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History Of Promo Car Models?


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#1 Joe_Materasso

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 03:59 PM

Hi guys,

Does anyone know the origin of promo car models? I have a few I acquired over the years {and fondly remember some that I had as a child in the 60's - where I got those, I do not remember}.
I'd be curious to know who was the first company that started making/using them, and when, and if they were given away or sold; did you have to "know someone" at a dealership to get one? were they given away to {prospective} customers, that sort of thing. Or any other history about them you may have.

Happy Motoring!

jm Posted Image
<span style="color: red"> HAPPY MOTORING!

JM</span>

#2 TG57Roadmaster

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Posted 05 February 2006 - 01:37 AM

Joe,

Your best bet on promo history is to get in touch with Dennis Doty, who writes for the excellent Collectible Automobile Magazine. He covers scale models for them & is a walking encyclopedia of scale model history. I don't have a phone # for him, but go to C.A.'s website & I'm sure you'll be able to reach him.

Happy collecting,
Tom Gibson,
Anderson, SC

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#3 Joe_Materasso

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Posted 05 February 2006 - 03:21 PM

HI TOM!

Thanks for the tip - i'm going to try and track him down!

Best,

jm
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#4 Aanderson44

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Posted 05 February 2006 - 08:49 PM

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Hi guys,

Does anyone know the origin of promo car models? I have a few I acquired over the years {and fondly remember some that I had as a child in the 60's - where I got those, I do not remember}.
I'd be curious to know who was the first company that started making/using them, and when, and if they were given away or sold; did you have to "know someone" at a dealership to get one? were they given away to {prospective} customers, that sort of thing. Or any other history about them you may have.

Happy Motoring!

jm Posted Image </div></div>

Promo model cars? While there were a few promo's produced in metal in the 1930's, the idea of promotional toy/model cars really hit in the late 40's, with the '47-48 Ford models by Master Caster and Aluminum Model Toys (AMT).

The real start of promo's, as we model car guys know them, seems to have been 1949, with the end of the "sellers' market" in the industry, and the introduciton of the first true postwar cars by the Big Three. AMT began producing plastic models of Fords and Plymouths, Product Miniatures also Plymouths in a slightly larger, 1:20 scale, and Cruver Plastics in Chicago with their still-awesome-looking '49 Olds 98 4dr sedan. Hudson commissioned someone, perhaps Cruver (?) to produce a series of about 1:12 scale Step-down sedans, in multi-colored plastic, mostly as dealer display pieces--worth their weight in gold today when they come up for sale.

In the early 50's, PMC and AMT were both doing wide varieties of promo's for both Ford and Chevrolet, and in virtually every factory color scheme--dealers could use them to create "color palettes" of body styles and colors, effective in those days before the huge dealerships we know now could even be thought of.

John Hanle, a professional toolmaker (and exquisite scale modeler in his own right--his collection of scratchbuilt model aircraft has been on display at the USAF Museum in Fairborn OH for decades now) started Ideal Models, having to change the name almost immediately at the insistence of Ideal Toy Company over trademark issues--hence JoHan. Slowly, a pattern rather emerged: AMT did Fords, along with Product Miniatures (PMC), shared the Chevrolet line with PMC, and produced promo's of Studebakers, Buicks, and Cadillacs. JoHan did Pontiac's, Cadillacs after 1957, Oldsmobiles. Nash got produced mostly in banks, by Master Caster and Banthrico (BANk TRIft COmpany). Banthrico also produced a fair number of models yearly, for the banking industry ("Save for your new ____ at 1st National!" imprints), mostly of sedans, where the plastic producers trended toward hardtops and convertibles, with the occasional sedan or station wagon. By 1959, however, promo's were beginning to wane quite a bit, and PMC began to go away from the game. Of course, model kits, based on promo tooling, had been introduced in 1958, by AMT Corporation, their famed 3in1 kits, and were being wildly received by kids all over the place.

What did dealers do with promo's? Of course, they did sell them; but more often than not, they used them for promotional efforts ("Come in, take a test drive, receive a beautiful scale model of the new Chevrolet"), or to sweeten a deal by giving the customer's kid a scale model toy car (I got one that way once!). By 1961 or so, interest in promo's by dealerships seems to have faded considerably, and by the late 70's, pretty much ended, although the occasional promo is still produced today, but no more do promo's hit dealerships almost simultaneously with new car introductions, often taking a year or more to hit, and are very, very limited in scope. Both the advent of mega-store dealerships in the 60's, and the rather disinterest on the part of kids for ready-built models (the 60's was the heyday of kids and model car building) pretty much seems to have been the root cause.

