GLADBROOK — Patrick Acton’s latest creation was inspired by “The Fast and the Furious” movie franchise.
But the Gladbrook artist employed a slow and gentle process — cutting and gluing together 720,000 wooden matchsticks — to create a realistic model of the movie’s iconic 1970 Dodge Charger.
The vehicle, which took about 3,000 hours to make, was commissioned by Ripley’s Believe It or Not but will remain on display at the Matchstick Marvels museum in Gladbrook through the third week in June.
Acton spent about 18 months putting together the model, which is roughly two-thirds of the life-size car actor Vin Diesel drives in the movie.
“I told people while I was making this car that I hope it doesn’t wind up looking like a Volkswagon,” he said. “You start out with that pile of sticks, and when they start coming together … it just becomes a real passion to get it done.
“A lot of the models I make, the outward appearance is what I’m worried about, but this is accurate from the motor to the drive train to the interior,” he added. “It’s probably the only one I’ve ever done that is accurate down to the nuts on the wheels.”
And it has a few bells and whistles.
With a flip of some switches, the hood and headlight covers go up, the 426 hemi engine roars to life, and the rear wheels spin. Lights flash on, and the sound of the revving engine fills the room.
While the Charger is the newest of the 17 models currently on display in the museum, another of Acton’s works has been generating a lot of interest in recent days: a painstakingly detailed model of the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was heavily damaged Monday in a fire.
“I’ve gotten a lot of focus on that in the last few days,” said Acton, noting the New York Times contacted him about the model when it was trying to put together a 3-D graphic for its online publication.
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The retired school counselor has earned a measure of fame from his hobby, which he picked up 40 years ago. The pieces have been featured on numerous television shows and are displayed in Ripley’s museums all over the world.
The museum next to the Gladbrook Theater, 319 Second St., remains a popular stop for group motorcoach tours, and it the best way for visitors to check out the models before they’re shipped out to Ripley’s destinations. It’s open seven days a week from April through November from 1 to 5 p.m.
“Most of the people coming through are individual families, but we run 50 or 60 tour buses through here in the summer,” Acton said. “A lot of people look for some unique out-of-the-way things.”
Acton is currently gluing together matchsticks for his next model, a tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It will include the Saturn V rocket and Eagle lunar landing module.
“This is one that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time,” he said. “I’m starting it this year for the 50th anniversary but it won’t be in here until next spring.”
The artist recently had a bit of a scare when he tried to get millions more of the tipless matchsticks he uses for his trade.
“I’ve been getting them from Diamond match company for the last 10 or 15 years,” he said. “I placed an order last year and they said ‘discontinued item.’”
After some discussion with company officials, they allowed Acton to place a final order.
“I ordered 5 million sticks,” he said. “I’m telling people when those are gone, I’m retired.”