Automobile dealer promos were 1/25th-scale versions of cars and trucks that salesmen would show off to their prospective customers. While car companies have always made small replicas of their products, the heyday of these salesman's samples was the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s.

One of the most prolific makers of dealer promos was Banthrico, which spent much of the 1930s making cast-metal piggy banks in the shapes of buildings and animals. After the war, Banthrico turned its attention to dealer promos for Chevy and other companies. In a nod to its roots, some of Banthrico’s dealer promos, which featured authentic factory paint, had slots in their bases so they could be used to squirrel away coins.

Paint is actually a key differentiator between a factory-authorized dealer promo and a regular model car. Especially in the postwar years, auto companies had a difficult time supplying their dealers with cars in every available color. Dealer promos, which were released annually just like the full-size cars they were based on, were a way for salesmen to make their pitch, even if they didn’t have every color on their lot. In contrast, toy car model makers such as AMT (which also made dealer promos), Monogram, and Revell produced vehicles whose colors were close but not necessarily true to the real thing.

As the promos themselves became more popular, the models were used to convert window shoppers into buyers. For example, in the 1950s, AMT made plastic dealer promos of the Ford Edsel that were given to precocious children after their parents had taken a test drive. Companies such as Johan (also spelled Jo-Han) made friction-drive promo cars that kids could race around a showroom floor while the adults haggled and bargained.

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Johan also made a promo with a torsion chassis for Chrysler, to coincide with the Torsion-Aire Ride suspensions being marketed by the automaker. In the 1960s, at the height of the transistor radio craze, Ford and other companies built AM radios into their promos—naturally Ford’s featured Philco radios, which was a division of the auto giant at the time.

By the 1960s and ’70s, as the differences between promos and toys began to blur, muscle cars became the most desirable dealer promos to collect. The Ford Mustang was an obvious favorite, but Thunderbirds and Galaxies were also in demand. Chevrolet had offered promos of its Bel Air in the 1950s, but that was also the decade for the first Corvette, which along with the Impala and Camaro was, and is, a widely collected car.

The condition of a dealer promo is important, so new collectors should look for a number of traits before purchasing. First, check for signs of damage caused by the tools that we...

Finally, sometimes the plastic body of a car will warp but other parts will not. For example, Johan bodies tend to warp upward on the sides but the grills, which are made of a different material, do not, which gives the front end of the car the appearance of a smile. This problem is so common it is known among collectors as a "Johan smile."

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1957 Buick Special Estate Wagon - Pro Built R&r Resin1966 Dodge Polara Station Wagon Pro Built Promo Resin1957 Desoto Fireflite Adventurer Station Wagon Modelhaus Resin Kit.Jo-han 1967 Plymouth Fury Iii Promo Model Car With Orginal Box Poly Mist Green1960 Lincoln Continental Hardtop Amt Annual Kit In Great Condition. 60Jo-han-based 1:25 Custom 1983 Chrysler Imperial Burgundy Loose Odd Rare Resin? 1961 Ford Country Squire - Sedan Station Wagon Vintage Hubley Promo1972 Ford Ltd Convertible Pro BuiltOriginal Issue 1964 Ford Galaxie With Operating Lights.1960 1961 1962 Ford Hubley Amt Johan Tires Wheels Vintage Junkyard Lot1947 International Harvester's Pick-up Truck Dealer Promo Bright Orange With Box1961 Chevy Corvette Convertible Promotional Dealer Promo Car White/silverLot Of 5 1950s-60s 1/24 Scale Amt Dealer Promotional Model Cars -mercury,buick1949 Oldsmobile 4 Door Promo Model Car By CruverJo-han 1:25 1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix Promo Red Loose Fair Condition UsaAmt 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe Yellow Promo 1/25 Scale1967 Camaro Promo Car1970 Ford Maverick Dealer PromoAmt 1965 Chevrolet Impala Ss Convertible Promo 1/25 ScaleVintage 1957 Ford Fairlane Custom 300 2 Door Amt Promo Promotional Car ModelAmt 1970 Ford Thunderbird Dealer Promotional In Green Fire1970 Maverick Dealer Promo Car (thanks Vermilion)Vintage Promotional Model Car 1965 Ford Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe 2 Door1962 Ford Fairlane 500 1/25 Scale Dealer Promo Model Toy Car Amt Metallic BlueVintage Banthrico 1954 Mercury Monterey Metal Toy Car BankVintage 1964 Ford Falcon Screw Bottom Dealer Promo Plastic Model Car Kit1969 Oldsmobile F-85 W31 Ram Rod 2 Door Sedan Pro BuiltOrg. Vint. 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Sw Promo Model Car Dealership Car1958 Ford Fairlane 500 2dr Cp / Friction Dealer Model / Great Condition Vintage 1948 Ford Pick Up Truck Promo National Products Scale Model F 1 Amt 1961 Chevrolet Impala Promo Model Car Nicely Repainted Very Nice Pls See 1966 Red Mustang Coupe With Original Ford Box Dealer Promo Car Cherry Very Good1960 Ford Country Squire - Sedan Wagon Vintage Hubley Promo - Junkyard PartsAmt 1/25 1965 Ford Mustang Fb Dealer Promo Model Very Nice ConditionVintage 1968 Corvette Stingray Convertible Dealer Promo Model 7.25", Plastic1966 Johan ? Parts Restore Plymouth Fury Iii Promo Model 1/25 Amt Mpc? Amt 58 Chevy Station Wgn/bank Franklin Mint 1955 Pontiac Star Chief 1:24 Scale Diecast1971 Usa-1 Plate Camaro Dealer Promotional Car Promo Red W/black TopAmt 1963 Ford Galaxie Xl Dealer Promotional Car Ming GreenVintage Dealer Promo Toy Car 1963 Pontiac Bonneville As IsVintage Promotional Model Car 1962 Ford Falcon Futura Metallic Dark BlueJo-han 1:25 1956 Plymouth Belvedere Promo Blue Loose Good Condition UsaAmt 1963 Ford Fairlane Sports Coupe 2 Dr. Ht. Promo Model Car With Box(original Johan) 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood 1:25 Scale1959 Cadillac4 Dr Hardtop Promo 1/25 Scale Plastice Model Car Johan1969 Chevrolet Impala Ss 427 Z/24 Original Promo Dealer Car Vintage 1/25 Blue1968 Corvette Dealer Promotional Car Promo Red1966 Pontiac Bonneville Ht Promo Car Dealership Model Black Amt 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback Dealer Promo Nrmib - Lemon Yellow1970 Usa-1 Plate Corvette Dealer Promotional Car Promo BlueVintage Cast Metal Master Caster 1940's Ford Blue Marshall Car Made In UsaVintage 1964 Ford Galaxie 500xl Convertible Promo Wimbledon White1958 Green Edsel Convertible Amt Promo Car1966 Ford Thunderbird Promo In Original Ford Motor Company Shipping Box Amt 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 Promo Model Car Rare Color Combo 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 Door Hardtop India Ivory Over Tourquoise RareAmt 1960 Mercury Park Lane 2 Dr. Convertible Promo Model Car Parts Or Restore1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertible Promo Car !Ltd Toy Stamp & 1951 Pontiac Promo Model Car Lot A6