Dave Stuckey's Lil' Coffin

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The Lil' Coffin after coming back from General Welding where Dave channeled the car 9 inches
January 1958, Dave creating new rear fenders for the car
Photo provided by Carnut.com[1]
The first version of the car, before it became the Lil' Coffin
Dave's '32 with its new grille and paint job
The Lil' Coffin at the second annual Auto Capade in Kansas City, Missouri in 1960. Photo by Ernie Kirkland.
Photo by Darryl Starbird.
Lil' Coffin at the 1960 Wichita Auto Capade. Photo by Dave Stuckey, provided by Carnut.com[1]
This is how most people know the Lil' Coffin
Dave and the Lil' Coffin. Photo by George Barris
The Lil' Coffin displayed as the Little Coffin at an indoor car show after Dave had sold the car to Larry Farber. Photo from The Dave Jenkins Photo Collection.
The Lil' Coffin at an indoor show in Tulsa in the early 1960s.[2]
The Monkey Ward version of the Lil' Coffin
The Fabulous Pheaton version of the car
The burned out remains of the Fabulous Pheaton
The 90s version of the Lil' Coffin
The Lil' Coffin being restored back to the 1962 version by Darryl Starbird. Photo by Dick 'Fuzzy' Fuerholzer
The Lil' Coffin at the 53rd Darryl Starbird's Exotic Car Show Wichita in 2010.[3]

Lil' Coffin is a 1932 Ford Sedan built by Dave Stuckey of Wichita, Kansas. Dave bought the car in 1954 from Warren Wilhelm's dad who owned a car lot on South Broadway in Wichita, Kansas. The car had perfect body and fenders. The first night Dave owned the car he removed the motor, transmission, fenders, hood and grille so that he could channel it. He then took it to General Welding, the company where he worked after school, and channeled it 9 inches. At the same time Dave also welded in a straight front cross-member, mounts for the radiator, split the wishbones, mounted a flathead motor and put hydraulic brakes on the car. While building the car, Dave began working part time after school for Darryl Starbird at his Star Kustom Shop. The first version of the car with a sectioned '32 grille shell was finished in 1956.

Over the years, Dave continuously made changes to the car in some way or another. In 1958 Dave put a 1940 Ford dashboard in the car and built the rear fenders, which were built completely with rods as the understructure and tubing to form the wheel wells. This structure was then covered with formed sheet metal which was brazed to the outer tubes. A grille was molded into the rear end and fit with special nerf bars. A couple of front pans from a 1953 Studebaker were used to form the lower rear-end of the body. Dave used 1930 Ford Model A front fenders and formed the running boards from sheet metal. Bill Tumbelston helped Dave form the front nerf bar using a 1958 Edsel grille shell as form. The nerf bar held the headlights which were 1959 Harley Davidson units. Exhaust pipes were incorporated into the fenders and running boards. Once completed, Dave painted the car with a Titian red 1956 Buick color. Dave left out the black while mixing the color, and replaced this by 246-0887-H. The color was shot over a yellow tint mixing lacquer. Frank Turner did all the interior work on the '32. The car was upholstered in red and white Matlasha fabric imported from Belgium with silver threads sewn into it. The dash was filled and reworked for Stewart-Warner instruments. The doors were opened via solenoid system. The car had several different engines during its first years. In Car Craft November 1960 the car is featured with its original grille and a 1954 DeSoto engine. The car was bored 3 13/16, equipped with larger valves, Isky camshaft, J. E. Pistons, Grant rings, reworked heads with 11 1/2: 1 compression ratio, Crower Manifold, four Stromberg 97's, Mercury clutch and 1939 Ford transmission and rear end.

A new grill shell similar to the Ala Kart was built with the help of Roger Hatchett, who also worked at Star Kustom Shop. The shell was restyled with chromed bullets. King George, a pinstriper from Lawrence, Kansas pinstriped the car.

