MARYSVILLE – Barry Tousley Sr. is cut from a different mold.
Most people who are into model cars buy a kit at a store and build it. But Tousley isn’t most people.
He actually has built molds for many of the parts on many different cars and trucks and puts them together mostly from scratch.
And he often doesn’t stick to the details of the original vehicle. He enjoys using parts from a variety of different ones to make his own unique cars.
“Everything is custom-made – one of a kind,” he said, adding anyone can buy a model kit, but there “isn’t any investment in them. I cast my own.”
He’s got a cabinet filled with model cars. A shelf in the living room and another in the kitchen hold model cars. Other model cars are on display in many rooms in the house. Various parts to make model cars are on the living room floor, and a work area outside has the molds and more parts for model cars.
The first mold he made was of a 1960 El Camino, a real car he still has. “I made six to eight versions before I was happy with it,” he said of the mold.
Each car is unique. “I redesigned it. You can’t buy them like I make them. They don’t exist.”
Tousley enjoyed making model boats and planes as a kid. He was raised by a single mom who worked in restaurants so they didn’t have a lot of money. The kids would collect pop bottles and turn them back in to stores for money. Someone at the North Hollywood Victress factory saw him, and helped him get a job cleaning up the place at age 9.
“She needed all the help she could get” financially, Tousley said of his mom.
He would work there a couple hours after school and caught the car bug. A story called, “Youngest Victress Employee Found,” describes how he watched them lay fiberglass bodies in the upside-down molds, mix resin and work on cars – all skills he would use later in life.
He worked there about six months and made $1 a week. But he had to quit when his family moved, which they did a lot. He said he went to 32 schools before graduating. Tousley, 75, did a stint in the Navy, and had a number of jobs, including working for Sylvania electronics, General Motors and the state of California, before retiring from Boeing.
Likes real cars, too
When he’s not working on model cars, he’s working on real cars – all of them older models. “Older cars have more personality,” he said.
One goes back to his first job. It’s a 1953 Victress, one of only 14 made, he said.
“It was pure junk. I didn’t realize what I was getting into,” he said. To make it easier to work on, the entire front end lifts up, not just the hood. He’s trying to find a top that will fit it. “I don’t want to have to build it if I don’t have to,” he said.
He’s also fixing up an El Camino that he’s had for 49 years. It’s the third time he’s restored it. He got the engine from a wrecking yard.
Tousley also has a ’78 Trans Am, ’53 Coupe de Ville and 2011 Victory motorcycle that he has customized. “I wanted it the way I wanted it,” he said of the bike.
He also has a 1967 Mustang hatchback, but that one’s his son’s, Barry Jr., who works in computers for Microsoft. He taught his son about cars with that Mustang. “We tore that thing to smithereens,” Tousley said. He said his son started to restore it about 20 years ago. He’s still working on it. “It’s taken so long because he’s a perfectionist,” Tousley said of Barry Jr.