1957 - It was a very good year for toy cars
by Dave Weber, images by Doug Breithaupt

This is the first of a series on miniature U.S. cars of the 50s. I am beginning this venture by reviewing the many models representative of 1957. This year appears to be the most prolific for miniatures, largely due to the popularity of '57 Chevy, Corvette and Thunderbird models. In the next installments I hope to concentrate on the early years of this decade and then proceed in sequential order.

The year 1957 is remembered as the final year for the smaller wheelbased Chevy Bel Air in what is now known as the Tri-Chevy Series. It was replaced in 1958 by the longer, top of the line Impala model. Among other interesting historical happenings, Chrysler Corporation introduced their new 'Forward Look' styling trend . Tail fins were beginning to soar in one shape or another on almost every model. The Packard was given a modified Studebaker body and a Packard Hawk model was introduced. It was the last year for the Hudson and Nash brand names. These makes became Ramblers in the newly formed AMC Corp. Ford introduced the ill-fated Skyliner Convertible-Hardtop model. This concept may have been 40 years ahead of its time as other manufacturers are now again introducing this feature. The year was a "hallmark" in U.S. automobile history. The easiest way to analyze these model replicas in approximate 1/64 scale is to look at each full size manufacturer in alphabetical order. Unfortunately many interesting cars of 57 have not yet been reproduced in miniature. Hopefully this situation will be alleviated in the years to follow. I have already presented detailed summaries of the Corvette C1 , Chevy Nomad and Tri- Chevy in previous articles in TofTC. Thus, I will take the liberty of skimming over these subjects to avoid redundance. In addition, I cannot guarantee I have found every model car representative of 1957. There is a definite lack of availability in various regions for some models. This is especially true of some of the lesser known Hong Kong/ China products. However this Internet magazine and various collector websites and forums are now broadcasting to the world collector base about new model availability. A primary web source is www.mboxcommunity.com among others.


A very nice replica of the Roadmaster 2 door HT was produced by Racing Champions in their Mint Editions series #198 in 1998. They also produced another casting about the same time as a hot rod which was radically customized (shown right). This model features a chopped top and lowered body over modern wheels.


Earlier this year Hot Wheels (HW) issued a very nice replica of the 'limited production (top of the line model) " Eldorado Brougham . The full sized 4 door sedan featured a stainless steel roof. HW also issued a Biarritz Convertible model with the top up in 2000. This model was featured in the Hard Rock Cafe set in 2000. A third Eldorado by HW was a customized HT that was issued in the 40th Anniversary of Signature 57s Legends in 1997.

Eldorado Biarritz - Hot Wheels (collector)

Eldorado Brougham - Hot Wheels


Many toy/model manufacturers have produced miniature replicas of the Bel Air HT and convertible and Nomad Station Wagon . Please refer to TofTC - May, 2001 for info on the Nomad and TofTC - January, 2002 for a review of the Tri- Chevys. In addition to the Bel Airs, HW has also recently produced models of the 150 and 210 coupes in their 100% Hot Wheels line. Shown here are two recent Matchbox collector models of the '57 Chevy Bel Air Hardtop and Convertible.

Bel Air Hardtop - Matchbox (collector)

Bel Air Convertible - Matchbox (collector)


The '57 Vette has also been reproduced in miniature by many different toy /model manufacturers. This year was the first major styling change for the C1 since its introduction. Please refer to the previous C1 article in TofTC - September, 2001. However a new model from a new source has recently been discovered. High Speed Metal and Plastics Manufacturing Co in China is now producing a very nicely detailed red roadster for use as a Readers Digest Condensed Books premium. It carries model # HF-430. Matchbox also offered a collector version of their '57 Corvette for 2002 in the Barrett-Jackson series.

Roadster - High Speed (Reader's Digest)

Roadster - Matchbox (Barrett-Jackson)


Ertl issued a very detailed 300C HT model (shown right) in their American Muscle series in about 2000. Both the trunk lid and engine hood are hinged. The 300C was offered by Ertl in both black and orange and represents one of most desirable Chrysler models ever built.


