This Man Recreated the Pan Am 747 Aircraft Model Interior in His Warehouse
20 years is a good amount of time to spend pursuing one’s dreams. And for Anthony Toth, this means committing himself to build an amazing replica of the Pan Am first class cabin in his garage.
PHOTO | Wall Street Journal Anthony Toth builds a replica of the Pan Am first class cabin
Some aviation enthusiasts collect a particular scale aircraft model of their favorite flying machines, some collect tickets that document their flight to a particular place, some fancy memorabilia items to include in their collection, but for this certain aviation enthusiast, he’s not just “some” other collector.
He’s a serious aviation enthusiast, who, unlike many others, have gone as far as reconstructing and building the Pan Am 747 interior in his own garage!
The man with a beautiful aviation obsession
Anthony Toth’s obsession with Pan Am began in the 70s, as he was growing up. He recalled that every summer, he and his family would travel and spend some time to see their relatives in Rome and Budapest (his parents’ origins), and would usually fly in Pan Am’s coach class. According to Toth, there was no other aircraft that intrigued him more than Pan Am. It gave him a big impact, and more than he ever expected.
He’d save the aircraft items some of the passengers consider useless, such as the cardboard coasters, and the paper tray linings from the coach meal service. He’d bring it along with him, and keep it as precious items. On every flight, Toth would take a picture (back then, he used rolls of film) just so he could document the aircraft’s interior and not forget about it if it evolves into something else. He’d even capture the inflight audio just so he could record it with his microphone, and listen to the airline’s music back home.
In fact, he was only 10 when he convinced his parents to sign him up for the annual subscription to the Official Airline Guide. Toth wanted it so much because it lists the flight timetables as well as other relevant information. With his obsession of aviation, and Pan Am in particular, you’d think he’d be inclined to have a scale aircraft model built, or brave his odds and be a pilot, but instead, it pushed him to a different, but still beautiful kind of obsession. One that made him BUILD not just a scale model, but a real life size cabin of one of the most luxurious cabins the world has ever seen.
Toth was 12 when he first experimented on creating a 20-foot mock up of the interior of the Pan Am first class cabin. He made seats out of wood, and modeled it in his family’s basement. Then when he got older, he started creating different versions of the airline cabin in the living room of the apartments he rented out. In 2007, he finally bought his own home, and that meant building his best version of the Pan Am 747 aircraft model interior in a slightly oversized garage.
Blast to the past with the Pan Am interior
Even the Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper is in love with the Pan Am interior. According to Jim Parsons, the said airliner occupies a dear corner of his heart. His family immigrated to the U.S. on a Pan Am Plane. “The idea any American carrier today dares to call any part of its service "first class" is an abomination. There are those of us who remember Pan Am first class,” he said.
Toth was a serious aviation enthusiast who was also a frequent shopper in the notoriously guarded aviation scrapyard in Arizona and Southern California. From there, he got some old Pan Am seats, and other interior panels and placed it against the wall of his Chicago apartment. He got addicted to the vision of completing a beautiful replica, and so that became his work.
He started putting together the Pan Am 747 like a puzzle. He installed 26 powder blue seats in the Clipper Class (premium economy class); he built the plane’s body with a former Japan Airlines 747 from the Mojave desert; he designed the first-class galley and kitchen, and had a contractor fit it all together; and he made some recreation on the interior and made sure the upper deck tables were constructed just as how it did when he was a kid.
Toth had the massive space to do what he wanted to do, and it became his giant funhouse. For years, it was a funhouse that existed at his personal expense - at least until 2011 when a producer of the ABC show, Talaat Captan, paid him a visit and fell in love with the place.
Captan urged Toth to move the 747 interior into his own facility in Air Hollywood. The place is known as the go-to-place for productions that need different kinds of aviation-related set and props. It’s used in TV shows like Lost, and CSI, to movies like Supergirl and the Wolf of Wall Street. Some commercials for the airliners themselves also shoot there, because they can’t spare their commercial service planes for a spot.
Captan had some professionals reassemble Toth’s 747, got the license to create the “Pan Am Experience,” and rented it out to studios. When it was successful, he had another idea to open the said place as a restaurant venture. They just both believe than Pan Am truly symbolized the romance and glamour of past generation’s long-distance air travel before industry deregulation turned it into the overbooked, cramped-cabin they are today.
Toth recreated the Pan Am 747 aircraft model interior in his garage. And now, it’s in Hollywood. This just says a lot about how one’s love for aviation doesn’t just satisfy a man’s obsession, but also fills his pockets.