Journal: Restoring Large Cars Leads To Large Die-Cast Collection

Restoring Large Cars Leads To Large Die-Cast Collection

By Petrolicious Productions
December 4, 2013

Photography by Josh Clason for Petrolicious

Doug Whalley owns and runs Doug’s Diversified Specialties, a paint and body shop in Torrance, California. He also has quite the die-cast car collection, so we determined we’d better check it out. We headed down to Torrance a couple of weeks ago to visit Doug’s shop and photograph some of his collection. Doug is the nicest guy in the world—he showed us around and even serenaded us with some piano tunes while we photographed his place.

Q: How did you get started with your business?

A: I started working at the Torrance Airport in 1971 for Barron Aircraft where I striped and painted airplanes. It was my very first job, and I worked there for thirteen years. At the time I left the job, I had been doing just about everything but write the checks; I hired, fired, bought materials, and basically ran the shop. I wanted to buy the shop from the owner, but he wasn’t looking to sell, so I started my own business working strictly with automotives rather than aircrafts. I bought a small 1,000-square-foot place, and now I’m in a 2,500-square foot shop with a new spray booth and a lift.

Q: Why did you first become interested in cars? 

A: I kind of just grew up with it. I started loving mini bikes and motorcycles, and then I got into cars. I began doing stripes and graphics in my garage—I was always doing projects in my garage while I was still working at the airport.

Q: How did you get into collecting die-cast models?

A: About ten years ago, one of my customers gave me a couple of his cars and collectors items when he was leaving the country: a Ferrari race car, a ticket to Monte Carlo, as well as a pit pass. After that I started buying a couple of models here and there. When I had about 30 or 40 cars displayed in a case at the front of my shop, a former car dearler friend of mine (who I grew up next door to and used to play little league with back in the late ’60s and early ’70s) saw my collection and said, “I really like the way you have your cars displayed. Do you mind if I add a few to your collection?” I asked him how many, and he said, “I have no idea. They belonged to my brother who recently passed away, and I want them to be kept in good condition, but I don’t have anything to do with them.”

He gave me about 600 cars!

Q: Can you describe your collection?

A: I have a lot of Franklin Mint and Danbury Mint cars. I have some really, really nice cars and some that are your average run of the mill. I’ve got all sizes from micro miniature to 1/64, 1/32, 24 gauge and 18 gauge. The nice ones are all in the 1/18-1/24 range.

I’ve got a lot of Richard Petty cars, about 45 Hot Wheels, and I have one from the Dale Earnhardt collection (the #3 car). I’ve got some signed by John Force, a current dragster guy, and I’ve got a George-Barris-autographed car too, the Dukes of Hazard car with the Confederate flag on the door. I have quite a few exotic cars too; my favorite of these is the Citroën GT. I have about 10 funny cars as well.

Q: Which is your favorite of the bunch? 

A: The ’69 Super Bee model, because I have such an attachment to the Super Bee that I mentioned in the previous question.

I also love te Daytona ’69 with the Charger body, long wing, and long pointed nose. Richard Petty used to use one of these as his race car  when he dominated back in ’70s. This type of car will be the next one I build for myself (or a Superbird).

Q: Are there any particular die-cast models you’re looking to add to your collection?

A: I’m always looking for good vintage Mopar.

Q: Are you still adding cars to the collection?

A: Yes, but I’m not as fervent about it as I used to be; I’d have to buy more cabinets to hold them? If I added another six-by-six-foot cabinet, it would be filled immediately.

Q: Have you ever sold any of your collection?

A: I’ve never sold any of them, even though some people have tried to twist my arm.

Q: Do you own any full-size vintage cars?

A: At the moment I have an ’85 El Camino. The car itself isn’t worth a lot of money, but it has a really expensive paint job. I also have a ’72 El Camino and a ’62 Bel Air sitting out back that need restoration or at least a happy owner who’s willing to spend a lo tof money to make them right.

Q: How long have you owned your El Camino? 

A: Going on three years. I’ll probably keep this car forever and do a few more modifications to it. I need to do the interior soon. Right now it’s blue, and it hasn’t been updated to match the black, red, and gold exterior that I made to match my company’s colors. This car is my daily driver.

Q: Do you work on your own cars yourself? 

A:I have enough friends who do mechanical work, so I hire them and don’t have to get greasy, although I can if I need to.

Q: Where do you most enjoy driving your El Camino? 

A: To car shows. During the summer I go to Ruby’s every Friday night down in Redondo Beach, but this car show doesn’t go through the winter, so I have to suffer until spring comes again.

