

Автором Jerry Titus

Длина:
667 pages
6 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Jan 1, 1993
ISBN:
9781681622859
Формат:
Книге

Описание

(from the book)

The year was 1978 and I was sitting in the back booth of the Pizza Hut in Mulvane, Kansas, splitting a deep pan with my good friend, Darryl Starbird. Our friendship was close, and I had always respected his opinion on just about anything to do with the automobile, and especially the “kustom” vehicle. Not only is Darryl a champ at building kustom creations, he is also one of the top auto show producers in the U.S. For some 21 years I had been in the shadow of this high-energy, often unbelievable, man helping him build cars and produce car shows–a schooling that isn’t available in any six-month course or college anywhere. I had cruised with him on the high roads, and crashed with him on the low shoulders. Believe me, auto show producing is not for the weak or conservative.

But my interest was up, boosted by a recent writeup on ‘49-’51 Mercs, and front cover spread of a chopped ‘51 Mercury, by Street Rodder magazine, which at the time was predominantly a “pre-’48” street rod magazine. Someone shared an interest I felt I might be the[…]”
Издатель:
Издано:
Jan 1, 1993
ISBN:
9781681622859
Формат:
Книге

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Kustom Kemps of America - Jerry Titus

kemps

the KKOA story

by Jerry Titus

The year was 1978 and I was sitting in the back booth of the Pizza Hut in Mulvane, Kansas, splitting a deep pan with my good friend, Darryl Starbird. Our friendship was close, and I had always respected his opinion on just about anything to do with the automobile, and especially the kustom vehicle. Not only is Darryl a champ at building kustom creations, he is also one of the top auto show producers in the U.S. For some 21 years I had been in the shadow of this high-energy, often unbelievable, man helping him build cars and produce car shows–a schooling that isn’t available in any six-month course or college anywhere. I had cruised with him on the high roads, and crashed with him on the low shoulders. Believe me, auto show producing is not for the weak or conservative.

But my interest was up, boosted by a recent writeup on ‘49-’51 Mercs, and front cover spread of a chopped ‘51 Mercury, by Street Rodder magazine, which at the time was predominantly a pre-’48 street rod magazine. Someone shared an interest I felt I might be the only one in the world who really gave a darn about. I will always be indebted to editor Pat Ganahl (then editor of Street Rodder) for giving me the inspiration to take the chance, just as he did.

The president of KKOA, Jerry Titus drives his own personal cruiser as often as possible; it’s a 1958 Chrysler, mildly customized, and on a big California rake.

why the Chopped Merc issue?

As we finished off the pizza, I shoved the tray aside, grabbed the sack that lay beside me, and brought out some crude-looking papers scrawled with print and even cruder illustrations. Darryl was always a good listener, and because what I was getting ready to lay on the table was a long way from mainstream, late-‘70s street rodding, I believed him to be about the only one in the world who would understand. Again, little did I know that many would’ve liked to jaw about the same subject.

Darryl, I said, you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I want to produce a show.

The comment surprised him. After all, I was always the helper, not the producer, and I had never put on a show of my own. Right away I made it perfectly clear that it was going to be an outdoor event, and not in any way a competitive indoor show such as he was producing. I’m not saying I wouldn’t produce a indoor event now, but I’ll never produce one in a city or town where he does, and the reason is simple! Darryl and Donna Starbird are my close friends; ’nuff said.

I want to put on a national event for kustomized Mercurys of 1949-’51 vintage, and call it the ‘Mercury ReUnion,’ I continued.

Nobody does show ‘n’ shine better than kustom kempers do. And they proved it at the 1984 Street Custom Spectacular in Des Moines, Iowa.

His reply was, That’s interesting, and I know you like the ol’ Mercs, but I don’t think you’d get 10 of them to show up.

Bubble-top king and KKOA Hall of Famer Darryl Starbird and wife Donna warm the bench at a Cabin Fever sock hop in the late ’80s.

