Demolition derby team builds family tradition

If Shawn, Ryan, Devon or Brady Allen say they ran into someone over the weekend they might not be talking about a social interaction.

The Allens are demolition derby car owners, builders and drivers who compete at a high level out of their shop on East Kibby Street in Lima.

Shawn and Ryan have competed since the late 1980s when Ryan bought a car to use in a demolition derby the day he turned 18. He and Shawn, who is three years older, did the basic modifications needed and one week later put the car in a derby in Celina.

Devon and Brady, who are Shawn’s sons, were drawn to their dad’s hobby at a young age and both started driving in demolition derbies as teenagers.

“We always wanted to be out here (at the shop) whether we were working on cars or just being around the derby stuff when we were five years old. It just kind of grew into wanting to run and now we’re running everywhere,” Brady Allen said.

Devon Allen said, “We were around it every day in the summer growing up. We begged Mom to bring us out to the shop. And seeing Dad and Ryan run and the success they had made us want to continue on and try it ourselves.”

Working on cars, though not for demolition derbies, is something that started in earlier generations in the Allen family.

Ryan and Shawn’s dad, Dick Allen, had a body shop as a side business and their grandfather, Barney Allen, repaired wrecked cars and also built a few race cars which ran at Limaland.

All of today’s Allens are former Lima Senior athletes. Shawn and Devon played basketball at Lima Senior and then at Ohio Northern. Devon also played football for the Spartans. Brady played basketball and baseball at Lima Senior and Ryan played basketball and golf for the Spartans. Shawn was also Lima Senior’s boys basketball coach for seven seasons from 2007 to 2014.

Working on their demolition derby cars and competing on weekends is a stress reliever and an outlet for the competitiveness of former athletes, Shawn Allen said.

“If you’ve been an athlete or a coach or whatever you have to fill the void. Some days it’s great and it’s filling the void and some days it’s a lot of work. We enjoy coming out here. Most days, when it gets to be 3:45 we know we’re going to be together for three hours doing something,” he said.

During the week, Ryan sells truck beds and parts, Brady sells welding supplies, Shawn is a soon-to-be retired physical education teacher at North Elementary School and Devon is an intervention specialist at Elida High School.

Winning a demolition derby takes more than just a good car and a good driver, they say. It also takes luck.

“We try to take as much luck out of it as we can. You can’t take it all out but we try to take as much out as we can,” Devon Allen said.

Part of that, as it is in other sports in 2024, is watching videos, not only of their competitors but also of themselves in previous derbies.

Most people in the sport gravitate to mid-1970s full-size cars, preferably one of the General Motors brands when choosing something that can deliver a blow and, maybe more importantly, take a hit.

Cars like Chevrolet Impalas and Chevy station wagons are two of the favorites. Ford Crown Victorias are growing in popularity.

By the time they get to a demolition derby, those cars are very different than when they were used to go to the grocery store or pick up the kids after school.

The modifications made to those cars before putting them into competition push the vehicle’s weight to 6,500 to 7,000 pounds.

“You could drive through a street car with them and not even put a dent on your car,” Devon Allen said.

Significant damage is often unavoidable for cars that compete in a demolition derby, though.

“You can figure when one of these cars gets run and it’s a big-time show, most of the time it takes a good 30-plus hours to put it back to run again. You bring it back and re-weld, re-plate and reconfigure it.” Ryan Allen said.

“It’s not just run, run, run. That’s where the work factor starts to come in,” he said. “We’re basically building cars like they run at Limaland to go crash and then come back and rebuild them again,” he said.

Two of the biggest events on the Allens’ schedule this summer are the King of Ohio at the Allen County Fairgrounds June 14-16 and the Demolition Entertainment Motorsports Organization’s event at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn., Oct. 3-6, which promoters are calling the world’s biggest demolition derby.

The King of Ohio, an individual event, pays $50,000 to the winner. The Bristol Derby is a team event. Devon and Brady Allen will team with Joey Braun of Celina and Jeremy Hinen of Fort Wayne at Bristol, which pays $100,000 to the winners and has an entry fee of $10,000.

The Allens’ goal every year is to make enough money to break even and not have to use any money from their regular jobs to pay for demolition derby expenses.

“We only build for ourselves. We’re some of the few people who do 95 percent of our things in-house. We try to build everything ourselves,” Devon Allen said.

And a family tradition might be the biggest thing they’ve built.

Go to for more information on the King of Ohio. Go to for more information on the event at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jim Naveau
Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.