SEK man displays replica cars

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Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 1:02 am

Bob Johnson

The Iola Register

IOLA (AP) — Don White put together his first plastic model car when he was about 10 years old in the late 1950s.

Today, at 61, he’s just as intrigued as ever by miniature vehicles.

He also likes to share his love of them.

White owns more than 200 and during his lifetime of collecting he figures he’s had two to three times that many.

A favorite aside to his collecting is showing what he has in public displays, such as one in March at the Iola Public Library.

White’s story is that of a typical kid, at least at the start.

He played with toy cars as a toddler, built roads in the dirt and gurgled motor noises as he pushed them along.

When most kids’ interests turned to baseball and other games, the little cars continued to fascinate White.

That’s when he started putting together models. External forces likely had a role.

Often, he wasn’t in one school long enough to make fast friends or become involved in organized activities.

“We moved around a lot when I was young,” White said.

He, his twin brother and an older sister didn’t have a dad at home and “we traveled around a lot, living where Mom could get a job.

“I went to 15 schools in 12 years, before being graduated from Minneapolis, Kan., High School,” he said.

His car collection was a constant, a thread that has tied his life together.

“I’ve probably had a hundred (real) cars in my lifetime, but not a single new one,” White said.

“I’ve never completely finished redoing an older car I’ve bought. I’ll drive one for a year or so and then have a chance to make a couple of thousand dollars and sell it.”

He also has an interest in bicycles, and is the go-to guy for anyone who wants a rundown on the history of an old bike.

But, without reservation, it’s the miniature cars and trucks that have White in their grip.

“Look at this one,” White says of The Ala Kart, 1/24 scale Danbury Mint replica of a 1929 Ford roadster that George Barris reconfigured into what was judged the most beautiful roadster at national shows in 1958 and 1959.

Danbury replicas are very exacting and many of the parts work just as they do in a real car. Danbury replicas are the ultimate collectible.

The Ala Kart is one of a half-dozen of the Danbury products in his collection.

“They’re expensive,” White said.

Most of the die cast cars in his collection were acquired at shows staged for full-size cars.

“There’s always two or three dealers who sell replicas,” he said. Sometimes they come with a semi load.

Another favorite of White’s is a 1/8 scale Corvette that he put together from scratch 35 years ago.

To add realism he has it perched on a miniature mechanic’s floor jack.

He also has a replica of Ed Roth’s bubble top Beatnik Bandit, a 1/18 scale model of the real thing that had a joy stick for steering and acceleration. The joy stick in the model controls its front wheels.

He has many 1/64 scale Hot Wheels, a company that has produced literally thousands of replicas, from school buses and delivery vans to sports cars and family sedans.

Not all of White’s collection are true replicas.

“In winter, when it’s cold and there’s nothing else to do, I like to put together plastic models and then take them apart, partially melt pieces and put them back together, so they resemble wrecked cars,” he said.

White retired on disability in 1990 after working seven years as a U.S. Postal Service tow truck driver in Phoenix.

Today he lives in Carlyle, 5 miles north of Iola, having been displaced from a mobile home on the west side of Iola by the flood of 2007.

While physical problems and medications occasionally make it difficult for White to do the precise work necessary to piece together models that are extremely accurate to real life, he perseveres.

His is encouraged by occasionally being able to share his collection.

“I get a lot of positive comments from people,” he said. “Just about everyone has a car, which means they usually can relate to something in my displays.”

© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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