This photo of the KKOA Clubhouse gang, taken during the 1981 Christmas season, includes (left to right) Allen Ames, Elden Titus, Jan Coe, and (seated) Jerry Titus.

Man, you talk about pulling the sparkplug wires on my high-revving anxiety. Here was this man I truly idolized, and furthermore, respected his business opinion to the max, telling me it wouldn’t work. It really brought me down. But as I look back now, I know my friend was only trying to be my friend, and tell me his truthful opinion.

As we said goodbye in the parking lot, and I headed for home, the comment about 10 Mercs kept coming back to me over and over again. It must have been the early morning when it came to me, but it made me sit up in bed, then get up and head for the old manual typewriter downstairs. As I put the shift key on caps and locked it, I started typing out the new name for the event I knew I was going to put on–The MERC/DEUCE REUNION!

It was a natural! Deuces (1932 Fords) are regarded as the all-American hot rod, and the 1949-’51 Mercs the all-time classic kustom. The muscle and cosmetic sides of hot rodding together again...perfect!

Flames are hot and lady kempers are kool, and both are more than welcome at all KKOA events.

The Koolest Cruiser Contest has become one of the most popular attractions at KKOA events. This action shot is from the ’86 Leadsled Street Custom Spectacular, in Springfield, Missouri.

the legend of the Merc/Deuce ReUnion

So it was nose-dive into promoting for the next eight months. I threw the cap lock on again and again, and in my two-fingered Mickey Spillane style, set my old typewriter to smokin’. Finally the big day–August 8, 1979–was almost here, and as I was at the drag strip I had rented, picking up trash and grooming the area, I saw my first chopped Merc cruise by, a sight I hadn’t seen in years. I just stood there in awe, holding my trash bag. My eyes couldn’t look any harder than they did that day. That one look made all the long nights and hard work worth it. At that moment I mumbled to myself, If I never see another one (Merc), I have accomplished my goal. What a feeling.

Kelly Puckett has won so many national awards with his sectioned ’50 Ford, he could almost lose track. But he’ll never forget the time he won the coveted Harry Bradley Design Achievement Award.

One of the most popular custom grille choices is the ‘54 Pontiac. This one has been installed in a super sano ‘54 Ford.

what’s it like to be Number One?

After the last Mercury and Deuce had left on Sunday, and my wife DeVona and I were on the Kansas Turnpike heading 185 miles south to my hometown of Wichita, I had time to think. I had invested our life savings in a dream, and financially it was a disaster. But even though we were depressed at the loss, we both knew we had created a dream come true for those who attended, and the friends we had met would be worth everything sacrificed.

For the next 12 months I couldn’t get one thing off my mind. I had invited the popular street rods to make sure I had a show, but more Mercs showed up than Deuces! So one evening at the dinner table I asked DeVona, Hon, what would you think about a organization for kustoms only? Do you think there is a need for such a thing?

The question didn’t surprise her. She knew how much I loved kustoms, and what I wanted to hear, and she said, Do it. You’ll not be happy if you don’t try. I couldn’t wait to finish dinner and beat it downstairs to start smokin’ on the ol’ typewriter again.

A month later I placed an ad in the Wichita newspaper announcing that an open meeting would be held at the Park Villa Recreation building on October 1, 1980, to discuss the possibility of forming a national association for kustomized cars and trucks. Fourteen kustom nuts just like me showed up. I gave my spiel about by-laws, and why this association was needed. After the speech, I asked how many would like to join up. All 14 hands came up. So we put 15 numbers in a sack (can’t forget about ol’ Jer) and drew to see who would get what. Allen Ames (now KKOA vice president) got the coveted Number One, which he still proudly holds, and kustom history was up and running.

Larry Purcell’s fabulous 1941 Ford leadsled made the first KKOA Spectacular from Colorado Springs, and took home the Koolest Wild Kemp trophy.

In the good ol’ days of the kustom kraze, you weren’t done till you had a tuck and roll interior like this ragtop’s.

