TootsieToy vintage Cars

MCHOF’23: Tootsietoy Was a Cheap, Colorful Gateway to Collecting

Quick, what comes to mind when you think of the Tootsietoys brand? Most likely it’s a somewhat crude, single-piece diecast vehicle with axles and slow-rolling tires crimped to the body. Or maybe a vehicle like that, but with a single-piece plastic interior sandwiched between those elements.

The classic Tootsietoy cars and trucks were once a staple of childhood, the simplest, but most colorful and indestructible of toy cars. But is that all there is to it? No, but that core concept, so crucial to our perception of the brand, is what makes Tootsietoy the Model Car Hall of Fame’s Historic Brand for 2023.

Tootsietoy jaguar d type

Tootsietoys made their first model cars around 1910 if you can believe that. And the construction was not too different from what they were still making over half a century later. Most were in the range of 1/43 or so, but by the late 1950s, they were making a lot of models closer to 1/64 or smaller. Their early cars, trucks, carriages, and farm equipment were generally crude but recognizable for a specific vehicle.

Tootsietoy vintage display

By the late 1960s, however, Tootsietoy made a major upshift in quality along with the emphasis on a smaller scale. Sure, the construction and parts count remained the same, lacking interiors or clear windows, but they figured out a way to make surprisingly accurately detailed miniatures. How many kids knew about the Bill Thomas Cheetah because of their model? Or the exquisite Jaguar D-Type racer? A close look at the moldings of those cars shows them to be clean, detailed, and accurate. This was kind of a game changer for a slow-rolling car that made contemporary Matchbox vehicles seem like Formula 1 racers. It was a lot of quality for the dollar. Their ten-vehicle “JamPac” for a buck was considered the best “child shutter-upper” on the planet in the early ‘70s. 

Tootsietoy bill thomas cheetah

They didn’t forget their larger-scale roots, though. Tootsietoy made larger-scale vehicles, mostly pickups, vans, and other utility trucks. They were usually generic, unlicensed designs, with white plastic interiors and grills, suitable for sandbox duty with small-scale Tonka trucks. 

Tootsietoy never went away, and lives on as an inexpensive brand that still achieves its original goal. Cheap, fun, unbreakable. But for those simple, unforgettable rides of the 1950s through the 1970s, Tootsietoy is inducted into the Model Car Hall of Fame as 2023’s Historic Brand of the Year.