Whatever the reasons for their rise, and their ultimate demise, Promotional Model Cars are fascinating, back then, and still today. I still like them, although I've never been much of a promo collector--had dozens of them as a young boy (did what I was supposed to do with them, wore them out playing with them), still have a few of the more modern ones, simply because they represent cars that were never modeled in any other form in 1:25 scale.

Art
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#5 Skyking

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Posted 06 February 2006 - 09:41 PM

Art, thanks for that history lesson.. Posted Image Posted Image
When I was young, my brothers and I would collect & build dozens of model cars.
We also collected promos in various makes and models. It was very interesting to know where the JoHan name came from.......A few years ago I bought 15 JoHan models from a man who used to own a AMC store. He would give them out to potential customers. The models ranged from Hornets to Ambassadors.
Bob
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#6 Aanderson44

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 08:28 PM

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Art, thanks for that history lesson.. Posted Image Posted Image
When I was young, my brothers and I would collect & build dozens of model cars.
We also collected promos in various makes and models. It was very interesting to know where the JoHan name came from.......A few years ago I bought 15 JoHan models from a man who used to own a AMC store. He would give them out to potential customers. The models ranged from Hornets to Ambassadors. </div></div>

Yes, that would have been a nice find!

Having spent most of my life in the scale model car hobby (I started building models of antique cars in 1952, at the wizened old age of 8!), including a stint with the former Playing Mantis company designing diecast Johnny Lightning cars and assisting with Polar Lights model car kit projects, it never fails to amaze me how those companies managed to have promotional model cars in dealers' showrooms by new car introduction time back in the 50's and 60's.

I do know that AMT (and I would assume MPC, PMC and JoHan as well) worked very closely with the automaker's styling departments, well in advance of new car introductions, to create their products. Just as with several Johnny Lightning diecasts, even the 2004 Pontiac GTO and '05 Ford GT model kits we did, the model companies back then worked with pictures and drawings of the approved styling clays, often having to revise their newly created tooling as trim and grilles were finalized (which often didn't happen until only a few months before production changeovers).

Back in the 1970's, I built probably 75% of AMT Corporation's display models, along with models to be photographed for boxtop artwork and catalog selling sheets. In this, I was in and out of AMT's Troy Michigan headquarters & plant on average about every 6 weeks or so. AMT, back then, had a huge archival display of their history, a full collection of all their products from the very beginning, in glass cases in their huge meeting/conference room. In their display of promo's were countless early test shots, models of cars having trim on them that you see only in pictures taken behind the scenes at GM Styling Division, Ford Styling, or Chrysler's Design Studios back in the day. When Lesney Corporation bought AMT in 1978, and closed the Maple Road facility, an awful lot of those very rare test shot promo's made it into private collections, seldom are ever seen today, trading only in private sales.

By the mid-70's, the handwriting was on the wall for promotional model cars, though. Only a handful of promo's remained in production--notably 73-75 Olds Cutlass 442's, Cadillac Eldorado hardtops through '76, AMC Hornet's through 1974. Of course, there were promo's of Pinto's, Vega's and Monza's, and in 1978-80, the newly downsized Monte Carlo. Then a dry spell in the 80's, until 1989, when a still unidentified company (not AMT/Ertl, and not JoHan!) provided Buick dealers with 1:25 scale promo's of the '88 Buick Regal coupe and Reatta coupe. AMT/Ertl had continued the MPC line of Corvette promo's (which are the longest running promotional model cars of all) when they bought up MPC in 1987, and in 1989, they introduced a promo of the Taurus. Off and on during the 90's, there were promo model cars made, but most were marketed more as souvenirs than anything "promotional", and a new player came into the marketplace, Brookfield Collector's Guild. Brookfield did GMC Suburbans as diecast banks in '92, then Dodge Intrepids and Chrysler LH sedans in '93, also diecast. They produced a beautiful little Dodge Neon series in 1996, along with the Oldsmobile Aurora, in factory colors, as well as the Indianapolis and IRL pace cars, these in both plastic and diecast. Brookfield also produced the 1996 Monte Carlo, both in factory colors and as the Brickyard 400 Pace Car. AMT had also produced the 1994 Chevy C1500 Brickyard 400 Pace Truck, along with 1988-91 Chevy C1500 long bed Fleetsides, the '92 C1500 Sportside, and the SS454 Chevy pickup of that year. In 1996, AMT also produced a C2500 Extended Cab Chevy 4X4, and the new Dodge Ram 4X4, finishing off with the S10 Blazer.

