Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

Driving Growth

Darryl Starbird may not be producing his legendary hot rod and custom car show any more, but his legacy is in the very good hands of relatives who are not afraid to change things up and keep it fresh.

John Tranchina
January 29, 2018

Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Car Show comes to Tulsa for the 54th time Feb. 16-18. And while the legendary car customizer retired in 2014, his children Cliff Starbird and Cristy Starbird Bledsoe continue the tradition, with a few new twists that make it even more accessible to just about everyone — even if you’re not that into classic cars.

“It’s a wonderful event. You don’t have to necessarily enjoy cars,” says show co-producer Brice Bledsoe, who is Cristy’s son and Darryl’s grandson. “We have all types of different vendors. We have live music. We have different types of events taking place in our Action Arena that people get a kick out of. We have a lot of celebrities from different TV shows that are car-related who will be coming. Obviously, it’s a car show, so it’s heavily car based, but there is so much other stuff going on that people can certainly get a kick out of and enjoy.”

There have typically been around 1,000 cars to see each year, and the event over the last five years has attracted an average of 35,000 people over the course of the weekend. And yes, there will be a bunch of awesome, customized cars, including old hot rods on display, especially in the upstairs area.

The show’s now-iconic Go for the Gold Award, and the accompanying $10,000 prize that comes with it, has enticed talented customized car owners from across the country to enter their cars in the Fine Nine competition.

Included in the show will be some of Starbird’s customized cars that can be seen throughout the year at Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame, which is located about 80 miles northeast of Tulsa in Afton, Okla. There will also be the amazing, futuristic-looking Vampyre car of Gary Meyers, the 2007 Fine Nine winner, among many others.

But it isn’t just customized hot rods and classics. The show features a wide variety of vehicles.

“We have something for everyone,” Bledsoe says. “We have cars, we have Jeeps, and we have motorcycles. We have a class for just about every different type of vehicle you can imagine. I think we have close to 40-something classes that we actually give trophies away for.”

And the list of entertainment options during the weekend is equally diverse.

“On Saturday night, we’ll have a Demolition Derby,” Bledsoe says. We’ll have what is called mini-bike drags — they’re literally just miniature motorcycles that they drag-strip through the building there, and then we’ll actually have some motorcycle stunt guys going. And lastly, we have what is called freestyle hooning, and essentially, we have people push their cars into the arena area and do what they call a cackle off, where they rev their engines up real high. They’ll do a burn out; they have a couple of vehicles that shoot flames out of their exhaust pipes. It’s a unique little thing, we’re one of the few places in the country that put this type of deal on.”

There’s also a lot of space dedicated to what they call the Rockin’ Billy Bash, one of the newer additions to the show since Darryl Starbird retired.

“The downstairs area is all dedicated to the classic, custom, rat rod type of culture that is really big right now,” Bledsoe says. “Those vehicles down there, they’re not the $100,000 show cars. They’re more the guys that maybe found this old rust bucket somewhere and put some time, effort and elbow grease into it. And then our vendors and our entertainment are kind of catered to that. We have a beard contest, we have a pin-up contest, and we’ll actually have a tattoo parlor on hand to get a tattoo during the show. We’ll also have a barber doing rockabilly-type haircuts.”

Celebrities making appearances include Tom Smith of Misfit Garage and three guys from the show Gear Dogs (both on Discovery Channel), as well as Ryan Evans of Count’s Kustoms ( from Counting Cars on the History Channel) and Tim Strange of Search and Restore on Spike TV.

Darryl Starbird's National Rod & Custom Car Show
Expo Square | Tulsa
Feb. 16: Noon-11 p.m.
Feb. 17: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Feb. 18: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.