WHITTIER – In the 14 years Bud Gilley spent traveling the world as the tour bus driver for the late musical superstar Ray Charles, he rubbed shoulders with the Rolling Stones and countless other entertainment giants. But Gilley entertained himself by collecting miniature model cars and other transportation items. In virtually every town he stopped in, from St. Louis, Mo., to Hamburg, Germany, he picked up little cars, trucks, buses and planes to add to his collection that now fills every nook and cranny of his small Whittier apartment. “It started out small and just sort of mushroomed,” he said, as he showed off his latest addition, a 1970 black Ford Torino. “I guess I just get a nostalgic kick out of it.” Among his acquisitions are replicas of bulletproof black stretch Mercedes limousines of the kind that carried Third World dictators. His miniatures include replicas of President Eisenhower’s Lincoln Cosmopolitan Bubble Top, President Nixon’s Lincoln Continental and President Clinton’s black Cadillac. There are even a few Secret Service escort cars. Cars that movie stars once drove in films and real life are also represented in his collection. There’s a 1949 Buick Roadmaster, like the one Tom Cruise drove in the movie “Rain Man,” a Mercedes-Benz 500K, built for actress Marlena Dietrich, and a Duesenberg car like the ones driven through the streets of Hollywood by actors Gary Cooper and Clark Gable. Miniature police and fire department vehicles, including a battalion chief car from the Mesa Arizona Fire Department and the first motorized highway patrol car, can be found in his apartment on shelves next to circus trucks with animal cages from a European touring circus. Friends who have seen Gilley’s collection are impressed. “It’s really awesome, a truly phenomenal collection,” said Carl Foster, who was Ray Charles’ valet. Which piece is closest to Gilley’s heart? It’s a red and cream colored 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. “When I was a kid growing up in … Virginia I used to drool over them. They were the bomb car to have back then,” he said. “So when I found one in Davenport, Iowa, I snatched it up.” His job driving the bus for Charles ended when the singer/pianist died at age 73 in 2004, but Gilley continues to collect. Now delivering buses for Motor Coach Industries, he seeks out the unique miniatures whenever he can. “I guess I’m a crazy old fool, but I enjoy this,” he said. “When I go, I’ll just pass it all on to my young relatives.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Gilley, 67, started driving for Charles in 1990, after years of working in the rental car business in Texas and driving charter buses on turnarounds from Palm Springs to Las Vegas. His duties on the road were making sure the tour bus, carrying spare keyboards, Charles’ dressing room, band members and from time to time Charles himself, who usually flew to his gigs, was always parked outside his concert venues. With time to fill between concerts, Gilley turned to collecting the miniatures that now number about 400. “Whenever I got a day off, I would go mosey around,” he said. His sources ranged from hobby shops to presidential museums, catalogs and the police escorts who rode with the tour bus when it came to town.