The Times West Virginian

My Hobby

January 25, 2012

Little cars, big treasures

FAIRMONT — Elvis’ pink Cadillac.

The Pink Lady from “Grease.”

Ike’s white personal limo.

The General Lee modified Dodge Charger.

Aunt Bea’s red-and-black Ford.

Christine, the mean red Plymouth.

The Bandit’s black Trans-Am.

The classic T-Bird from “American Graffiti.”

Rain Man’s tan 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible.

Who wouldn’t mind owning just one of these iconic cars?

Richard McDougal doesn’t own just one. He’s got a whole room full of these classics.

One-hundred fifty-five cars and 28 trucks, to be exact ... mostly 1:18-scale diecast models, with a few 24-scale thrown in for fun.

It all started with the 18-scale red-and-white 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible his son bought him for Father’s Day in 1987.

“I was amazed at the detail. Anyone you pick out, it’s just like it came from the factory.”

Built to factory specs, each car and truck features tiny but exact details, from floor mats in the front to knobs on the radios even to fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview window. They come complete with everything but monthly payments.

“I wasn’t interested in scale models before this,” he said. “I had the full-sized things. I’d take them to car shows. But I got laid off from the mines and the big money ran out, so I couldn’t afford the big ones anymore.”

Once he was hooked, he did what all novice collectors do: He started looking for more.

“Needless to say, my kids and grandkids used to get me models for Christmas and Father’s Day. Now they ask first what I need.”

He’s got a few 24-scale models, which are smaller and not as detailed as 18-scale.

He’s got some duplicates but in different colors. He doesn’t have a list or database or catalog of what he has.

“I have to refer to a book to see if I have a model,” he said.

Now he’s got muscle cars. Vintage trucks. A couple of Edsels. (He actually owned a real one.) He’s even got a Tucker.

“They only built them one year (51 cars in 1947). The Tucker was so well-built and ahead of its time. the motor is in the back and is actually a helicopter engine. Quite a car. The other manufacturers put him out of business.”

He doesn’t have any NASCAR models and aside from a Duesenberg and a few VWs, few foreign-made cars.

“I had some, but my niece bought them from me for her husband,” he said.

His first real car was a used black, two-door 1940 Chevrolet that he bought 56 years ago when he was 15.

“It was so long ago I don’t remember how much I paid for it,” he recalled. “I didn’t even have my license. I wasn’t 16 until that December. I told my father that when I got ready to drive, my car would be right there.”

Over the years, he’s had what he calls “some very interesting cars.”

Like the brand-new ’70 Chevelle Super Sport.

“It was red with black stripes,” he said fondly. “I demolished it six months later. Too much power. Too much lead foot. I ran into another car, went over the bank and tore it to pieces. Totaled.”

These scale models are much safer.

And more affordable, too. The average 18-scale model costs about $20, he said. The most he’s paid is $27.

It used to be these models were easy to find, he said.

“They put a stop to lead-based paint so they quit bringing them over from overseas. The ones you find now are at flea markets, garage sales, trade papers and stores.”

He’s even got a local dealer of sorts.

“There’s this feed store in Hundred. The owner is retired, and he liked these cars, too. He’d buy lots for his own use. I occasionally buy one or two.”

And like most collectors, he’s got his “wish list” of models he’s looking for.

Topping the list is a ’69 Chevelle Super Sport.

“I’ve got the ’67, ’68, ’70, ’71, ’72 and so on. So that would complete the family.”

His treasures are housed in cabinets made for CDs and cassettes. Each holds 30 cars, so there are a lot of cabinets lining the small wash house.

His favorite car is the colorful pink-and-white ’55 Ford Crown Victoria.

“It’s just a beautiful car,” he said. “Just look at it.”

The detailing on the model is typical of the care and attention.

“It’s fantastic the way they built these cars,” he said. “They’re bult from the factory specs. And they’re licensed from Ford, Chevy ... whoever else ... to build these. It will say on the bottom of the car.”

“They’re not kits. They come fully assembled,” he said.

And as small as they are, these are not toys, either.

“They’re not for kids. It says so right on the box. My grandson got hold of one car and tore the door off.”

He could buy or sell online, he said.

“But I don’t fool with that. I’m only allowed to buy so many since I retired. My wife made me get them out of the house. There were too many, she said.”

After several suffered accidents following a vigorous dusting, McDougal decided he’d take care of his babies himself and moved them out to the detached wash house.

“I keep it locked,” he said. “I don’t allow kids in, either.”

He’ll take his collection every now and then to car shows, “but I don’t travel very far,” he said.

He’s got Dodge trucks, Chevies, Fords, El Caminos, Rancheros, Homierollerz, Nomad wagons, “even a ’38 Studebaker truck,” he said.

The oldest model is a red ‘28 Ford, complete with rumble seat.

Also lining the walls is his beer mug collection, which includes 1983-2001 Budweiser mugs “and a couple of oddballs made by other people,” he said.buda

“I have a sizeable amount of money invested in my cars,” he said.

“Yeah. Too much money,” his wife Donna said with a laugh.

“It’s not the money,” he said. “I like to show them to people.”

“Take 5” is featuring local residents with interesting hobbies. To be included as a Wednesday “Take 5” feature, contact Debra Minor Wilson at 304-367-2549 or dwilson@timeswv.com.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.

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