It took a wide-angle lens to capture the first gathering around the now-famous KKOA LEADSLED SPECTACULAR sign in 1981.

At first, though, it was like putting a snowball at the top of the hill, and getting stuck. Through October, November and December, the snowball never moved. But, DeVona and I were too busy answering letters and talking with people, to really worry about the progress. Too many good things were happening!

Ron House has led many caravans of kustoms to the Spectacular every year. The Rebel Merc from New York is shown on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in 1982.

The KKOA sign has presided over every Spectacular, and is now a very popular and traditional place to snap a picture.

Trucks are hot, and especially in Texas; this line-up was seen at the ’85 KKOA Sled scene Central in Waco, Texas.

The great one! the late Harold Olsen was KKOA’s second National Division General. This ‘85 photo shows him with his much-deserved lowering block trophy and his award-winning Buick.

A fellow kustom pal, Larry Fleming in Arkansas City, Kansas, hand-painted and donated a beautiful painting of the KKOA logo that still hangs proudly in our office. The logo is of a lowering block nestled between U-bolts hanging over the United States of America.

Next came putting out a newsletter titled The Leadsled’er Prelude Edition. Nothing fancy, but lots of heart and soul. And, yes, it was typed on the ol’ trusty manual typewriter by yours truly with the Cap Lock on.

After the holidays were over, my thoughts turned toward summer and the possibilities of staging the first ever, kustom nationals. After much thought we decided to hold the event in August, and here in Wichita. Shortly after we announced the event, one of the biggest major moves KKOA and the kustom movement ever received happened! I’ll never forget how the phone conversation started. Rinnng . . .

KKOA, this is Jerry.

"Jerry, this is Geoff Carter from Street Rodder magazine. How are you doing?"

The man who inspired Jerry Titus to start the KKOA was Rod & Custom magazine editor, Pat Ganahl, shown here working on one of his own kemps.

Rock legend Fabian says, Turn Me Loose, to Jim Prescott’s ’50 Merc kemp on Nashville Now TV show.

Those six deuces on Hub Harness’ ‘59 El Camino have earned him many, many Koolest Engine awards at KKOA events.

Gulp...Was I hearing right, or did I have a bad connection? I kept asking myself. Was this really that giant magazine on the West Coast that dealt mainly with pre-’48 street rods calling this less-than-six-months-old kustom organization. Geeeish...what could he want?

If I wasn’t already in dreamsville, I was most definitely going to be there when I heard his next question, which was, "I see you’re producing your Leadsled Spectacular, and we were wondering if Street Rodder could be the official sponsor of the event?"

We can talk about it, I said, trying to sound my most business like.

no big deal...Honest!

And talk we did, reaching an agreement that both parties felt comfortable with. The marriage would last for the next three years until, finally, on friendly terms, we went our separate ways. I will always appreciate what Street Rodder did for the KKOA in its early days, and has continued to do even into the ‘90s.

The first Leadsled Street Custom Spectacular was more than an event, it was a happening. It seemed the name Spectacular was about the only way to really describe it. By the time DeVona and the girls closed registration that hot August weekend in 1981, 383 tail-draggin’, chopped and channeled, shaved and decked kustoms from all over the country had made the scene to rewrite hot rodding history. I’ll never forget on Sunday when it was about time to give away the lowering block trophies. The mood was almost sullen. The owners of the kustoms had waited so many years for this event to happen they didn’t want the weekend to end.

The famed Rod & Custom Dream Truck, built almost 30 years earlier by Spence Murray and a host of customizing legends, was at the first Leadsled Spectacular in Wichita, Kansas.

in the beginning...

"...You are one of the exclusive group...who attended the Kustom Kemps of America’s First annual Leadsled Street Spectacular, August 6-9. From the tour of Kustom shrines, to the awarding of the shimmering lowering block trophy to the ‘Koolest Wild Kemp’ at the Kansas Coliseum grounds, this weekend hosted by the Fundamentals, will be long remembered.