There was a time that I took a 1968 Dodge Super Bee Big Block 383 down to the car show. The car didn’t belong to me—I just did the paint job for it. I had permission from the owner to take it to car shows. In fact, it was his suggestion.

Q: You mentioned you’re coming up on your 22nd wedding anniversary. Does your wife enjoy vintage cars as well?

A: She likes them enough to help take care of my business. She does the bookkeeping for Doug’s Diversified Specialties. I don’t do numbers—I’m the artist doing the styles and graphics.

Q: You have a piano in your lobby. Do you play often?

A: I play a lot, but I can’t read music with the dyslexia that I have, so I learned to play without reading music. I love the music industry; if I weren’t into cars, I’d be into music, but there are a lot of starving artists, so I’d rather do what I do here at my shop so I can earn steady money.

I started playing the guitar when I was 12 or 13, but with all the work I’ve done over the years, I developed some nerve damage in my left hand, so I can only play for a few minutes before going numb. It’s easier to play the piano.

I actually have a group of guys, who play some local jazz shows at the Seabird Lounge in Long Beach that come play sometimes, the Damon Rentie Quintet. They set up and rehearse their new material in my showroom, since I have a grand piano here. It’s like I have my own private jazz club.

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Nick Biangel
Nick Biangel
5 years ago

What an outstanding story ! Beautiful collection! It doesn’t matter if it is museum quality or just regular toy. It is still a collection of models that are aged and taken care properly. Eventually becoming an antique collection. Great value !!

Paul Webb
Paul Webb
7 years ago

I used to build models when I was a kid… it was a great hobby that was a calming and creative outlet for me. After my mother passed away a few years ago, I found myself wandering hobby shops in an attempt to rekindle those warm and comforting emotions of my youth. I’ve now found great enjoyment searching the web for used (sometimes slightly damaged ) die cast models that I purchase and repair.

andrian syahputra
andrian syahputra
9 years ago

Whoa! cool collection. I’ve been collecting model kits & die-cast since high school years. Now I have almost 500 unbuild model kits, and some die-cast.

Alex Marks
Alex Marks
10 years ago

fine and dandy and all, but most of those are 1:24s and not many 1:18s. I’m not bragging or nothing (i am not) but I wouldn’t buy anything other than 1:18 (and if I had more room, 1:12th). And I’m still mostly against resin too. But still thats a cool collection as far as variety goes!

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
10 years ago

I am 43 with children that are 8 and 5. I dumped my miniature and slot car collection on the boy when he was about 3, which was probably a little early, but the imagination and interest it cultivated have been wonderful. He and his sister have hammered quite a few of them, but there are at least 400 to rifle through. We recently fired up the slot cars again, and just today revived the Watson McLaren and Lauda Ferrari on the track. The best was, however, when they surprised me with a Surtees piloted Ferrari (1:43) for my birthday last month. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Ferdinand Kovalsky
Ferdinand Kovalsky
10 years ago

I am 38 today. I assembled my collection between the ages of 3 and 16. A total of 70+ pieces, all 1/43 die cast models of Soviet cars. In the 80s they were made in very limited numbers and virtually impossible to come by, so hunting for them and collecting them was an exciting challenge for a kid. Later on more were produced, but you won’t fine the “Made in the USSR” versions that were made in the 80s and were of higher quality. When I moved to the States, I brought the collection with me from behind the iron curtain. It mostly survived the trip. I haven’t displayed it in 22 years since I’ve live in the U.S. It is still packed up. I have a two year old son now and I plan on giving it to him when he is old enough not to destroy it.

10 years ago

Great collection. I have several thousand model cars of different varieties. I primarily collect vintage 1/43 models of exotic and semi-exotic European cars from the sixties-seventies, mostly contemporary models from the period made in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. It’s a great way to own all sorts of cars that I’d love to have in real life, but which are out of my reach price-wise. Also, these ones break down less! I’ve attached a couple of pics of some of my models.

Nathan Leland
Nathan Leland
10 years ago

I started collecting die cast cars as a child (many that I still have) and eventually paused as I was distracted by life, family and work. I wanted to dig them out for my children but with all of their stuff it wasn’t practical to display them all so I was forced to think about which I wanted to leave out and which would be boxed. I was lucky enough to have owned a couple of the cars and decided that I wanted to use die-casts as a catalyst for remembering the cars that mattered most to me. Think of them as sculptural snapshots. I had to track down some less common die casts but I now have a collection of models that are not just interesting objects but touch points for stories about the cars, exploits, and good memories.

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