DEERFIELD, Mass. — The Rambler began to rumble right out of the garage. Behind the wheel was a maybe 8-year-old Darryl Kimplin.
“My dad comes running out of the house, screaming at me,” Kimplin recalled recently.
His dad had to stop the car before it wrecked their home.
“I don’t think he ever left the keys in it after that,” Kimplin said.
But in the years to come, the father-son relationship became defined by wrecking.
When Kimplin was 14 he would compete in his first demolition derby, just like his dad, Alvin, did nearly every year.
Alvin would compete in demo derbies for about 50 years, up until two years before he died. At 72, in 2007, he partook in his last demo derby in a General Motors wagon.
Since the former owner of Al’s Cabs died in 2009, Kimplin has kept on with the demo derby family tradition, with his team, Rambutt Racing. He has also showed his son the way.
But it wasn’t until a couple of years back when Kimplin’s friend and teammate, Patrick Chiapputi, told him about a lead he had on an old GM wagon.
At a tag sale in Greenfield, they would find the same model that Alvin last raced in, at a price of $250.
They came up with the idea to run a tribute car. They would put his dad’s old number, 47, on the car, get his old sponsors like Ryan and Casey Liquors on Main Street in Greenfield and race under the team’s old name, “Poor Boy’s Racing.”
At first, he thought his 16-year-old son Trevor would be the best person to compete in it. He wanted it to act as a passing of the torch to the third generation. The only issue was the GM wagon was a bit too big for his son, who hadn’t run a full-sized vehicle yet in a demo derby.
So this year, on Sunday night of the Franklin County Fair, Kimplin will compete in a tribute car to his dad.
“Part of me is excited to finally do it,” Kimplin said. “I think once I get out there on the track, it’ll probably be emotional more than anything.”
At the Deerfield property where Rambutt Racing now resides, Kimplin reminisced about his father on a cool summer evening before the fair. So far in the demo derby season this year, he hasn’t had much luck. But in the final race of the year at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, he’s feeling a bit differently.
“His sister said it’s going to win,” Chiapputi said, standing across from Kimplin and outside their garage lined with trophies and cutouts of NASCAR legends. “She’s kind of a psychic to be honest. I’m telling you.”
“She’s usually spot on too,” Kimplin added.
When Kimplin was a kid, he would help his dad build their demo derby cars. They would take old cabs from his dad’s business and turn them into a vehicle ready for wreckage.
“I got excited when it was demo season because that meant we had something to do,” Kimplin said. “And that was fun.”
“It still is,” Chiapputi said.
“It still is,” Kimplin agreed.
He remembers driving to a track in Swanzey, New Hampshire, in a demo derby car with a repair plate, sitting in the passenger seat with his dad. He must’ve been around 10 years old.
“We got up into Swanzey and a cop pulled him over,” Kimplin said. “I was sitting in the passenger seat with him and my mom was behind us, following us. The cop asked him, ‘what do you think you’re doing?’ And he was like, ‘driving the demo car up the road … I got a repair plate on it.’ He said, “you can’t do that.” It was hilarious.”
His dad raced at the first ever demo derby in Franklin County. Over time, he became buddies with Stoney Roberts, one of the organizers of the original competition. When it was about time for the annual race, Alvin would call up Roberts, living in Nashville, Tennessee. Every year, the Kimplin family would make fudge for Roberts. It was one of those traditions they had.
“He would call him and say ‘I got your fudge ready whenever you come up’,” Kimplin said.
Kimplin remembers when the cars became more computerized as his dad got older, and the son used to build the demo derby cars for his dad.
And now, he is helped by his own son, who he’s happy took part in the family tradition.
“It’s one of those things that you hope your kid will get into it, but you just don’t know,” Kimplin said. “But he was always into cars, so I had that going for me. Once he did one he was hooked.”
This year, in his third year of competition, his son did something his father never had. At a recent fair, he flipped over.
“I told him you got one on me because I’ve never been rolled over yet,” Kimplin said.
Everything was fine, with proper safety precautions having been taken. “I did run over there to make sure though, because ‘dad-instinct,’ you know.”
He’s hoping that if the GM wagon doesn’t get fully wrecked this year, his son can drive it next year.
They all share a simple love for the sport, stemming from the family patriarch’s passion.
“Just wrecking s—,” Kimplin said. “He just liked to wreck cars.”
He added, “Who doesn’t like to wreck a car and not get in trouble?”
Information from: The (Greenfield) Recorder, www.recorder.com