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Model Making History


Leave it to Leonardo

The first scale model car may have preceeded actual automobiles by about one hundred years! Leonardo DaVinci, who was known to make scale models of his ideas and inventions, had proposed in the late 1700s a steam powered self propelled wagon.

Retired!

Here's the "wheel deal" on 1/25 scale plastic "classic" car model kits: AMT is generally thought to be the pioneer of 1/25 scale "old cars", with their Trophy Series, which debuted in 1960. They were for a time the most prolific producers of prewar model cars in that scale, but they were not the first.

Who was first? Pyro Plastics of Union, N. J.

In 1955 Pyro offered three kits (though five were listed, apparently two were never produced) in approximately 1/25 scale. While they were advertised as 1/24 scale, they were actually closer to 1/25; at the time this was unusual because most other model car kits were either 1/32 or 1/24 actual size. The subjects modeled were the '35 Auburn 851 speedster, '37 Cord 812 convertible phaeton sedan, and the '48 Lincoln Continental cabriolet.

In 1955 they were great kits...with limitations of course. They lacked chrome plated parts (In fairness it must be pointed out that chrome plated plastic was in its infancy in that era of the model industry), had multi piece bodies, and plastic tires. The tires were cast in two halves with the wheel and hub cap integrated into them. Those of the '35 Auburn were perhaps the worst of the three models; the wheels had no depth, and the tires no tread. Despite the minor flaws, they were the only 1/25 scale old car models being made at the time, so on that basis alone they were quite good...for 1955.

AMT, once known as "The official model makers to the (automobile) industry", had been producing painted and assembled scale models of the new cars as promotional items for automobile dealers each year since 1948. In 1958 they began producing unassembled plastic kits of the new cars, and continued to do so in succeeding years. These were called annual kits because they were released along with the actual new vehicles they represented when the new cars used to enjoy annual changes. In 1960 AMT began to offer some models of old (prewar) cars in their previously mentioned "Trophy Series". Initially, Ford was the only manufacturer represented in this series, and while all of these kits replicated interesting subject matter, many of the kits shared the same inaccuracy: Tires. The AMT models of the '32, '34, '36, and '40 Fords all had the same size tires in the kits. In reality, the actual vehicles used various widths and diameters through the years.

In 1961, Monogram, in 1/24 scale, began making a series which eventually included (among others) '34, '36, and '40 Fords. The monogram kits had tires which were more appropriately scaled for each of the kits. Their '36 Ford tires appear too wide, but in the mid thirties Ford and other manufacturers offered optional oversize "balloon" tires, so these may in fact be accurate representations of an optional tire.

Aurora (approximately 1963) offered a couple old Fords in 1/25 scale, including a '34 5 window coupe. The tires in this kit were neat in that they had separate inserts which could be painted and popped into the tires to simulate "wide whites"; unfortunately, they were incorrect in size, being similar to the AMT tires.

MPC, the new kid on the block in 1964, soon joined the oldies parade and released in 1/25 scale a few (again for the era) exceptionally well detailed kits of prewar vehicles. Among these was the '32 Chevrolet in a couple different body styles. This kit had correct width and diameter tires.

In the eighties, ERTL purchased both AMT and MPC, and things got a bit confusing. They released a new model kit of of a car which had not previously been available in their, or anyone else's, line. The kit of the '34 Ford Tudor was a very good model, but...they put the tires from the MPC '32 Chevy in the kit. In 1934, Fords had 5.50x17" tires. The '32 Chevy used 5.25x18" tires - as did the '32 Ford! Thus, the tires which ERTL included in the '34 Ford tudor (and later released '34 5 window coupe) were inaccurate for '34 Fords, but would be quite appropriate for the AMT and ERTL '32 Ford kits.

To further confuse the issue, one release of the AMT/ERTL '32 Ford roadster (kit #8351) shows in the box art photo, the correct tires on the stock (despite the Model "A" bumpers) version of the '32 roadster. Unfortunately, however, upon opening the box, oner finds the older AMT issue generic, "one size fits all" tires inside.

Backtracking a bit, in 1976 Pyro, then in 2000 Lindberg, reissued the former Pyro kits again. They were somewhat improved over the originals in that they now included plated parts and rubber tires. However, once again, the tires were a disappointment. This time they used a 1/32 scale tire from a larger car (Packard or such) so that while they were rubber, they were still too narrow and thus inaccurate.

WE NOW OFFER IN RESIN what we feel to be more accurate wheel/tire combinations for replica stock builders of '32 and '34 Fords, '35 Auburns, and early postwar Jeeps. (Our Jeep tires were featured in Terry Jessee's Light Commercial column, in the August 2000 issue of Scale Auto Enthusiast Magazine. See them and others on our resin cast products page.)


 
WE DEAL IN CARS ON A SMALL SCALE
Jim Amado: The plastic surgeon, builder, collector, writer.
page updated 12/6/2006