Dillehay Street Hullabaloo: Hot Rodding History At It’s Best

We have been running hard going to every car show across the country for some time now to bring our readers the best of the best. So, a few weeks ago we decided it was time for a break and thought it would be cool to get a lesson in some hot rodding history and learn how a small town in the middle of Kentucky was introduced to the world of hot rodding.

As most towns go there is always that one street that is a little shady or too rough to drive down. This was the case of Dillehay Street in Danville, Kentucky, were a group of hooligans in the late fifties and early sixties hung out to raise a little hell. People of this little town, just south of Lexington, would steer clear of the area, afraid of getting caught up in the mayhem.

That was until a man named Everett Stafford moved back to Kentucky with his pregnant wife, Evona, after spending some time in the U.S. Navy. He took a job working for one of the local car dealerships for a few years, but he eventually wanted something of his own. So in 1962 he was able to buy a piece of property on the now famous Dillehay Street.

Over the next few years he was able to get away from working for someone else and shot full time into the hot rod building business at Stafford Paint & Body Shop. He started to become friends with those young hoodlums and realized they weren’t all that bad. As any ‘gang’ out there, this group needed a name; this ex-Navy man started calling them the “Dillehay Rats.”

People come from all over just to hang out have a good time at this free annual gathering of hot rodders.

By this time Everett’s wife had given birth to their first son, Kirby. As Kirby got older he would go with Dad over to the shop, play all over the junked cars out back and watch him bang out cool hot rods. Over the years Kirby started getting his own passion in this hobby and began to develop as a pretty good pinstriper and doing what any father should do, Everett encouraged every bit of his sons growing passion.

Drive anything you want, park it and spend the day having the best time of your life.

Now let’s move the calendar forward a few decades. Even though the landscape around the neighborhood has changed, one thing that still stands is that old brick building where Kirby got started pinstriping. In 2002 a family friend, Richard Sanders and Kirby teamed up to keep this legacy alive. Now the sign in the front reads 2Cool Paint, Hot Rods & Bikes with Kirby’s Sign Shop in the back.

Together these two have worked extremely hard and have definitely made a name for themselves in the hot rodding community, building cars that have been driven all over the country and having a blast doing it, but never forgetting how it all got started. Due to their unique style and flair they have attracted some top-notch buyers of their radically built rods, such as iconic rockin’ hot rodder Billy F. Gibbons.

One day about six years ago they were talking about the old days when the “Dillehay Rats” would come down to the shop and hang out. They thought it would be cool to have a few friends hang out for a hot rod BBQ party. “It was so much fun we figured we would do it again the next year and it kept growing from there,” Kirby told us.

“After about the 4th year, we were like, we don’t want to do it next year, let’s not do it next year. But we always do it the next year,” Kirby said due to the large amount of work it takes to through a growing event. We all know what happens when you have a good thing; word gets out, more people show up and more cars rumble down the street and it takes a bit more work to keep it organized. But what’s cool about the Dillehay Street Hullabaloo is the city of Danville lets them close down the whole street from one end to the other just for this bash.

If the car isn't your preferred method of transportation, these guys allow just about anything with wheels.

Unlike anything were have ever seen before, the Hoodlum Race was definitely something you had to see to believe and this year it a gal took the win.

Kirby and Richard gave this gathering the name “Hullabaloo” because they didn’t want it to be a car show. They don’t really give out trophies, they just want people to come out and have a great time. This is a laid back time to just hang out with friends, talk about hot rods and listen to some good music. Here’s something new; it doesn’t cost a thing to bring your car. Just roll down Dillehay Street and find a place to park. If you happen to go too far down the road; burn-outs are expected.

These guys don’t do this for money, in fact, all the money they make on t-shirt sales goes to help put this together or to one of their main sponsors, Shelby Speed and Kustom from Lexington, Kentucky to help with their charity and suicide prevention.

Mark Cain is the owner of Shelby’s Speed and Kustoms and they work hard to give back to their community. Mark’s shop builds some incredible machines from traditional style hot rods, to full customs and resto-mods. But Cain has a different back story than most.

Mark’s son Shelby was an aspiring hot rod builder and had a great future in front of him. However, several years ago things got rough for Shelby and he took his own life. Being one of the hardest things a father could ever face, Mark decided to turn the tables. He left his 16-year corporate job and began fulfilling his son’s dream of building cars.

Along with the shop, Mark and his wife started Shelby’s Way, an organization which brings awareness to hot rodders and drag racers about suicide prevention. “The hot rodding community is a good community and they genuinely care and want to help and give back to people,” the Cain’s shared with us. Now Mark Cain is able to turn this tragic situation into a thing of hope and inspiration for others.

The city of Danville loosens up a little bit during the weekend. They understand this is a great part of their city's history and they are more than happy to embrace it.

Traditional hot rods either need the name of the car or the shop name on it somewhere, almost like a badge of honor.

One thing we noticed was the amount of families and kids who were enjoying themselves – and to add to the excitement, Kirby and Richard decided to add a little something different to spice things up this year. Remembering the days of the old soap box derby races and also thinking of when Everett would call those young boys “hoodlums,” these two came up with the Hoodlum Races.

From what we gathered it could be just about anything that was not mechanically powered. And looking at a few of these contraptions we think they should have been wearing body armor before taking the dive down the hill. Believe it not, the ones that were actually the fastest were made out of old car hoods and tricycle wheels. It was all in good fun and just another reason why this shindig keeps growing every year.

By the time we were getting ready to head out, we were reminded yet again, what this hot rodding thing is really all about. We were able to meet a bunch of very cool people who had incredible stories about how this hobby has affected them and how they are giving back to those around them. It’s not always about the money or the trophies; it’s about getting together, having a great time and helping your brother when they need it most.

This incredible street in the middle of small town Central Kentucky has made it's mark in the hot rod nation and by the looks of how awesome this weekend went, they will continue to make history for a long time to come.

Check out more in the GALLERY:

About the author

Robert Mills

Growing up with his parents owning a photography studio, it was only natural for Robert Mills to pick up a camera and begin capturing the world around him and after spending time watching his uncle run his front-engine dragster down the quarter Robert started getting the hot rod fever. He is a self proclaimed "Traditional Rockabilly Rebel" and enjoys combining his two passions in life to help share not only the cool kustoms he comes across, but also the people who bring the kulture to life.
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