Model cars have been produced for almost as long as real automobiles. Built to scale in great detail out of materials like wood, resin, tin, steel, cast iron, and plastic, collectible model cars run the gamut from the commonplace to the exotic.

Tin model cars, made mostly in Germany, were popular in the early 1900s. Some were just push-toys, but others were powered by tiny clockwork (wind up) systems. They were larger than the model cars we think of today and often built at larger scales. Some of the most notable large models built were the 1/8 and 1/11 promotional models built by the French car company Citroen in the 1920s.

Cast iron model cars became popular before World War I, but gave way to pressed steel models, popularized by the American company Buddy L Toys. These cars consisted of separate pieces fastened together, as die-casting had not yet been perfected (early 1900s die-cast attempts tended to crumble).

After World War II, die-cast companies like Matchbox (originally Matchbox Lesney) made a fortune with their smaller, more-affordable models. In the 1960s, Hot Wheels greatly expanded the collectible model cars market by producing different models every year and special limited-edition runs. Diecast model cars are still hugely popular today, for example NASCAR limited editions. Most diecast model cars are 1/43 scale, although they can be found in both larger and smaller sizes.

The major difference between model cars and toy cars is that model cars are scaled and detailed meticulously, whereas pure toy cars tend to be improperly proportioned and lack attention to detail. Highly detailed models have been made for almost every type of vehicle, including buses, tractors, and trucks.

In the late 1950s and '60s, plastic models called promotionals were produced, representing cars by General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors. Promotionals were given away with the purchase of a car at a dealership or could be bought individually. Every year of Ford and Chevy was made, and new plastic models were produced as new features were added to the real cars.

Another collectible model car genre is the pedal car, essentially pedal-driven cars large enough for a child to ride in. These were produced in the 1890s but saw a surge in popularity in the 1920s and 1930s. They're still produced today in shapes ranging from classic cars to airplanes.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

DFW Elite Toy Museum

DFW Elite Toy Museum

Ron Sturgeon's excellent gallery of fancy model cars and other vehicles. Nice high resolution shots with classy mus… [read review or visit site]

The Show Room

The Show Room

This gallery at Dave's Show Rod Rally features model show rods from 1960 to 2001. Favorites include the 1958 Thunde… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lesney Matchbox Superfast Mb5 Lotus Europa Pre Production Model1971 Redline Hot Wheels Evil Weevil Metallic Purple Nm All Original SpoilersHot Wheels Car '55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Pink 18x24 Poster Sketch Signed VetuskeyLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb70 Dodge Dragster Pre Pro Colour TrialLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb19 Lotus Racing Car Pre Pro Colour TrialLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb8 Ford Mustang White F BoxLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb22 Pontiac Coupe Light PurpleLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb24 Team Matchbox Pre Production ModelLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb27 Mercedes Pre Pro Colour TrialHot Wheels 1971 Classic Cord- Metallic Rose/ Pink - Redlines - Near Mint - VhtfTonka Toys Red Ramp Hoist Flatbed TruckLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb71 Ford Wreck Truck BlueLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb3 Monteverdi Pre Pro Resin Prototype Lesney Matchbox Superfast Mb16 Badger Pre Pro Colour Trial YellowLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb33 Lamborghini Miura Yellow With Early CastingHot Wheels Redline 1968 Custom Volkswagen White Int No Sunroof Nsr Hong KongSmith Miller Los Angeles County Fire Department Wrecker No. 1 TruckVintage Keystone Water Tower Fire Truck Engine Ride On Antique Pressed Steel ToyTonka A A Wrecker --exc Original In Box--look Book---no Reserve--Desalle Tonka Bruce Floor Care Products Truck & Pup Trailer Signed #175 Of 300Smith Miller Mack Bell Telephone System Truck W/ TarpLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb74 Daimler Bus Pre Pro Colour TrialLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb67 Datsun 260-z Pre Production ModelTonka Toys White Minute Maid Truck & TrailerLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb49 Unimog Pre Production ModelLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb22 Pontiac Coupe Darker PurpleOriginal 1928 Structo Mail (?) Truck W/ Battery Headlights Hot Wheels Rlc Bre Datsun 510, Datsun 240z And Shelby Toyota 2000gt LotTonka Toys No. 37 Thunderbird Express Truck & Trailer Smith Miller Red Mack Truck & Pie Trailer **Lesney Matchbox Superfast Mb56 Bmc Pre Production ModelPressed Steel Vintage 1930 Cor Cor Faegol Toy Bus W/ HeadlightsCmc 1/18 Mercedes Benz 300slr 1955 Unlenhaut Coupe Limited Jubiläumsmodell 125Smith Miller Red Mack Log Truck & Log TrailerSmith Miller L Mack Blue Diamond Hydraulic Dump Truck--in Original Box--Tonka Toys Original 1960 Power Boom Loader No. 115 Vtg 1920's Giant American National Co Antique Pressed Steel Toy Truck ExcellentLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb50 Harley Davidson Pre Production Colour TrialLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb28 Lincoln Continental Pre Production ModelDcp Highway 61 / 1975 Red Chevy Heavy Duty Flatbed Truck 1/16Huge Antique Pressed Steel Toy Baggage Truck W Doors 26" Buddy L 1928 Rare As Is1957 Tonka Big Mike Dump Truck Kit Complete Set Of Parts Desalle Setup, RareRed Cottonwood Acres Ih R190 Truck & Talbert Lowboy Trailer #25 Of 350 MadeEarly Tonka Toys Ford Cab Suburban Pumper Fire Truck V Rare Mint 50's OriginalOriginal 1960 Tonka #100 Bulldozer With Box-no ReserveVintage Smith & Miller Mic Ironson Corp Fruehauf Tractor Trailer Truck Toy NrGreen Cottonwood Acres Ih R190 Truck & Talbert Lowboy Trailer #207 Of 350 MadeSmith Miller Mic Yellow Dump Truck Very Rare 1959 Tonka Suburban Fire Truck WhiteLesney Matchbox Superfast Mb44 Boss Mustang OrangeTonka Toys Original 1957 Hi-way Dept Pickup Truck Rare! Antique 1930's All Pressed Steel Car Carrier W/4 Cars & Trucks ExcellentSmith Miller Mic Mack Mobil Gas Truck1957 Tonka Toy Big Mike State Hiway Dept High Sided Stine Dump TruckSmith Miller Silver Streak Express Truck & Trailer "extreme Rare" Fast And Furious Gmp Hammer Road Runner Early Tru-scale International Harvester Pick-up Truck 50's V Rare Nmint OriginalVery Rare Circa 1920's Vintage Buddy L Water Tank Truck Original Condition NiceVintage 1957 Tonka "big Mike" State Hi Way Dept Hydraulic Dump Truck - Wow-Tonka Toys Yellow Stake Bed Truck