Uptown Automotive Hobby Shop
The Biggest Little New and Used Car Showroom in Central New York

Model Making History

The Class of '53

There was always much excitement years ago when the annual "new" cars came out each year, but 1953 was a most interesting year for automotive enthusiasts. In addition to the annual changes within the established and well known car lines, there were new categories of cars introduced by several manufacturers.

GM's Chevrolet division presented the Corvette, which in comparison to the Chevrolet passenger cars, as well as every other car from every other manufacturer, was quite radical. The Corvette, like the European cars which inspired it, was a "sports car".

Radical though it was, the Corvette was not the only unusual offering from the auto manufacturers in 1953, and in fact, some had the audacity to suggest that their special model was a sports car. No so in actuality however, as the Cadillac El Dorado, Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Fiesta, and Packard Caribbean - all convertibles - were sized more like luxury liners than sports cars.

Each of the four mentioned differed from its regular production siblings in various areas which distinguished it from its (with all due respect) more mundane counterparts.

For example, the Cadillac El Dorado had a wrap around "panoramic" windshield, and a hard boot to cover the folded top, rather than a cloth boot with multiple snaps. The Buick Skylark lacked the portholes which its siblings had on their fenders, the windshield frame was "chopped" (lowered), the belt line dipped lower, the rear wheel openings were radiused, the inner fenders were painted a contrasting color, and the Skylark wore Kelsey Hayes wire wheels. The Oldsmobile Fiesta is the rarest of the class of '53, with less than 500 said to have been made. It too had the wrap around windshield, and may have been the hot rod of the group with its 303 cubic inch overhead valve V8, 4 barrel carburetor, and 4 speed hydramatic transmission.

Outside the GM clan, Packard offered the Caribbean convertible. Like the Buick Skylark, the Caribbean lacked chrome side trim which its brethren wore, and it also had radiused rear wheel openings.

The aforementioned were not, however, the only radical departures from conventional automobiles in 1953. Though not billed as a specialty car, and with little or no fanfare, Studebaker shocked the automotive world with their low and sleek 1953 coupes and hardtops.

There were examples of some of the class of '53 in various scales and materials throughout the years, but only in 1/43 scale, as seen in the accompanying photos, could all of them be obtained.

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.


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.)

Jim Amado: The plastic surgeon, builder, collector, writer.
page updated 4/4/2019