By Owen Sexton / [email protected]
With their waxes applied and chrome polished, over 300 residents from the Twin Cities and as far away as Tacoma drove their prized project cars into downtown Centralia Saturday morning for the return of the Hub City Car Show.
Locals lined the streets throughout the morning and afternoon to walk around and admire the cars, which featured Ford Model A Coupes faithfully restored to showroom condition for menacing muscle cars and even some modern modified cars. However, some of the participants were a little weirder than others.
One of the smaller cars at the event was definitely Lonny Kirschbaum’s Olympia-adapted King Midget in 1969. The King Midget used to be a home-built car made in Athens, Ohio. Inexpensive compact cars were sold through magazine ads and delivered directly to people’s doorsteps. The cars were designed to use a minimal amount of fuel and only had between three and 10 horsepower depending on the model.
“They originally came with a one-cylinder engine and eight-inch tires. They were two seater convertibles and I actually have three of them at home plus this one. You can buy these from the back of Popular Mechanics magazines,” Kirschbaum said.
Needless to say, Kirschbaum’s King Midget, which traveled to the car show, did not have an engine in it. It had swapped the original single-cylinder engine for a four-cylinder Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engine that has been tuned to produce 192 horsepower. Although it still has the original frame and body, the rest of the car is far from stock. The suspension, tires, brakes, drivetrain, and transmission all had to be upgraded to handle the Hayabusa engine’s massive amount of horsepower.
“I’ve been rooting for him now, too. I haven’t fired it up yet, though,” Kirschbaum said. “I just got around to putting a sway bar on it now and oh my gosh, does this thing go around the roundabouts. It’s a lot of fun to drive.”
He further explained that he likes small cars and while he still has the first one his parents bought him in 1968, he bought more to modify because of his mother.
“She told me, ‘Don’t mess with that car,’ so when I got this, I remember just going online and going, ‘wow holy Hayabusa man, that’s like the engine of motorcycles when it comes to motorcycle engines,’” Kirschbaum said.
The 1968 stock his parents bought came from Centralia, while the 1969 he bought 11 years earlier survived a fire that claimed another project car he was working on. With burn marks still on the license plate and the phrase “no chrome, no paint, no problems” painted red on the matte black engine cover, this King Midget was different from the ones sold at Popular Mechanics.
When it came to the freak factor, the wildest car at the show had to be that of Kevin Batey, who is from Onalaska. It was a 1928 Ford “Chicken” Coupe, which Batey affectionately called his “Spotted Chicken” Coupe.
While most modified Fords from this era get the hot rod treatment, Batey bought this car about 40 years ago and decided to take a different, creative approach. He adorned the vehicle with all kinds of antique decorations, which included farm accessories, chicken coops, “Hoover for president” signs and grass – his homage to the Dust Bowl era.
“I started with pieces in the back of a truck,” Batey said. “I put it together and restored the drive train and it just evolved into this Dust Bowl-themed deal.”
He loves taking it to shows and does so often, as the vehicle is a unique piece of history and a great conversation starter.
“It’s just a kick in the pants. It gets a lot of attention,” Batey added.
In addition to American-made cars, the show also featured some interesting foreign cars. Steve Sweet, of Chehalis, drove his fiery red 1971 De Tomaso Pantera to show it off in Centralia. Despite being Italian, the heart of this car is a 5.8-liter Ford “Cleveland” V-8 engine capable of producing 330 horsepower.
“It is a rare car. I’ve had it for eight years,” Sweet said. “It’s mid-engined and it’s just a riot to drive.”
While its Italian counterparts Ferrari and Lamborghini are still making cars, De Tomaso stopped making new vehicles in 2012, but the company had Formula One (F1) racing experience in the past, which included designing the F1 Car of the Year 1970 for Frank William Racing.
“I got it up to about 100 (mph) and that was pretty scary. I was doing like 50 and I just shot it and in two seconds I was doing 100,” Sweet said.
The modern modified cars were mostly Mustangs and Challengers, but the incredibly attractive 2015 Scion FR-S with iridescent purple and blue wraps owned by Craig Hase of Centralia stole the show. Hase had customized the engine and body, upgrading the transmission to a six-speed manual, adding a bolt-on turbo kit and a widebody kit under the car’s iridescent wrap.
“She came from a guy who raised her in Canada. He had it tuned to about 450 HP and then blew the automatic transmission in it,” Hase said.
A vinyl sticker on his rear window reads “Locally Hated” and is his tribute to a car he previously owned.
“I had a (Subaru) WRX and it was probably twice as loud as this thing. Straight-piped, 2L (engine), I mean it came to the tips of the megaphone head exhaust,” Hase said.
Hase works in construction and was sometimes gone as early as 4 a.m., so needless to say, his neighbors weren’t happy with the noise his old car was making.
If you missed your chance on Saturday to check out the Hub City Car Show, many of the attendees will be back in Chehalis on Saturday, September 4, at the Veterans Memorial Museum for the Rust Or Shine Car Show.
The museum is located at 100 SW Veterans Way and the car show begins at 9 a.m. Sunday morning and will be open until 2 p.m.