The modern age may have has created extra cheap car insurance site, facebook and twitter but do these really represent progress? Children have played with models of animals, vehicles, boats and in fact almost everything for thousands of years. The oldest known toy ‘car’ is made of stone, a cart-like shape with four wheels at each corner. It was excavated from a North Kurdish town named Qoser and is dated at around seven and a half thousand years old. But when did the production and subsequent collection of models of vehicles begin?

It was quite natural that models of cars began to be made almost as soon as the real thing as children naturally wanted to include them in their play. In Germany companies such as Marklin already produced model boats and locomotives in tinplate and motor cars were added; these were not very sturdy, however, and as toys they were expensive and short-lived.


As the demand for toy cars increased the method of manufacturing metal toy cars in large numbers made use of ‘die casting’ processes by which liquid metal is poured into moulds to produce a shape.


Perhaps the first real production of toy cars was in America. The Dowst Brothers owned a company that made, amongst other things, die cast metal novelties of various things including boats, animals and whistles to be given as party favours in crackers, pop corn and other celebratory items. In 1901 a tiny metal car was added to the list of ‘favours’ available.

By 1911 a recognisably-shaped limousine had been added and in 1921 two versions of the Model T Ford. In subsequent years the firm created a range of metal toy cars, trucks and vans that became world famous as ‘Tootsietoys’, the name being derived from the pet name given to the daughter of Theodore Dowst.

Tootsie Toys were introduced to England in the early 1930s and proved very popular.


In England the most prominent name in metal toy vehicles for many years was to become the world famous Dinky Toys. Frank Hornby named his metal construction toy Meccano which went on to produce model electric ‘O’ guage trains. To compliment the layouts for these a series of ‘Modelled Miniatures’ consisting of cars vans and trucks were produced; these became known in 1934 as Dinky Toys.

Early Dinky Toys were made of an alloy that was high in lead content; later models were of an alloy composed of zinc, aluminium and magnesium, known as Zamak or Mazak. Poor mixing of the elements resulted in metal fatigue, again making the models vulnerable over time.

First Dinky Toys were simple models consisting of a one piece cast body with two metal axles bearing the four wheels. They were sold in sets of six but could also be purchased separately. New models were added each month, making available for the first time an ongoing collectible line of model cars.