...By Sunday morning, the atmosphere was beginning to change. The euphoria and excitement was gradually becoming awareness of the reality that the end was rapidly approaching. This landmark happening had nearly run its course. Regardless of the distances to be travelled, no one wanted to leave. And everyone was expressing anticipation for the 1982 event.–Geoff Carter, Street Rodder Magazine/December 1981

Finally the snowball moved. We were ready to shift out of low, and slide into second. The next year it was decided to move the Spectacular to Des Moines, and do it on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Another smash hit! More than 600 kustom kemps attended.

At that second Spectacular, KKOA tried something a bit unusual for an outdoor event. It began featuring the big names in customizing as Grand Marshals for the event. This year Joe Kandy Paint King Bailon was the first person so honored.

KKOA officials

The event now half over, Saturday brought droves of spectators to the Iowa State Fairgrounds to see the colorful assortment of kustoms on display. Guest of Honor Joe Bailon was suffering from writer’s cramp by now, as both spectators and participants kept him busy signing pictures of his ‘41 Chevy, Miss Elegance. That evening’s festivities included Ron House and his Rock & Roll Revue at the motel and the announcement of the two Kustom Kemp Hall of Fame inductees. This year’s entries were Joe Bailon, representing the earlier stages of customizing and Miles Masa for the current years; congratulations to both of these gentlemen.–Lee Pratt and Lana Haynes, Classic and Custom/December 1982.

The classic hot rod and custom engine will forever be a full-dressed flathead Ford V-8.

The late Miles Masa posed with his KKOA Hall of Fame trophy in this 1982 photo.

KKOA officials present a photo opportunity at the 1990 KKOA Hangin’ Dice Nationals in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Back row: Kenneth Wilson, Benny Grable, Ron Blackwell, Gary Cochran, Ross Rodenbeck, Virgil McKee. Front row: John Bruno, Larry Dames, George West, Rena Sturrock, Gary Gerberding, Bill Moore.

This wild Chevrolet panel truck was part of the first 1983 Sled scene West presented by KKOA in Reno, Nevada.

The next year KKOA decided to do two events for ’83. The big one would move to Springfield, Ohio, and break all records with just over 1,000 kemps. The second event would be called Sled scene West, and be held in Reno, Nevada. While it was successful from a fun standpoint, with the James Dean Merc from Rebel Without a Cause and Harry Westergard’s Ford coupe on loan by Harrah’s Auto Collection, the low ‘n’ slow kustoms got kreamed by the high-flying air races the same weekend.

"We had a neat cruise down through the streets of Reno and a lot of people turned out, many of them heading for the big gathering at the R&W Drive-In. It was hard to believe all the nice cars that showed up. How about a Good Time Surrey Drag, Wheel Barrow Polo, and Creeper Road Rally! Everything went great, and everything started on time"–J. Richard Kinney, Rod Action/February 1984

Ken Posie Fenical measures the height on a super-hammered Merc for the Lowest Kemp on Blocks award at the ‘85 Leadsled Spectacular.

Hall of Famer Rod Powell cruises his immaculate Buick around the show grounds at the ‘83 Sled scene West in Reno, Nevada.

Vendors of all sorts of automobilia hawk their wares at KKOA events; here’s small part of the action at the ‘85 Spectacular in Springfield, Ohio.

Pinstriper Butch Tucker gets ready to clean up his bug-catching ’36 Ford sedan at Sled scene West in Reno, after the long drive from Arizona.

In ’84, the Spectacular returned to Des Moines, and attendance was up by a couple hundred kemps. Sled scene West moved to Lodi, California, attracting just over 200 kool West Coast kemps. That same year KKOA introduced two more new events–Sled scene East in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Sled scene Central in Waco, Texas.

The snowball was now moving down the hill and building. We had done so well in Springfield, Ohio, we decided to take the Spectacular back there in ‘85. It didn’t let us down. More than 1,700 kemps cruised through the gates by

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