Donald Bentley is the most popular man in his Saanich neighbourhood.
At 84, the retired electrician spends his days building miniature cars for children, who expectantly arrive at his workshop each morning eager to drive.
In Bentley's compact garage, tools and car designs are scattered on the countertops.
Bentley points to a photo of his son Graham in 1960. The small boy sits in a plywood box-car, grinning into the camera. "There he is in the first car I ever built," Bentley says.
Using the electric motors from old wheelchairs, at a cost of about $300, Bentley builds cars that travel at a good speed for youngsters. The cars are more advanced than the ones he used to build for his two sons.
"I would run around all day pushing the car with a stick," he says.
Bentley designs each car frame and steering apparatus on his own, adding surface details later with a few layers of paint.
At one end of the workshop sits a miniature car tire with a large puncture.
"This morning I had to change a tire," Bentley says, laughing.
Occasionally, he has to make a major repair after a crash, but it doesn't faze him. He has the car up and running within a few days. "They wear those tires right out."
Each creation takes Bentley three to four months of work. Next on the docket is a dump truck, which will add to a threecar fleet that includes a red firetruck and white Jeep.
When Bentley talks about the neighbourhood children, it is with a note of pride.
"There was one boy, his first time in the car - in no time he was roaring around, knowing instinctively what to do," he says.
Bentley has just completed the red firetruck, much to the joy of awaiting children.
"Every day they come to the door, and say 'Can we drive the cars?' They always want to see the next one."
The idea to build miniature cars came to Bentley naturally. "I still think about what I'd like to do as a little kid," he says.
The cars are built to withstand 200 pounds of weight. Bentley gives them the first test drive.
Bentley, from Edmonton, lives in a housing co-op on Chatterton Way with Gisele, his wife of 41 years. With 40 families in the complex, Bentley is considering selling one of his creations so that he can keep building.
"My wife says there's no room in the garage," he says, jokingly.
Bentley's chosen hobby for retirement fits well with his personality and past adventures.
"I've never been bored," he says, before launching into stories about the 13 years he spent in the Arctic working on the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line - a radar system set up during the Cold War in the 1950s.
Bentley, who seems to have an endless number of tales, used to own a sports car. He says he has always been a speed demon.
"When I was a kid, I was a motorcycle racer for a couple of years," he says.
"I was driving too fast my whole life. The kids are just like me."
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