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How It All Started: A Brief History of Diecast Model Cars

How It All Started: A Brief History of Diecast Model Cars

14th Jun 2022

Model cars have been around almost as long as real cars—the earliest toy cars date back as far as the late 1800s. Just as model trains were a hit in the 19th century, miniature models of the latest and most exciting transportation innovation were also popular. Model cars started as toys for wealthy children, but the industry has grown and changed greatly through the decades. Find out how it all started with this brief history of diecast model cars.

Pioneers of Diecast Model Cars

Though various early model cars existed throughout the world in the 19th century, diecast model cars as we know them today truly began in the early 1900s. A new technique for die-casting metal emerged during World War I; after the war, early model car manufacturers repurposed the technique and used it to create more detailed and accurate miniature cars. One of the most memorable toy manufacturers of this time was Dinky Toys, who sold their first diecast toy cars in a set that included a sports car, a truck, a tractor, and more.

The Model Car Arms Race

Dinky Toys became the big name in model cars. Models of popular vehicles, such as the 1930s race car that broke the land speed record, helped them find success in the industry. However, other names soon began to emerge with their own ideas and innovations.

Corgi Toys came onto the scene by selling model cars that had glazed plastic windows. This feature—now a staple in model cars—was so remarkable, it propelled Corgi Toys to the top of the market. Soon after, Lesney Products released their Matchbox car sets. These models were small enough to fit in faux matchboxes, making them affordable and widely accessible for consumers.

The introduction of so many new brands and features started a toy manufacturer arms race, creating a thrilling point in the history of diecast model cars. At the same time, the post-war economic boom made the 1950s and ’60s the perfect environment for an expanding toy market. As demand increased and manufacturing techniques evolved, diecast model cars enjoyed their heyday.

Mattel Takes the Wheel

In 1968, Mattel introduced its Hot Wheels brand. These new model cars featured sleek designs that favored attractiveness over accuracy. The pull-back racing functionality and the brand’s racing tracks—which were sold separately—boosted both excitement and profits for Hot Wheels. Mattel soon took over the model car scene.

Model Car Collections

Model car sales declined in the ’70s and ’80s. Children’s toys evolved into electronic cars, video games, and other new technologies. Model cars remain a timeless treat for kids across the world, but a large portion of sales shifted to adult collectors. People who hold nostalgia for the model cars of their childhood, car enthusiasts who want to display models of their favorite cars, and other collectors became the big buyers, so manufacturers turned their attention to creating authentic replicas with incredible levels of detail. Models of major brands—such as BMW model cars—dominate the collector’s market today.

Are you a budding car enthusiast looking to start or add to your collection? LiveCarModel has an expansive collection of high-quality diecast model cars. Find your current car, your dream car, and so much more when you visit us online today!