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County residents head to Forest Grove with rare classic cars

St. Helens, Scappoose men display classics at Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance and St. Helens Elks Cruisin'

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Duane Benedict of St. Helens shows his pint-sized King Midget microcar, which he will display in Forest Grove during the Concours d'Elegance car show. The car has a single cylinder engine. The modest rumbling from the single-cylinder Kohler engine in Duane Benedict's 1967 King Midget means the microcar is going for a spin. Benedict waves at a neighbor as his tiny, two-seater car makes its way down a hill, but has a harder time making it back up the incline.

Benedict, of St. Helens, chuckles about it before pulling back into his driveway.

"This is a tiny little car," Benedict says. "It's very primitive, but it's fun.”

The King Midget was first put into production as a kit car before it was produced and marketed as a fuel-efficient microcar, suitable for running errands in the post-World War II era.

The Midget's tires aren't bigger than that of a golf cart, and its windowless body, three-gallon gas tank and minimal rear engine compartment are what makes the car special.

Benedict bought the 1967 model about five years ago, adding to his and his wife's inventory of classic cars.

The retired St. Helens man recalls thumbing through auto magazines as a child and yearning for the King Midget, before realizing he was still too young, and too broke, to drive one.

"I wanted one as a kid," Benedict recalled. "I thought it would be a cute little car for a kid to drive around, not realizing you still had to have a license ...”

Benedict will show his microcar next Sunday, July 17, in Forest Grove at the 44th annual Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance car show. The event is one of the largest car shows in the Pacific Northwest.

Benedict will be joined by fellow Columbia County resident Walt Tabrum of Scappoose.

Tabrum will be on-hand with his 1960 Mercedes Benz 220SE.

The Benz is a rare model — one of less than 850 produced. It's also one of the last hand-assembled models before Mercedes transitioned to an assemblyline approach, Tabrum says.

He acquired the classic car in 1998 from an owner in Lake Oswego. The car's original owner was a doctor in New York. SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Walt Tabrum of Scappoose prepares to shine up his 1960 Mercedes Benz 220SE for the Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance car show on July 17. Tabrum also plans to display his classic model in the St. Helens Elks Cruisin' car show on July 30.

“They disassembled it quite a bit," Tabrum says of the car's previous owner. "It was pretty much in pieces. I got it, moved it home to my garage, and surveyed everything."

With the help of a few friends from his regional Mercedes Benz car club, Tabrum restored the 220SE to near-mint condition, refinishing the wood trim on the interior, installing reproduction seat covers and carpeting, and giving it the authentic whitewall tires.

His model has a 135-horsepower, six-cylinder fuel-injection engine, making it one of Mercedes' earliest models with the new technology.

“You sit back and look at it, and I guess it just gives you a satisfaction that you're able to understand how something worked in those days and you were able to reassemble it," Tabrum says. "It gives you an appreciation for the engineering and the design and what they were capable of doing."

Aside from the Forest Grove Concours d'Elegance, classic cars will be on display in Columbia County during the St. Helens Elks Club's Cruisin' car show Saturday, July 30, at the Elks Lodge on Belton Road.