Roseville’s Tommy Kay gets under the hood

By: Brody Fernandez Of Gold Country Media
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Roseville’s Tommy Kay, 19, has restored and modified cars since he was 14 years old.

“The first car I worked on was a 1965 Dodge A100 with a buddy of mine,” Kay said. “I was in seventh-grade at the time.We started a full restoration project and we’re still working on it. We pulled the engine, transmission, driveline, undercarriage, you name it, we modified it.”

Kay was always interested in cars and seeing how they worked from as early as he can remember.

“I’ve always been into taking things apart,” Kay said. “Soon, I started figuring out how to put it back to together on my own. I rode bikes a lot so naturally I broke a lot of bikes in the process and started putting those back together.”

For the most part, Kay is self-taught.

“My dad definitely helped me out a little but, but naturally, when I take something apart I’m just fascinated on how it goes back together,” Kay said. “So I’ve been teaching myself for nearly all my life.”

Kay is glad that he grew up in Roseville.

“Roseville is a really great area for working on cars and I really want to thank Wallentine Motors because they really helped me out and they are just a solid source for information on car parts,” Kay said. “Copart Auto Auction is coming in Roseville soon too. Living here is pretty interesting with the train yard and the history. Downtown Tuesdays are always a blast because they always have pretty cool cars on display, which I love.”

Kay took an auto tech class when he was a Woodcreek High School freshman.

“Going into (the class), I already knew a lot,” Kay said. “I learned more about engine rebuilds more than anything there and I didn’t know how to use a tire machine which they had there so that was cool.”

Kay graduated from high school in 2017.

During his free time today, Kay works on any cars he can find.

“My neighbor, John, down the street had a ton of cars so I would just head over there and I would love to work on the cars, which included Mustangs, Fairlane, Volkswagen Bugs and more.”

For the last three years, Kay has been working on his most prized possession: a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle he bought for $1,200.  

“It was white and had black rims originally. It just kinda started evolving. I put in new brakes, new wheels, new tires, new seats, rebuilt the roof rack, and most importantly, we then put in a 1600cc engine,” Kay said. “This took the little bug from a 36 horsepower engine to 42 horsepower and I drove it like crazy after that. All the way to San Francisco to Black Rock, Nevada and all the way down to Santa Cruz with that engine under the hood.”

As far as plans for the future, Kay is heading down to Santa Barbara to become an underwater welder.

“My master plan as an underwater welder is to eventually find work on ships, docks, and oil rigs for about 10 to 15 years and weld and build until I retire,” Kay said. “After that, I want to start my auto body shop.”