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 Dec. 6. The auction will be held by Tim’s, Inc., of Bristol, Conn., at the home of the collector, 80-year-old Paul Lachat in Winsted.
“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. “It’s like we’re 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.”
Mr. 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,” he explained.
In addition to the model planes, other items belonging to Mr. 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.
Mr. Lachat got his first look at a model plane at age six, 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,” he 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 ten kits. But I put all the parts from all ten 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 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 Mr. Lachat has four in his collection: a Grumman Wildcat, a Devastator, a P-38 and a Japanese Kerrigan. 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 dining room table with six chairs, a china closet and buffet, bedroom bureaus, a cedar chest and a wooden trunk.
The motorboat is a white 1966 wooden Grady White with trailer, in excellent condition. Mr. Lachat refinished and painted it just a few years ago. The trailer is like-new, with no rust, and comes with a camper top. “The boat is in perfect shape and ready to take fishing on Bantam Lake,” Mr. Chapulis said.
Paul’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 and more. “All of it is like-new,” Paul 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.
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. Mr. Lachat will personally be on hand to answer any questions regarding his vast collections.
For more information about this and other Tim’s, Inc. auctions visit www.timsauction.com or call 860-459-0964 or 800-255-8467.
Photos courtesy Tim’s Inc.
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