Last Updated on April 9, 2017 by Dave Farquhar
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.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.