The name "Lil' Coffin" came from a girl in Dodge City, Kansas that thought the car looked like a little coffin because of the interior.

After Dave opened his own shop in 1960, he began to rework the Lil' Coffin. He sectioned the car 4 inches, reworked the top to make it cantilevered, and cut off the front fenders to move them forward. He made a new grill sporting a tubular arrangement, changed the rear grill to match the one in front, moved the motor back and installed six carbs on the motor. The firewall and dashboard were changed, the doors were turned around, the interior changed and four bucket seats were installed. The car also got a handgrip steering wheel. Dave was running out of money at the time, and decided to sell the car to his good friend Larry Farber. They agreed that Dave would finish the car so Larry could show it. Larry was going to take it to California where George Barris had lined up shows for him. Dave changed the front seat to a bench seat, put a tonneau cover over the rear seat, and had Frank Turner re-do the upholstery. White Naugahyde covered the seats, while the carpeting was gold. Dave painted the car candy wild cherry. Larry took the car to California and showed it there at various shows such as the 1962 National Roadster Show.

People from Monogram saw the car at the National Roadster Show. Jack Besser the president of Monogram decided that they just had to have the car. They contacted Larry, and a deal to sell it to Monogram was made. After showing the car for a while, the paint had been damaged and Monogram sent it to Star Kustom Shop for a new paint job. Dave Puhl who was working for Darryl Starbird at the time painted the car. Monogram had bought the car to make a model of it, didn't want anything on the car to be changed, only a new paint job and a touch up.


Monkey Ward Delivery

Darryl Starbird bought the Lil' Coffin from Monogram in 1967. He stored it for a couple of years before he decided to put it back on the show circuit. Darryl restyled the car into a sedan delivery. He dubbed the car the Monkey Ward Delivery, and toured the show circuit with it for several years.

Fabulous Phaeton

In 1980, Darryl decided to get the 32 out of storage and restyle it again. He now turned the car into a street rod. He returned the body to the Lil' Coffin look, but he fit it with a removable padded top. The car was painted in Candy red paint, and featured an all leather interior. The car made its debut at the 1981 NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. After that show Darryl toured the country with the car. While unloading the car from a semi trailer, a leak in the fuel line ignited when the car started. The car burst into flames, and Darryl managed to jump out of the car.

Darryl put the damaged remains back in storage until 1992, when he decided that he wanted to make a 90's redo of the car.

Lil' Coffin

February 20, 2009 Darryl Starbird debuted the restored version of the Lil' Coffin at his annual Darryl Starbird's Exotic Car Show Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Darryl has restored the car back to its 1962 version.

The Rumors

In 1992 Rod & Custom Magazine published the story Nine Lives by Darryl Starbird. In the story Darryl claimed that he built the Lil' Coffin. These rumors have been around for years, so Dave Stuckey decided to stand up for himself and tell the true story about the Lil' Coffin. This story can be found at his website: www.davestuckeyslilcoffin.com. There is no doubt that Darryl Starbird worked on Dave's car. Rod & Custom April 1992 shows pictures of a young Darryl hand-forming the rear fenders on the car. So I guess the big issue is who did what, and how involved each person was in the build.

Lil' Coffin II

The Lil' Coffin II was built by Ron Englert and Ron Kilmer as a tribute to Dave Stuckey.

Magazine Features

Custom Cars October 1959
Custom Rodder January 1960
Custom Cars March 1960
Car Craft November 1960
Custom Rodder February 1962
Rod & Custom November 1962
Hot Rod Magazine May 1963
Customs Illustrated September 1963
Car Craft October 1963
Popular Customs Fall Issue 1965
Popular Customs February/March 1966
Rod & Custom August 1991
Rod & Custom April 1992
Hot Rod Deluxe May 2009


  1. 1.0 1.1 Carnut.com - Dave Stuckey Pics Page.
  2. The HAMB - Vintage Hot Rod Shows....picture thread.
  3. Mank999's Flickr



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