What are model cars made of?

Do you know what the model car in your collection is made of? Well, my guess is only a few collectors know the material used to manufacture that precious model car they have collected. This is because most would only think of two common materials which are metal alloy and plastic.

Model cars are usually made of plastic and metal alloys. The model cars that used metal alloys in the manufacturing process are also known as diecasts. But, there are other model cars that are made of Balsa wood, Resin, and other metal such as bismuth and copper.

It is important to know the material used in the manufacturing process because it has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, they can differ in price, sturdiness, quality, and so much more.

In this blog post, you’ll learn what model cars are made of, including Diecast, Plastic, Resin, wood, and metal. You’ll find this blog post useful you were searching to know what is used to manufacture model cars.

1. Plastic

CheaperBad for the Environment
Easy to findFragile
Easy to Assemble or Custom
Advantages and Disadvantages of Plastic Models

The first and common material used to manufacture model cars is plastics.

Almost all the models you find in the market today are made of plastics. But do you know the kind of plastic used to manufacture model cars?

To be specific, it is polystyrene plastic that is used to manufacture plastic model cars.

It is hard to avoid manufacturing model cars today not using plastics since it is cheap, easy to form, and readily accessible.

The manufacture that uses plastics as the main component has to purchase in bulk then mold the plastics.

The manufacture can choose which color of plastics to use, and also the pigments can be added during the melting process.

The use of plastics to manufacture dates back to the 19th century, but how they are used in the 21st century is different from how they were used.

Manufacturers are attracted to use plastics to manufacture model cars, selling them at an affordable price.

Other factors which make manufacture refer to plastic include ease of molding, ability to produce complex forms, etc.

The use of plastic has been discouraged, and manufacturers using plastics recommended using bio gradable plastics.

For this reason, attempts are being made to achieve a balance between development and the environment.

New formulations with biodegradable materials that are more environmentally friendly are being studied, among other things.

In finding the best brands for plastic or model kits, I actually have an article that can help you. Here is the link: Which are the best company that makes model car kits?

2. Balsa wood

Premium PriceFragile
Beautiful FinishRare
Advantages and Disadvantages of Balsa Wood Models

Another material used to manufacture model cars in the 21st century is balsa wood.

Balsa wood is a hardwood used to make a detailed model car equal to one made using plastics.

Nevertheless, few brands use wood to manufacture their model cars.

However, several brands manufacture modeling kits that you can use to model a model car.

Manufacturers prefer to use balsa wood for several reasons.

Among them is balsa wood is light and easy to cut with a craft knife; it is ideal for making models or whittling.

As this wood is less densely than cork, it is applied in additional applications where its small density is useful – as the core in many surfboards or wind turbine blades.

It is usually laminated with something like a glass-reinforced plastic in each of these uses because, despite its strength for its weight, it is still a very delicate and fragile material.

Take note that using wood for modeling is not actually common for cars but quite common on ship or boat models.

3. Resin

Better DetailHard to batch produce
Low Startup CostExpensive Labor Cost
Advantages and Disadvantages of Resin Models

Resin is another material used to manufacture model cars.

Resins are organic compounds that are made up of a noncrystalline or viscous liquid material.

Natural resins are combustible and fusible organic compounds that are transparent or translucent and range from yellowish to brown.

Resin is produced by plants and is soluble in a variety of organic liquids but not in water.

Synthetic resins are a broad category of synthetic compounds that share some physical characteristics with natural resins but differ chemically.

During the model cars manufacturing, the resin undergoes the resin casting process, thus leading to the production of the collectible model car featuring real vehicles.

Resin model cars are typically formed in small amounts, from tens to a few hundred copies, compared to several thousands of injection-molded plastic figures.

The casting of resin is more labor-intensive than injection molding, and every cast wears down the soft molds utilized.

The low start-up cost for casting resin implies that individual hobbyists can make tiny batches, for example, for their use, while companies can use it to produce small runs for public sale.

The quality of both original masters and resin castings varies due to creative ability and casting methods.

One of the first model manufacturers that used the Resin diecasting technique is Spark. You can find more information about Spark models in my other article. Here is the link: Everything you need to know about Spark Models

4. Die-cast

CheapSome Diecast Models use Lead
SturdyLarge Parts are Hard to Cast
Good Detail
Advantages and Disadvantages of Diecast Models

Die-cast is among the most used material to manufacture model cars.

The die-cast material here is a metal like zinc alloy or aluminum.

After choosing which die-cast material to use, a die-casting process leads to the production of accurate, smooth, and defined model cars.

The die-cast process involves forcing molten metal under high pressure, and then it codifies to the target shape of the car.

The process is sometimes regarded as the shortest distance to the end product. In order to characterize the finished part is the use of the term “die casting.”

A plum alloy (early used) and Zamak and an alloy of zinc with a little alumina and copper are the metals used for die-casting.

When alloys are based more on plum or iron, the names white metal or pot metal are also used.

If you are concerned about lead, there is actually a lead safety guideline that car model manufacturers adhere to when producing their models.

In fact, they are doing regular checks to make sure that the model cars have zero to very low levels of lead levels.

You can find more information on diecasts including the lead safety guidelines here: Where does the term diecast come from

5. Metal

SturdyMore Expensive than Diecast
Advantages and Disadvantages of Diecast Models

The last model is made of is metal.

