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]

VW Toys and Models

VW Toys and Models

A comprehensive site completely dedicated to miniature Volkswagen vehicles. Browse hundreds of toys by country, man… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Antique Toledo Bull Dog 27" Pressed Steel Toy Dump Truck Buddy L VintageVery Rare-1927 Buddy L Lumber Truck 203a-excellent-paint Shines-nr-a Beauty-wowVery Rare-1928 Buddy L Ice Truck #207 Excellent-paint Shines-nr-a Beauty-wowVintage**rare**1930-40 Buddy L Firestone Wrecker Tow Truck Pressed Steel Toy1930 Keystone Packard "coast-to-coast" BusPrototype Preproduction Redline Hot Wheels Classic 36 Ford Coupe No Paint Rare Vintage 1958 Tonka Tanker T.f.d. For The #58 Fire Set (white)Structo Toys Antique Wind-up Building Kit Deluxe Roadster 1920's Convertible CarAntique 1920's Buddy L Railway Express Pressed Steel Toy Delivery Truck Vtg DumpBuddy-l, Structo, Pressed Steel Toys, Clam Shell DredgeTonka Toys 1958 B-207 Lime Green Hi-way Construction Set Lowboy Grader Dump BoxAntique Vintage Rossignol Tin Toy Wind Up Clockwork Toy Passy Bus AutobusTonka Ford T.f.d. Tanker White Fire Truck Super Rare Nice 50's 100% Original1950's/60's Tonka Original White Aa Wrecker Truck, Tonka Toys Mound Minn.Redline Hot Wheels Vintage 1968 Red Custom T-bird, Blister PackWow A Sturditoy Gondola Dump Truck 1927 All Original.Tonka Aaa Wrecker Truck - White - All-metalVintage 1950's Smith Miller, Log Truck - 100% Original With All Parts (and Logs)1963 Tonka Ramp Hoist, 100% Original, Vintage Toys, Trucks, AmericanHot Wheels 1967,68,69,70 Red Lines Lot Of 29 Plus Badges And Case Vintage Tonka Arctic Cat El Tigre. Works Perfectly... Nib!!!Vintage 1930s Marx Wyandotte Toy Motorcycle Zephyr Streamline Deco Pressed SteelLot Of 10 Redline Hotwheels Caddy Mustang Porsche T Bird Mclaren CorvetteVintage Tonka Toys Tractor Trailer Green Giant Brands - 24" LengthMarx Or Wyandotte Pressed Steel, Tin Toy Ice Truck With Trailer. Original Paint.1959 Cadillac Crown Royale Landau Style Hearse Precision Miniatures Black 1/18Buddy L Kelmet Wrecker Truck 1923 Erector Set Rare!Matchbox Superfast Commando Task Force Military Ferry Gift Set Mint BoxedTonka Jeep And Clipper Boat Very Good Condition! Must See!Vintage 1952 Ko Tin And Friction "cowboy Car" Made In Japan+box Original Beauty!Mettel Hot Wheels 1967 Copper Boss Hoss Mustang 1972 Hot Wheels Redline Open Fire Blister Pack - Gold - Super Rare!Smith Miller Custom Lf Mack Cab In Red Short Chassis For Fire Trucks Ltd Toy Stamp & Red Line Custom Camaro Us Red W White Int C9 ConditionLarge Vintage Antique 1920's Pressed Steel Steelcraft Dump TruckLtd Toy Stamp & Red Line King Kuda Purple W Black Roof White Int C8 ConditionVintage 1958 Tonka Sportsman Truck & Trailer With Box1936-38 Wyandotte #358 La Salle Car & Trailer Large 26" Vintage Kingsbury Keene New Hampshire Wind Up Trolly Car & Box No. 781 Near Mint1949 International Pickup-product Minature-scale Promo Model Truck-rare C-9 Ltd Toy Stamp & 1950's Smith Miller Pie Semi Truck & TrailerRare Vintage 1956 Tonka Aaa Black Boom Wrecker (#960-6aaa)Tonka Nation Wide Moving Trailer Nice Original ConditionLtd Toy Stamp & 1950's Tonka Semi Truck And Trailers LivestockRedline Hot Wheels Vintage 1968 Green Enamel Custom Volkswagen Vw Blister PackMint Mib Smith Miller Smitty's Garage Union 76 Mack Tow Truck Original Box International Harvester Loadstar Tow Truck Ertl Touch Steering Rare Vintage VgcHot Wheels Redline--purple Mighty Maverick (1970) Diecast Car W/ Button Hot Wheels Redline Olds 442 In Magenta Near Mint To Mint ConditionBuddy L - Vintage Car Carrier Transport W/ Cars - Pressed Steel - # 5436 Xx 62dLtd Toy Stamp & 1950's Tonka Semi Truck & 2 Trailers Steel Carrier & Grain HaulWyandotte Toy Trailer With Rear Opening Door For 1938-39 Cord Car Trailer Only Vintage Cast Iron Hubley Or Kilgore Toy Car. All Original Paint And Tires.nice.1930s Steelcraft City Ice Truck "original" No Reserve"1964 Hess Truck In Box Played With & Dirty But No Reserve & Free ShippingVintage Tonka Fire TruckTonka Mighty Bottom Dump Antique Marke Lehmann Tin Plate Lithograph Also Wind-up Automobile Car Toy NrHot Wheels Redline 1968 Aqua Spectraflame Custom Mustang, & Collectors Button1/43 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto Giro D'italia" # A65 By Mebetoys. Complete!