VFW and American Legion Posts host 16th annual Military Heroes Car Show in Rainier


It was a sunny Saturday on Sept. 2 in Rainier and a total of 106 cars were registered and on display at Wilkowski Park for the 16th annual Military Heroes Car Show, formerly known as the Wounded Warrior Car Show.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5580 Commander Timothy Fish from Yelm said the show was organized by VFW posts 5580 and 9079 along with American Legion Post 146, with all proceeds going to help local veterans.

“It’s been a joint venture between different veteran organizations to support the VFW car show,” Fish said.

He added that proceeds will help fund any need a veteran may have.

“It can be anything. A couple years ago we built a ramp for a veteran who was stuck in their home in a wheelchair, to helping a veteran catch a flight if they have a loved one that passed,” Fish said. “As long as the Post membership thinks it’s a good cause, we will definitely support it.”

These were the cars that stood out to The Nisqually Valley News.

A pair of imported Mini Coopers

Two Mini Cooper Rovers were paired together. One, a white 1996 Rover, was owned by James Thompson of Graham, while a black 1992 Rover was owned by Ben Compton of Port Orchard.

Both cars are imported, right-hand-drive cars, as well, and have now been on three different continents throughout their lives.

“These cars were produced in England, shipped brand new to Japan and sold on the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market),” Thompson said. “So, they are JDM English cars and world travelers that were imported here later in life.”

While both men loved the cars, they both acknowledge owning a British car of any make is never easy, as British cars are known for frequently needing maintenance. Compton added British auto manufacturers would often reuse designs and technology from previous years.

“You still have 1950s technology in something that was produced in the 1990s. The Brits are famous for that,” Compton said. “If they find something that works they would squeeze every last drop out of it, but that’s part of the English car experience.”

Despite the maintenance requirements, both men still love the tiny British cars, with Thompson now having owned nine different Mini Coopers throughout his life, and Compton is on his fifth.

Thompson nicknamed his car “Megumi,” which is Japanese for “blessing,” after he was able to purchase it with insurance money he received after surviving a fiery car crash.

Compton’s Rover is nicknamed Stanley after Stan Laurel, an old British comic actor from the 1930s and 1940s, and is adorned with a Calvin and Hobbes bumper sticker.

“Calvin and Hobbes in the cardboard box with goggles just seemed to invoke what it’s like driving one of these,” Compton added.

A Studebaker President Silver Hawk

Owned by Noelee Jordan of Roy, her 1957 Studebaker President Silver Hawk coupe was one of two Studebakers she and her husband, Russell, brought to Saturday’s show.

The Jordans enjoy Studebakers as they are classic American cars, which are becoming rarer with each passing year as Russell explained Studebaker went out of business in 1966. The ride is fairly comfortable, too.

“It’s a good, clean old car, and it drives like a Cadillac,” Russell said. “It’s easy to work on, too.”

He spent about a year restoring the President Silver Hawk, which was originally built in Indiana, for his wife.

His own Studebaker, a 1964 Gran Turismo Hawk, was one of the last series of cars produced at the Indiana factory and actually doesn’t have all Studebaker parts.

“It’s got a Ford rear end, a Muncie transmission, and they did this at the factory because they just started buying parts and making their last run just to get the cars out of the factory,” he said.

While Studebaker was one of America’s staple auto manufacturers during the first half of the 20th century, once other manufacturers began producing less expensive cars, it was the end of the company.

“That was the problem. They were almost twice as much as a Chevy or a Ford,” Russell said.   

A Bentley R-Type

While it wasn’t actually their car, Shari and Jeff Wilson of Roy brought Jeff’s boss’s 1954 Bentley R-Type four-door coupe to Wilkowski Park.

“He bought it in New York and brought it back here. We’ve had it for a couple of years now, and it’s just been sitting in the garage, and this is the first year now we’ve been taking it to shows,” Shari Wilson said.

Everything in the car is original, too, as far as she knows, including the car’s suicide doors and wooden interior paneling.

“The ride is really smooth, and it actually has a lot of get-up-and-go,” she added.

The R-Type was the fastest four-seat car in production at the time, according to Road & Track magazine. One tested in 1953 registered a top speed of 101.7 miles per hour and accelerated from zero to 60 mph in just over 13 seconds.

While Jeff’s boss is considering selling the car, they are also considering renting the Bentley out to couples getting married or going to high school dances.

1965 Chevrolet Corvair resto-mod

The Chevrolet Corvair never achieved the same fame its cousin, the Corvette, did, but that didn’t stop Richard Spencer of Yelm from purchasing a used 1965 Corvair back in 1973.

“I brought the kids home from the hospital in this car,” Spencer said.

He’s had the car ever since and turned it into a resto-mod project, giving the classic car modern amenities like air conditioning, heated seats and power windows.

“I’ve done all the work on it other than the paint and a little bit of the welding,” Spencer said.

The Corvair was painted orange in honor of an old friend of Spencer’s who has since passed, Denver Mullins, who was a famous California-based custom motorcycle fabricator.

“It was his favorite color,” Spencer added.

Given the car’s modifications, Spencer uses it for a road trip car as he and his wife enjoy touring the country in it.

“We sold our house and furniture and got in the car and left. We take back roads and go to small towns, we like taking the scenic route,” Spencer said.