LORELAI: Hey, who was the guy who used to run the auto body shop?
(We pan up to see Luke lying on the roof with a hammer.)
LUKE: The Stretch Cunningham guy?
LORELAI: No, the Dick Tracy guy.
Jerome “Stretch” Cunningham was a recurring character on the 1970s sitcom All in the Family, played by James Cromwell. Stretch was a friend and co-worker of main character Archie Bunker. (Both Sally Struthers, who played Babette, and Liz Torres, who played Miss Patty, were also in All in the Family; possibly why it was referenced several times on Gilmore Girls).
Dick Tracy is a fictional police detective who first appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strips created by Chester Gould in 1931. The Dick Tracy stories have been adapted into radio serials, comic books, novels, and films – most recently in 1990, with Warren Beatty in the title role.
There is a real mystery as to what the barely-remembered auto mechanic actually looked like. Lorelai first says he is tall and skinny, then corrects herself to say he was short and fat, and that the tall, skinny guy was actually his employee. Then she decides that he looked like Dick Tracy, who isn’t short and fat. Did the auto mechanic (who we learn was named Jim Dunning) look like a short, stocky version of Dick Tracy?