Scale of Tootsietoy cars

After talking about scale, Andy Tolch, owner of the excellent Andy’s Toys, asked me about the scale of Tootsietoy cars. I don’t have a ton of Tootsietoy cars but was able to identify and measure five of them. The results surprised me.

I measured the overall length of five Tootsietoys I own that I could identify:

1947 Chevy sedan: 79mm
1930s Lasalle sedan: 84mm
1949 Olds convertible: 78mm
1948 Chevy panel truck: 79mm

I use a caliper and measure in millimeters. I find it easier than using inches.

Then I looked up the lengths of the real thing. Carfolio.com is a good place to start. If Carfolio doesn’t have it, just do a Google search.

Hint: Sometimes all you can find is the wheelbase. In that case, measure from axle to axle instead of bumper to bumper.

1947 Chevy sedan: 5023mm
1930s Lasalle sedan: 5137mm
1949 Olds convertible: 5182mm
1948 Chevy panel truck: 5003mm

To make things easier on yourself, convert measurements to millimeters.

To determine scale, just divide:

1947 Chevy sedan: 5023mm / 79mm = 63.6 = 1:63.6 scale
1930s LaSalle sedan: 5137mm / 84mm = 61.15 = 1:61.15 scale
1949 Olds convertible: 5182mm / 78mm = 66.43 = 1:66.43 scale
1948 Chevy panel truck: 5003mm / 79mm = 63.32 = 1:63.32 scale

None of these are precisely 1:64. In the instance of the LaSalle, there’s more difference than I can account for with rounding errors. Rounding off to nice fractions of an inch, (202 inches for the real thing and 3.25 inches for the toy) I come up with 1:62 scale.

That said, I’m comparing the work of two different people working decades apart and in the case of that LaSalle, I don’t know the year.

So these are approximations.

There’s one other thing that’s interesting about the LaSalle. All of the other vehicles I measured are post-World War II. The LaSalle is earlier. Perhaps after the war, they tried to be a bit more precise about scale. I measured another 1930s Tootsietoy at 1:56, which is far enough off that I wondered if I misidentified it. Maybe I did, or maybe prior to WWII they didn’t worry about scale.

I think this warrants a bit more research. But when it comes to the scales that are popular today, Tootsietoys are a lot closer to 1:64 than they are to anything else. And while Tootsietoys weren’t the first diecast toy cars in the whole world, they were the first in the enduring approximately-three-inch size. It’s safe to say they invented the 3-inch size, and they invented the 1:64 diecast vehicle.

So their target was right. 1:64 is still a popular scale today. Why did Tootsietoy lose out? I think it’s because Matchbox cars were more detailed and Hot Wheels were more detailed and faster. Just like adults, kids like fast cars too.

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