Imperial Toys issued a Hardtop at least 2 years ago. This was in a 4 car set which included a Semi truck car carrier. This model was only available for a short period of time in selected regions of the US. It was issued in the Mighty Machines Hot Rod Hauler set. Racing Champions issued their Ranchero (sedan pickup) # 114 in 1997 in the Mint Editions series. Hot Wheels presently produces a customized Sunliner ( top Down) in their 100 % HW line . It features a modified grille, Continental rear tire kit and fender skirts. Also very recently introduced by HW in the same line is a customized Ranchero in the Custom Classics Trucks set.

Hardtop - Imperial

Skyliner (custom) - Hot Wheels (collector)

Ranchero - Racing Champions


This is another model that has been replicated by numerous manufacturers. Corgi Jr produced this model in a variety of colors including a red roadster ( top down) model #96 in 1980 in recognition of the TV Show Dan Tanna that starred the recently deceased Robert Urich. Ertl produced a pale blue 'top-on' model in the early 80s in their Replica series # 26. Hot Wheels has produced many models of this 2 seater car over the years. Basically there are only 2 main castings. The first is a customized roadster called the Classic 57 T-Bird. This model # 6252 was produced in the Redline series from 1969-1971 and is likely a loose copy of the famous 'Battle-Bird' racer.The second casting is a 'top-on' model. Some of the earlier models featured a set of portholes behind the side door windows. This casting # 2013 has been reintroduced many times with new model numbers being issued. Hot Wheels also re-issued the Corgi casting with a revised base and new wheels, in the HW line. Majorette issued a 'top-on' model # 290B in 1999. Some of these models when issued promoted Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola. Matchbox first produced their roadster # 42-G in 1982. This casting has seen much usage since. Most recently it was included in the 2001 Elvis at Gracelands 5 car set. Valvoline in 1993 issued a promotional set of the "10 Most Wanted Cars" Included was the T-Bird which was noticeably stylized.

Classic T-Bird - Hot Wheels

Roadster - Hot Wheels (collector)

Roadster - Hot Wheels (collector, Corgi casting)

Roadster - Corgi Junior

Roadster - Matchbox (collector)

Roadster - Ertl

Roadster - Majorette

Roadster - Valvoline


This model produced by Benson Bros. of England is categorized by some collectors to be 1/87 scale in size. But in appearance it seems to be somewhat larger. This firm traded as Benbros and issued a very roughly detailed Hollywood 4 door sedan over 20 years ago. (image courtesy of Kimmo Sahakangas).


Johnny Lightning produced a Premiere HT # 143 in their American Chrome set in 2000 (shown right). This model was followed up by Matchbox in 2002 with a Premiere Convertible ( top down) in their Elvis At the Movies 4 car set.


The Siku Mercury Voyager Wagon #V170 is the only replica of this make. It was a plastic model and was produced from 1961-1965. As the '57 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser Convertible was the 1957 Indy 500 Pace Car, we may yet see this model in 1:64 scale from Johnny Lightning.


This small runabout was designed by Pinin Farina of Italy and made in England by Austin. However, as it was primarily designed for and sold in the US, it is included. HW issued a distorted replica in 2000 (shown left). The front end was lengthened considerably to present the casting as a "drag car" Mattel calls this model the Metrorail.


In their Petty Series, Racing Champions did a 1957 Oldsmobile 88 Sedan (shown right), as driven in stock car races of 1958. The casting includes rear wheels set far to the rear of the chassis but is otherwise quite stock in appearance.


Racing Champions issued a Fury HT # 222 in 1999 near the finale of their Mint Editions series. Hot Wheels also issued a HT in their Collectable series in 1997. It represented a drag car and was part of the 40th Anniversary of Signature 57 Legends set. Budgie of England issued a somewhat nondescript convertible # 20B over 20 years ago .


Hubley Real Toys (US) and Real Types (Canada) issued a very nice replica of a Golden Hawk in the late 1950s. This model is now difficult to locate .

This completes my summarization of the US cars available as miniatures.Any additions or corrections are always welcome. I have found some toys from the Orient that are so nondescript that it is difficult to identify which year they are supposed to represent. Thus some of these " junk toys" have been included while others have been purposely omitted.

Primary Sources

Tomarts Collectors Price Guide to Hot Wheels , M Strauss 2002
Tomarts Collectors Price Guide to Johnny Lightning , M Ragan 2001