Collecting Urge Takes Flight: Massive Single-Owner Lifetime Model Airplane Auction

Paul Lachat of Winsted, Conn., stands among his massive collection of model planes and other items that will go on auction on Dec. 6, 2009. There are more than 600 completed planes (some made of pine and dating back to the World War II era) and about 500 more kits that he bought but never assembled.

Paul Lachat of Winsted, Conn., stands among his massive collection of model planes and other items that will go on auction on Dec. 6, 2009. There are more than 600 completed planes (some made of pine and dating back to the World War II era) and about 500 more kits that he bought but never assembled.

WINSTED, Conn. – One of the largest single-owner lifetime collections of model airplanes in existence—well over 1,000 examples, some unassembled and still in their original boxes—will be sold at an on-site auction slated for Sunday, Dec. 6, at 12 noon.

“This is the most fascinating single-owner collection of like merchandise it has ever been my pleasure to offer,” said Tim Chapulis of Tim’s, Inc., which is facilitating the auction. “It’s like were selling his life. Paul Lachat has been building and displaying these planes in his home for nearly his entire life. Avid collectors will have a field day. Mark your calendars.”

Lachat’s collection—which he keeps in a two-bay garage-barn, an attic and a large room in his home—comprises well over 600 completed planes (some made of pine and dating back to the World War II era) and about 500 more that he bought but never assembled. Those are still in the original boxes but the seals have been broken. “I had to look inside to make sure they had all the parts,” Chapulis explained.

Tim Chapulis of Tim's, Inc.—auctioneer for the event—with one of several hundred model airplanes from a massive single-owner lifetime collection that will be auctioned on Dec. 6.

Tim Chapulis of Tim's, Inc.—auctioneer for the event—with one of several hundred model airplanes from Lachat's collection.

In addition to the model planes, other items belonging to Lachat and his sister, Edna (they share the home), will also cross the block on Dec. 6. These include vintage American furniture (all of it pre-1930), a motorboat and canoe, fishing equipment, personal tools, old phonograph records and other items, to include a 1960s-era Sears (Pentax) 35mm camera with accessories and many household items.

Lachat, who has been a bachelor his entire life, got his first look at a model plane at age 6, when he was out shopping with his mother around Christmas. “We were at a Woolworth’s,” he recalled, “and I saw all these model planes in the window all stacked up. One that caught my eye was a Jimmy Doolittle Flying Milk Bottle racing plane. I didn’t get it, but I thought to myself, ‘This is for me.’”

The following summer, he did get his first plane—“what they called a ten-cent comic kit,” Lachat said. “After that, I became addicted. If I got my hands on some money, I ran and got a kit. My mother was always telling me to save, save, save. One time I got a dollar for mowing a lawn and I bought 10 kits. But I put all the parts from all 10 kits into one box to make my mother think I’d only bought one.”

The hobby was fueled in part by tragedy. As a young boy, Paul was in a car accident that left him blind in one eye for years. He eventually regained his sight, but had few friends because he couldn’t play sports or engage in many activities at all. At school he suffered from double vision and he never did graduate from high school. He turned to model plane building as an outlet—one that lasted a lifetime.

The collection of model planes is so extensive some of them—like these—are suspended from a ceiling.

The collection of model planes is so extensive some of them—like these—are suspended from a ceiling.

The oldest planes in his collection are pine examples from the 1940s, before balsa wood became the material of choice for manufacturers. One of the pine firms was Ace Whitman, and Lachat has four in his collection: a Grumman Wildcat, a Devastator, a P-38 Lightning and a Japanese Kerrigan. He used to have some Joe Ott planes (also pine), but no more. Over time, pine gave way to a low-grade balsa wood.

“During World War II, they had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on,” he said. “I have two Aeronca Gliders from that era that are made from low-grade balsa, plus a Corsair that was made from sumac.” The collection was interrupted by a stint in the Army during the Korean War (“I just never told them about my eye”), but when he returned to civilian life he picked up where he left off.

“That’s when it got really bad,” he said with a laugh. “I was like a drug addict. If I saw a kit, or a set of plans, I bought it.” As a result, he today has planes that are radio-controlled, guided by control lines (two wires; the plane can only fly in a circle), rubber band-powered and, of course, stationary plastic and wood. The makers, most of them long gone, include Cleveland, Revell, Sterling and Veco.

Favorites in his collection include a Comet sail plane made from low-grade balsa wood—a free flight promotional model with a 6-foot wing span; a Stinton Voyager that took 10 years to build, from plans by Sid Morgan and featuring doors that open and close, upholstered seats and a 9-foot wing span; and a Sopwith Pup, the British double-winged Navy fighter from World War I, made by Balsa USA.

The pre-1930 period furniture includes a nice dining room table with six chairs, a china closet and buffet, bedroom bureaus, a cedar chest and a wooden trunk. The personal tools include a shop smith (combination drill press, lathe and saw), a saw with a carbide blade, motorized hand tools (saws, drills, etc.), oxygen-acetylene welding tanks and tools, a small drafting table and drafting equipment and tools.

Interior view of a white 1966 wooden Grady White motorboat with trailer, in excellent condition.

Interior view of a white 1966 wooden Grady White motorboat with trailer, in excellent condition.

The motorboat is a white 1966 wooden Grady White with trailer, in excellent condition. Lachat refinished and painted it just a few years ago. The trailer is like-new, with no rust, and comes with a camper top. It has two Johnson motors (one 80hp, one 9.9hp, new in 1995). A power winch is included. “The boat is in perfect shape and ready to take fishing on Bantam Lake,” Chapulis said.

The canoe, equipped with a small Johnson trolling motor, is a blue 13-foot craft made of fiberglass on the outside and fiberglass and wood on the inside. Lachat estimates it was built around 1985. Like the Grady White, it is in near-mint condition and has always been garaged. “It does have some scratches,” Lachat conceded, “but they’re all underwater. You can’t avoid them. It happens.”

Lachat’s fishing gear will also come under the gavel. It includes extensive casting equipment, tackle boxes packed with like-new fishing lures (many of them vintage), camping equipment, a pup tent with windows and screens, a larger tent that’s never been used, and a depth finder and temperature indicator made by Heath Kit. “All of it is like-new,” he said “I was a Depression baby. I took care of my stuff.”

Books and magazines specific to model planes and fishing will also be part of the sale. The many magazines are neatly arranged by year and date back to the 1940s. They sport wonderful and colorful covers, adding to their desirability as collectibles. Among the many household items are two slide projectors and two screens, a table with a light (for showing slides), model airplane lacquer and more.

A preview will be held the day of the auction, from 10:30 a.m. until the start of sale. All sales will be subject to a 15 percent buyer’s premium. Terms are cash and known checks. Phone and absentee bids will also be accepted and Lachat will personally be on hand to answer any questions regarding his vast collections.

“Paul will be there to dispense information and share his past,” Chapulis said.

For more information about this auction, call (860) 459-0964 or toll-free, (800) 255-68467, other visit Tim’s, Inc. Web site.

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