AMT/Ertl also produced a few "retro-promo's" in the mid-80's, notably an all-new rendition of the '53-'54 Corvette, the 1962 Corvette Mako Shark I dream car, '64 Ford Galaxie 500XL Hardtop (from original tooling) and a very nice series of 1966 Fairlane GTA's. AMT, in 1997, produced the Oldsmobile Intrigue as a promo, their last true promotional model outside of Corvette.

A newer area of promotional model cars is in 1:64 scale diecast miniatures. Maisto has produced these for Chrysler and GM several times over the past 4-6 years, and at Johnny Lightning, we created, on a crash-program basis, the Chevrolet HHR for GM, which was used as a nationwide giveaway by Chevrolet with the introduction of the HHR at the Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2005 (lotta stories about that project!).

Revell-Monogram is issuing "Easy Build" (snap-together) model kits of the Dodge Magnum SRT8 and the '06 Chrysler 300C, and from all appearances of this series from them, they could easily be produced as promotional models, should Daimler Chrysler decide to bite on a deal.

Art
Old cars are fun, even in miniature!!!!

#7 Skyking

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Posted 07 February 2006 - 08:37 PM

Art, do you think AMT, JoHan, etc, still have any of the old dies they used back when, or were they all scraped?
Bob
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#8 Aanderson44

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 06:57 AM

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Art, do you think AMT, JoHan, etc, still have any of the old dies they used back when, or were they all scraped? </div></div>

Most of AMT's promo tooling, from 1958 onward, was revamped to produce the almost concurrent 3in1 model car customizing kits, don't have any idea about pre-58, but my guess it that most of those went to the scrapper. JoHan tried hanging on to all their tooling, but due to either theft (the long standing legend) or negligence, very little of that survived--although JoHan did reissue something like 30-35 old promo's in non-warping styrene 1978-90, under the brand name X-El Products. MPC never did reissue any promo's in later years (they were bought out by AMT/Ertl in 1987), so who knows? Ditto with PMC, although in the early 1990's, PMC's owners either produced, or leased out tooling to someone else, to reproduce some of the International Harvester pickup truck promotionals.

Art
Old cars are fun, even in miniature!!!!

#9 carbking

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 12:52 PM

Art - thanks for the excellent tour of model car history. I downloaded it all, printed it, and it is stored with my collection of unbuilt plastic models.

Jon.
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#10 Aanderson44

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 05:55 PM

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Art - thanks for the excellent tour of model car history. I downloaded it all, printed it, and it is stored with my collection of unbuilt plastic models.

Jon. </div></div>

Hey Jon, thanks for the appreciative comments! Even more intriguing is the history of model car kits in general, how some of them came about, and some of the stories surrounding their development! I'm currently converting the old MPC kit (reissued by AMT/Ertl in 2003, BTW) of the Beverly Hillbillies car, which is a well-worn '19 Oldsmobile Touring, cut down sometime in the late 20's or early 30's into a Joad Family-style flat bed truck. This project is to become a 1920 Oldsmobile 1-ton truck, which means an all-new chassis, scratchbuilt rear springs, wooden truck cab and body (out of real wood in miniature, the body to be an ice truck delivery body).

AMT Corporation produced a now fairly rare kit of the Thomas Flyer of New York to Paris fame, and a couple of stories about that kit's development are almost hilarious! Maybe for another post, huh?

Art
Old cars are fun, even in miniature!!!!

#11 carbking

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 11:24 PM

Art - my interest in plastic models surrounds the Pontiac GTO. Any good stories on any of these?

Jon.
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#12 Aanderson44

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 05:14 AM

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Art - my interest in plastic models surrounds the Pontiac GTO. Any good stories on any of these?

Jon. </div></div>

John,

Only that every significant year of the GTO was made, at least at some time, in a 1:25 scale model kit 1964-72, and then '04-05 (Nobody made the Chevy Nova-based GTO's of the mid-70's in kits though).

Art
Old cars are fun, even in miniature!!!!

#13 Centurion

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 05:29 AM

I have been most thankful that Wheat's Nostalgia, one of the leading vendors of original promo cars, has created the "Memory Lane" line of new 1/25-scale promos based on The Modelhaus' 1/25-scale resin cast kits. The Memory Lane promos are not cheap, but they are beautifully finished and they do not warp. One of the things that I've particularly appreciated is that several models or body styles have been offered which were not originally available as 1/25-scale promos or kits. It is also possible to specify any factory original color combination when ordering the models.

