CARL JUNCTION, Mo. —
Louis Chenot knew since he was 17 that he wanted a 1932 Duesenberg. The classic car is rare -- only about 500 were built. But they were built well: Almost half of them are still running, he said.
"The Duesenberg is a lovely car," Chenot said. "It was one of the most efficient automobiles, and one of the most expensive. The chassis alone cost $9,500 in 1932."
The Carl Junction man finally has one, but not because he bought it.
He built it.
His 1/6-scale model features authentic details, right down to the fenders and wheels. It even has a working engine.
Those parts are all authentic because Chenot made each one. Using photos and precise measurements, he created authentic-looking parts, right down to the engine.
The model has drawn attention from model enthusiasts and Duesenberg collectors across the country, including comedian Jay Leno. He has won several awards and has been featured in "Ripley's Believe It or Not."
And it's only one example of his unique modeling work. A longtime modeler, Chenot devotes himself to making his own models from scratch, crafting the parts he needs.
Chenot is living his retirement dream. He works about seven hours a day on his models.
"I knew I'd dive into this," said Chenot, 76. "Every morning I know what I'm going to do, and I look forward to it.
He and his wife, June, moved to Carl Junction from Ohio about 27 years ago so he could take a job with Ace Electric, in Columbus, Kan. Soon after, he took a job with Leggett & Platt and became chief engineer of the Flexolators engineering group.
But Chenot knew what he wanted to do during retirement before he took either one of those jobs. He took up modeling when he was 5 years old.
"That's what led to my engineering career," Chenot said. "I enjoy talking to younger people about what I do. Once in a while, a kid will be fascinated, so I'll spend time with them."
While Chenot knew he loved modeling, he didn't have plans to make his own working models with their own internal combustion engines until about 25 years ago.
The notion of making such models hooked Chenot almost instantly, he said.
"It works far different from static models, which are typically glued together," Chenot said. "A working mini has to be able to be disassembled, so that's why they take so much time."