This is different from diecasting which uses metal alloys like aluminum and zinc.

The use of metal in the manufacturing of model cars started with toy soldiers being cast into ‘white metal’.

It is an all-out name for different alloys such as plaster, tin, and a range of other metals like copper and bismuth.

They also only use metals that have quite low melting points.

These metals were once cheap, but the price for the most advantageous, especially for the tin, has rapidly increased in recent years, making it less desirable.

Thus, diecast is now more popular because it has cheaper raw materials offering almost the same sturdiness or tensile strength.

In the metal manufacturing process, the metal sculptures in circular, vulcanized rubber molds are centrifugally cast.

In a casting machine, the circular molds are spun.

Molten metal is pumped into a central feed and is forced into the mold cavities by the spinning movement.

There are various reasons why the manufacturer prefers metal.

Among them, the metal mold is flexible.

The figure can be peeled around, allowing the details of the “undercuts” around the figure.

Furthermore, the turnaround time of producing metal models is quite fast.

After the rubber molds are correctly prepared, they can “run,” generating hundreds of figures every day, over and over again in a rather continual rotation.

Care and skill are still necessary to prevent or harm molds.

Only the things I love”

thediecastmodel.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on the site, I earn an affiliate commission.

So, here are the things I love when taking care of my Diecast Models.

Cleaning the Models

The first we are going to talk about is cleaning the models.

Removing Dust

  1. Air Brush – For me, this is the best since it not just removes dust but you can use it in painting/clear coating.
  2. Air Duster – This is a good alternative to Airbrush
  3. Normal Brush – If you are short on budget, you can use a normal brush. However, make sure that the brush has soft bristles because there are some hard brushes than can cause scratches. That’s why I recommended a good brush that can do the job properly.

Cleaning and Shining Hacks

Well, here are some of my cleaning hacks for removing scratches, oxidation, and so much more.

  1. Removing Decal Adhesive – Use Goo Gone on those hard-to-remove decal adhesives. It works fast and works like charm!
  2. Waxing and Polishing – Here is something a lot of people don’t know. Waxing protects the clear coat and paint while polishing shines the model. Instead of buying it separately, use a 2 in 1 to save money. Get this instead.
  3. Beginner Wax – The wax I recommended earlier is good and provides the best results based on my experience. But a beginner might have a problem especially if they’re not good at applying wax. Solid wax reaching hard to reach surface can be hard to remove. You have two choices here. One is to use a qtips to reach those surfaces, another is to use a liquid wax I recommended.
  4. Cleaning Wheels, Rubber, Plastic – Do not forget that rubber and plastic surface are quite different, especially in the cleaning process. Just wiping it down won’t do the job. That’s why I use Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner and Conditioner. Works like charm!
  5. Make the Wheels Shine! – Making our models look good won’t be complete without tiny details such as shiny wheels! Do not forget this because however small this is, the difference can be as big as night and day.
  6. Remove Scratches Easily – Tiny scratches are not the end for your model. Here is a simple trick I’ve been using to make my models look scratch-free even without repainting. Use T-Cut.

Painting the Models

Painting Tools

Make sure when you paint models, have these ready.

  1. Tape – A tape is important if you are painting a straight line. Furthermore, it will prevent your paint to scatter on other parts. I recommend Tamiya Tape since it is really made for models. Furthermore, they stick really well preventing paint splatters.
  2. Brush (Beginner) – Find a good set of brushes to paint your models. Of course, you can opt for an airbrush but it’s quite expensive.
  3. Airbrush (Intermediate/Expert) – This will yield a significantly better result than an ordinary brush because you can easily spray the paint evenly. I recommend this if you know what you’re doing.
  4. Stand(Optional) – Stands are good because it can be hard to manually hold the models while painting. It is optional but in my opinion, the price is well worth it for the comfort it gives.
  5. Drop Cloths – Drop Cloths will protect your surroundings from the paint.
  6. Primer – The most common beginner mistake I see is painting models without any Primer. A primer will prevent imperfections such as bubbles or paint not sticking to your models. It is a small price to pay for quality results.
  7. Clear Coat – A clear coat will protect the paint of your models. This will make the paint last longer. Also, it is the one responsible for making your models shine.


Of course, you can’t do painting properly without paint. So here are the ones I recommend.

  1. Acrylic PaintGood for beginners because it dries quickly. However, it doesn’t produce results as good as enamel paint.
  2. Enamel PaintProvides a good quality finish and longer-lasting paint. However, it takes longer to dry and requires expertise to use.

Model Maintenance

Model Storage

  1. Simple Wood Cabinet – While it doesn’t let you display your models, wooden cabinets are good storage for these models. For one, they are not heat conductors which means that the temperature inside will remain constant and remain cool. Furthermore, they prevent light from reaching the models which can cause oxidation.
  2. Clear Cabinet with Lock – If you want to display your models, then I recommend this. It closes so dust won’t easily get to your models. I also recommend you don’t put more than 1 model in each compartment since metals are good conductors of heat.

Model Photography

So you want to show off your models to others? Well, I got you covered.

Here is my beginner-friendly model photography tutorial that teaches everything from taking pictures to the editing process.

You will also see me doing hands-on photography in that tutorial.

Here is the link: How to Take Pictures of a Diecast Model or Model Kit | Helpful Illustrated and Video Guide


Similar Posts