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Big cars by day, tiny cars at night MEET YOUR NEIGHBOUR

miniature carsMost Leaside residents fume when they see lots of vehicles in our hood. But Barry Thomas lights up just thinking about cars.

As long as they are miniature in size – and parked inside his home.

Cars are his passion, and for the last 23 years also his business.

“It’s a perfect vocation to supplement a pretty darn good pastime,” he says.

By day the 67-year-old resident of SAHIL, on Bayview at McRae, works with the Toronto-based Hav-A-Kar Auto Group, selling or leasing any make of car, van or truck available in Canada. 

Barry ThomasBy night, he makes model cars, building his impressive collection one model at a time.

“It’s mental mouthwash,” Thomas says of his hobby. “It’s like going to the gym. Takes your mind off everything else that’s going on. You’re working on your stuff and it just clears everything out of your mind.”

Thomas and his wife Barbara Carter moved to Leaside in 1979 and all he wanted was a place for his cars. With Barbara’s approval, the basement of their home was transformed into a car room.

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t gamble. So, I can put my money into this,” he jokes.

When they downsized into a condo last year, he was forced to downsize his collection by a third. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a painful process. Thomas says he had reached an overflow and wanted to focus. Just like getting rid of old clothes to make room for new purchases.

As of now, about 350 model cars along with 50 to 60 still in boxes now sit on custom-made shelves in the middle of his Bayview apartment.

That way he can always get a glimpse.

And what a sight it is.

Everything on the models is put on by hand, the wheels are painted on, some even have an Ontario
licence plate complete with validation sticker.

“I don’t care about the engines, I don’t even put those in. I want it to sit there and look like the real thing. I don’t want to make believe. I’m going to do my research, go online or get my books and say OK, this is how they are.”

And then his creativity kicks into high gear. It was during an acupuncture appointment when Thomas realized he could use different sizes of acupuncture needles to replicate the three antennas at the back of a West Virginia state police car. So in they went.

It usually takes a month to six weeks to finish each creation. And when a model is complete, it doesn’t just go straight to the shelf. It gets shown off via his blog.

Wheel to Wheel was initially started to create credibility for his business. But, now he updates it religiously twice a week to share his love of cars… and at just over 1.3 million page views, it draws other enthusiasts from all over the world, giving Thomas a big boost.

The car craze began early on. He started building model cars when he was 12, but from the time he was 6 years old, he was driven to collect. He remembers saving up money and every couple of months counting his change so he could buy a new dinky toy.

He came by his interest honestly. His dad was a model boat builder. Thomas keeps some of his dad’s work on display as a tribute to him. But, he was never really interested in boats, he just loved cars, so he steered away from the water and onto the road.

“The only way I could get the cars I enjoyed was to build them.” How many people can say they have every car they’ve ever wanted?

Some questions.

Is there anything missing from your collection?

What I am missing they have never made as a model. You always hope. Cross my fingers and hoping they’ll come out with a ‘69 Grand Prix or something like that.

Do you like driving cars too?

Yes, cars are very important to me. Whenever I get a car (which is every three years or less) things that are important to me are looks, power and handling.

Your ideal drive? 

It would be country driving but on back roads with a few corners.

Favourite car to drive?

If I had the money and didn’t have arthritis in my knees, I’d love to get another Camaro, high-powered Corvette, something like that. I tend towards sportier models.

Switching gears, what are your other passions?

I’m a voracious reader. I go through about a book a week. Typically non-fiction. I work out four times a week, golf, watching car racing, baking, I love eating.