Yelm High School Students Organize Car Show Fundraiser


With Sunday’s picturesque weather, gearheads congregated in the parking lot of Yelm High School for a car show fundraiser as approximately 70 contestants from around the area came to participate.

The show was put on by Yelm High School students who are part of the SkillsUSA manufacturing, automotive and welding clubs at the school.

With paint jobs polished and chrome shimmering in the sunlight, the students also held a silent auction where they gave away oil change certificates, a car wash and polish kit, with all of the proceeds going toward the clubs.

Members of the welding club also made custom trophies that were presented to the winners in each of the judging categories.

Of all the automobiles on display, here are some cars that caught the eye of a Nisqually Valley News reporter.

Panel Truck

While Chevrolet eventually phased out panel trucks in favor of cars like the Suburban, as other auto manufacturers like Ford did with their panel trucks during the 1960s, Chevrolet still offered the C/10 panel truck up until 1970, according to Olympia resident Jay Gregory.

“These old panel trucks were great and used a lot by people who were electricians, carpenters, basically anyone in a trade industry,” Gregory said. “They’re great old work trucks.”

He wanted one for that reason and purchased his own seven years ago.

“It took forever to find it. I was shopping for years,” Gregory said.

While he did find many 1970 C/10 panel trucks for sale, most were damaged beyond restoration and were only good for spare parts.

After he found one he could restore and was able to get it running again, Gregory now uses it as his daily driver. Working as a business insurer in Olympia, the truck makes it around the city a lot.

“I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” Gregory said. “Everybody in Olympia knows it pretty well. If they see me, they know the truck.”

Delray Club Coupe

While it may be his grandparents’ car, Yelm High School freshman Trenton McKinley can tell you every detail about their 1957 Chevrolet Delray Club Coupe, which was displayed on Sunday.

“It’s got a small-block (V8) 283. It’s been repainted the original sierra gold and adobe white,” McKinley said. “The seats have been reupholstered, but the original upholstery is still underneath the sheets. The engine has been rebuilt, too.”

His grandfather, who completed the engine work and the paint job, gave the car to McKinley’s grandmother as a wedding anniversary gift. She did the upholstery work.

“They’ve owned this car for 30 years, too,” McKinley said.

His grandmother, Helen McKinley, added, “It’s his first time bringing it to a show. He’s been polishing it since he was really little.”

El Camino Obsession

Olympia resident Bill Kendall, a U.S. Army veteran, got his first Chevrolet El Camino in high school and owned a 1972 El Camino SS before joining the Army in 1978. After his military career ended, Kendall found a restored 1972 El Camino SS for sale online in 2018, and decided to get back to his old high school car.

“I’ve always loved this era, especially ‘70 through ‘72,” Kendall said.

While he didn’t restore it himself, he didn’t mind not having to invest in that process.

“It’s done. I don’t have to sink a bunch of money into it. What happens is these guys will do these projects, and then they get bored and move on to another project car,” Kendall said. “They’re willing to take the loss so they can make space in their garage.”

Pinto Wagon

Although they’re known for being lemons in the automotive community, the reputation doesn’t stop some gearheads from loving the Ford Pinto.

Patrick Nerney, of Olympia, is one of them. He said his 1976 Ford Pinto Wagon, with its massively oversized air scoop, is surprisingly dependable.

“I’ve owned it for 30 years and I drive it all over the northwest,” Nerney said. “I’ve taken it as far east as Enumclaw, as far north as Kent, as far west as Long Beach and as far south as Longview.”

The original motor has been replaced with a 1977 Windsor 351 V8 truck motor. Complete with a “sh-tbox edition” badge, the character is a part of the car, as evidenced by some dents that can still be found on the bodywork.

“The dent on the top is from when an ex-girlfriend and I kind of got into a dispute. I took the car out on the road, and jumped on it, and the hood flew up,” Nerney said. “This dent (on the fender) is from when something fell on it in the garage.”

The car is equipped with a custom grenade shaped gear shift handle that was gifted to him by his best friend who recently died, as “pintos are supposed to blow up on impact.”

“I went over to his house one night and he gave me the grenade and said, ‘Here, I want you to put this on your car,’” Nerney said. “This week, I’m actually going to fill it with his ashes.”

Sprint Car

While most vehicles at the car show spend time in garages and cruising on paved roads, Chris Greene, of Spanaway’s Sprint Car, spends its life racing around oval tracks throughout western Washington.

“We’ll be doing around 100 to 110 (mph) on the straights, and through the corners, between 70 and 90 depending on the track we’re at,” Greene said.

With a 360 cubic-inch motor producing 750 horsepower, Greene said the car is never short on speed. The sprint car appears to be cramped with the racecar’s massive drive shaft running directly between the driver’s legs.

“It’s actually quite roomy in there, even though it doesn’t look like it,” Greene said.

Racing primarily in Grays Harbor County, Greene also travels to Skagit County and to Oregon for events.

“I try to make it out to a track every two weeks,” Greene said.

Safari Wagon

Owned by Thomas Kelly, of University Place, his resto-modded 1956 Pontiac Safari Wagon could catch eyes at any car show. After buying it in Idaho in 2003, he began tearing it apart in 2008 and putting it back together in 2014.

While it looks like a classic with its chrome bumpers, accents and stunning white and blue paint scheme, it has a modern front end, transmission, suspension, brakes and other newer amenities.

“I finally finished it up last July,” Kelly said, later adding, “It drives and rides like a new car.”

While it wasn’t an option originally available on 1956 Pontiacs, Kelly incorporated Pontiac’s old Indian head logo into the interior’s upholstery.

Though it couldn’t be displayed during the day, the car’s massive chrome hood ornament also had clear resin components, which light up blue at night to match the car, according to Kelly.

Old Rat

The rustiest car on display belonged to Russ and Linda Becker, of Olympia. While it was rusty on the outside, the Beckers’ 1953 Ford F-100 truck was a resto-modded car with character.

Sporting many modern vehicle amenities like air conditioning, electric doors, power steering and disc brakes, the “Old Rat,” as it was affectionately called, was a long-time project for the Beckers.

“We’ve had it for 26 years, though we sold it in parts to a friend of ours who built it and sold it back to us 20 years later,” Linda Becker said. “We never canceled the title, so we technically owned it the whole time.”

Russ Becker added, “He put the cab on it and motor in it, and the rest of the work I did.”

With a modern Ford 302 crate engine under the hood, the truck gets the Beckers everywhere they need to be.

“I built this truck to make people smile,” Russ Becker said.

The car is complete with “tetanus shot required to touch” and “warning parts will fall off” notes scribbled on the truck’s rusty bodywork, among the many other small details car show attendees can discover on it.