Classic Cars Line the Streets of Downtown Centralia During Saturday Car Show


With their wax applied and chrome polished, over 300 residents from the Twin Cities and from as far away as Tacoma, drove their prized project cars to downtown Centralia on 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 to menacing muscle cars and even a few modern modified cars. Some of the entrants were a tad more eccentric than others though.

One of the smallest cars at the event was undoubtedly Lonny Kirschbaum of Olympia’s customized 1969 King Midget. The King Midget was once a home-built-kit car produced in Athens, Ohio. The compact cheap cars were sold via magazine ads and sent directly to people’s doorsteps. The cars were designed to use a minimal amount of fuel and only had between three to 10 horsepower depending on the model. 

“They originally came with a one cylinder motor and eight inch tires. They were two-seater convertibles and I actually have three of them at home plus this one. You could buy these out of the back of Popular Mechanics magazines,” Kirschbaum said. 

Needless to say, the King Midget Kirschbaum drove to the car show had far from a stock motor in it. He had swapped out the original one-cylinder motor for a four-cylinder Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engine that is tuned to produce 192 horsepower. Though 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 motor’s massive amount of horsepower. 

“I got nitrous for it now too. I haven’t turned it on yet, though,” Kirschbaum said. “I just got around to putting a sway-bar on it now, and oh my god, does this thing drift around round-abouts. It’s a lot of fun to drive.” 

He further explained that he loves the little cars, and while he still has the first one his parents bought in 1968, he bought more to modify because of his mother. 

“She told me, ‘Don’t you be messing up that car,’ so when I got this one, I remember just going on the internet and was like, ‘wow Hayabusa’s holy moly man, that’s like the motor of motors when it comes to motorcycle engines,’” Kirschbaum said. 

The stock 1968 his parents purchased came from Centralia, while the 1969 one he purchased 11 years ago survived a fire that claimed another project car he was working on. With scorch marks on the license plate still and the phrase “no chrome, no paint, no problems” painted in red on the car’s matte black engine cover, this King Midget was different from the ones sold in Popular Mechanics.

When it came to the eccentric 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 “Patched 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 sorts of antique decorations, which included farming accessories, chicken cages, “Hoover for president” signs and hay — his homage to the times of the Dust Bowl. 

“I started with pieces in the back of a pick-up truck,” Batey said. “I put it together and restored the drive train and it kind of just evolved into this Dust Bowl-themed deal.”

He loves taking it to shows and frequently does since the vehicle is a unique piece of history and great conversation starter. 

“It’s just a kick in the pants. It gets a lot of attention,” Batey added. 

Aside from American-made cars, some interesting foreign cars appeared at the show too. Steve Sweet, of Chehalis, drove his fire-red 1971 De Tomaso Pantera to show it 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’s 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 producing cars, De Tomaso stopped production of new vehicles in 2012, but the company had Formula 1 (F1) racing experience in the past, which included designing the 1970 F1 car for Frank William’s Racing. 

“I’ve taken it up to about 100 (mph) and that was scary enough. I was doing like 50 and I just gunned it and in two seconds I was doing 100,” Sweet said. 

The modified modern cars were mostly Mustangs and Challengers, but the wildly eye-catching, iridescent-purple-and-blue wrapped 2015 Scion FR-S owned by Craig Hase, of Centralia, stole the show. Hase had customized both the engine and body, upgrading the transmission to a six-speed manual, adding a bolt-on turbo kit and a wide-body kit underneath the car’s iridescent wrap. 

“It came from a guy who had it up 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 windshield reads “Locally Hated” and is his tribute to a car he owned previously. 

“I had a (Subaru) WRX and she was probably twice as loud as this thing. Straight-piped, 2L (engine), I mean it came to megaphone header exhaust tips,” Hase said. 

Hase works in construction and sometimes would leave as early as 4 a.m., so needless to say, his neighbors weren’t pleased with the noise his old car made.

If you missed your chance on Saturday to see the Hub City Car Show, many of the entrants will be back in Chehalis on Saturday, Sept. 4, at the Veterans Memorial Museum for the Rust Or Shine Car Show. 

The museum is located on 100 SW Veterans Way and the car show begins at 9 a.m. Sunday morning and will be open until 2 p.m.