PENSIONER Dennis Riley isn’t your average 83-year-old.
Not only is Dennis a fan of fast cars, he’s also a master modeller.
Dennis, of Primrose Hill, featured in the Examiner in November when his 150mph Vauxhall Astra was stolen.
His prized Vauxhall Astra VXR ‘hot hatch’ was stolen in a ‘Hanoi burglary’ after raiders smashed their way into his home and stole the keys.
But away from life in the fast lane, Dennis has another unusual hobby.
For 25 years he’s been building models from stone and matchsticks.
Dennis spends three to four hours most days building model houses, cars, ships and trains at home and at his workshop round the corner.
So far he’s built dozens of model including his latest stunning creation – a matchstick model of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The model, which took 8,000 matches and eight months to build, is one of the most ambitious models he has attempted.
“I’ve never seen the real one,” says Dennis, “I only saw it in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I was going to build a little Hunchback and out it on top.”
As well as vehicles and buildings Dennis has built a working clock and barrel organ chime box from matchsticks.
And it isn’t just matchwood Dennis works with. His house is full of stone model buildings, many of them built from scratch using little more than stone from a Crosland Moor quarry, a tile cutter and photographs of the original.
Dennis doesn’t use measuring tools but his models, including a scale model of Castle Hill’s Victoria Tower, are fairly accurate to scale.
So what is Dennis’s fascination with making them?
The retired electrical engineer, says: “I really enjoy it. When you retire, you can get bored to death. Some try gardening. I’ve always been good with my hands. I was good at woodwork at school. I built a cabinet when I was 10.
“If I wasn’t doing this I would probably still be repairing washing machines. I still like my fast cars though. I’m not your average 83-year-old.”
And what do his friends and family think of his models?
“My girlfriend’s grandchildren are teenagers so they’re not really into that kind of thing. And my girlfriend isn’t really bothered by them so I can’t give her one as a birthday present. She’d rather have the money!”