To date, I have purchased the following models in the series, which have been a great addition to my collection of original promos and dime store frictions:

1957 Buick Roadmaster 2-door Riviera
1958 Buick Roadmaster 75 convertible
1958 Buick Limited 2-door Riviera (never available previously in 1/25-scale)
1959 Buick Invicta Estate Wagon (never available previously in 1/25-scale)
1959 Pontiac Bonneville 4-door Vista (never available previously in 1/25-scale)
1961 Buick Invicta 4-door hardtop (never available previously in 1/25-scale)

Okay, I'm a Buick guy, but the selection of other marques, particularly the Chrysler products, is most impressive. Check out the current available promos here: Memory Lane Extras

Art, any comments about the dime store frictions, which were typically offered along with the original dealer promos and the kits?
Brian Laurance, BCA #5168

1959 Buick Electra 4-door hardtop
1971 Buick Centurion Formal Coupe
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2005 Buick LeSabre Custom Sedan

#14 Aanderson44

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 07:13 AM

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">I have been most thankful that Wheat's Nostalgia, one of the leading vendors of original promo cars, has created the "Memory Lane" line of new 1/25-scale promos based on The Modelhaus' 1/25-scale resin cast kits. The Memory Lane promos are not cheap, but they are beautifully finished and they do not warp. One of the things that I've particularly appreciated is that several models or body styles have been offered which were not originally available as 1/25-scale promos or kits. It is also possible to specify any factory original color combination when ordering the models.

To date, I have purchased the following models in the series, which have been a great addition to my collection of original promos and dime store frictions:

1957 Buick Roadmaster 2-door Riviera
1958 Buick Roadmaster 75 convertible
1958 Buick Limited 2-door Riviera (never available previously in 1/25-scale)
1959 Pontiac Bonneville 4-door Vista (never available previously in 1/25-scale)
1961 Buick Invicta 4-door hardtop (never available previously in 1/25-scale)

Okay, I'm a Buick guy, but the selection of other marques, particularly the Chrysler products, is most impressive. Check out the current available promos here: Memory Lane Extras

Art, any comments about the dime store frictions, which were typically offered along with the original dealer promos and the kits? </div></div>

Joe Wheat's Memory Lane cars are very, very nice. For what it's worth, those are done from the excellent resin kits by The Modelhaus.

Art
Old cars are fun, even in miniature!!!!

#15 Joe_Materasso

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 12:58 PM

hello art,

goodness! - you answered my questions - and so much more - thanks so much ... i always wonderd what amt and johan stood for. Posted Image
your response is typifies what makes this forum great!

best wishes - and happy motoring

jm Posted Image
<span style="color: red"> HAPPY MOTORING!

JM</span>

#16 TG57Roadmaster

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 03:38 AM

Greetings promo pals,

Joe, I responded some time ago to your original post, and since then ran across a cool article in the Ford Times from February, 1961. It's just four pages, so I'm going to post 'em one at a time.
Here goes...

Tom Gibson

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#17 TG57Roadmaster

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 03:42 AM

And another, (I don't know how to gang them together yet)...

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#18 TG57Roadmaster

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 03:44 AM

Yet another...

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#19 TG57Roadmaster

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 03:46 AM

...and finally...a pretty neat look at another type of automotive assembly line.

Hope y'all enjoy 'em,
Tom Gibson

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#20 Aanderson44

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 11:52 AM

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Greetings promo pals,

Joe, I responded some time ago to your original post, and since then ran across a cool article in the Ford Times from February, 1961. It's just four pages, so I'm going to post 'em one at a time.
Here goes...

Tom Gibson </div></div>

Tom,

Loved the scans of the Ford Times article--including pics of one of my boyhood model car heroes, Budd "The Kat From AMT" Anderson (no relation though). What's really funny is, even though the article states that the dies for those promo's were destroyed after their production run, that's not at all true! AMT (as with JoHan and MPC, the other big players in promotional model cars, and Product Miniatures of Milwaukee WI) saved the tooling, most of which was revised into the famous "3in1" customizing model car kits of the 69's which fascinated millions of American kids, and bring mega-dollars on eBay today in their mint form.

I know of just one promotional model car whose tooling was destroyed, and that was the SMP (SMP, or Scale Model Products, was a sister brand to AMT, and produced in the same facilities) 1911 prototype Chevrolet. Chevrolet commissioned that project, both in promo and model kit form, for distribution exclusively through Chevrolet dealerships, and ordered the tooling destroyed once that production was completed.

Promotionals were cool back then, and still are!

Art Anderson
Old cars are fun, even in miniature!!!!




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