Scale model cars have been around for a long time, and their dominance in the world of toys is undeniable. Some model car manufacturers are best known for their historical model car production; some are for their unique representation.
The companies that make model cars are Hot Wheels, Matchbox, AutoArt, Minichamps, Maisto, and Bburago. These companies have different strengths and weaknesses which a collector might prefer other the other. There are also plastic model car manufacturers such as Tamiya and Revell.
When it comes to making a list of model car manufacturers, you’ll understand how and why the brands are so far ahead of one another.
Here is the list of some top companies manufacturing model toy cars.
1. Hot Wheels
Since its debut in 1968 as a Mattel toy brand, Hot Wheels has grown in popularity.
They are most commonly associated with the smaller 1/64 scale, but they also produce the larger 1/18 scale and have an excellent selection of car manufacturers.
Several limited-edition models have been released in recent years. Collectors are very interested in these limited-edition models.
Another factor contributing to Hot Wheels’ popularity among children is the variety of fantasy cars that resemble those seen in their favorite animated movies.
The quality of paint and parts is immediately noticeable, with a heavier overall feel and higher-quality components.
The Elite version, with its soft compound slicks and detailed livery and paint scheme, is an excellent model for the pro collector, with a retail price point ranging from $75 to $150, depending on the model.
The fine details in the engine bay, such as the details in the intake housing and precision paint, alone are worth the extra cost.
And, when it comes to the 1/64 scale, Hot Wheels technically became synonymous with diecast cars with their fantasy series and track sets.
Matchbox has been on the market for a little more than 50 years. These miniature cars come in a variety of sizes.
Some options even enable users to build their own versions by selling interchangeable parts.
These versatile options have increased the brand’s popularity among collectors.
Both Matchbox and Hot Wheels are owned by Mattle and are about the same price range.
Matchbox cars were based on real-life cars from the era.
Rather than embracing a racing or fantasy aesthetic, as Hot Wheels does, Matchbox cars were more realistic.
They were even developed in collaboration with the manufacturers of the real cars on which they were based.
Their molds were produced to be as accurate as possible, and this adherence to realism contributed to the cars’ popularity and collectability.
I recommended you to read this article if you’re interested in Matchbox and Hot Wheels: Which is better: Matchbox or Hotwheels?
Autoart is a Hong Kong-based diecast model car manufacturer.
It has produced over 45 different car models on a variety of scales—the most common production sizes for the brand range from 1/64 scale to 1/12 scale.
The company’s distinctiveness can be found in the quality of paint used on its products and a keen sense of detail.
This is demonstrated by the complete detailing of its products’ brakes, steering wheels, and other various constituent parts; even sun visors and door/hood/trunk lid dampers are well-reproduced.
Their factory is dedicated to producing their brand’s products only, increasing consistency and ensuring an unprecedented level of quality.
Depending on the model, most 1/18 AUTOart models start at around $129, and they are worth it with a quality that is good.
They are now widely recognized as the manufacturer of the largest scale 1/18 model scale, with over 2000 products produced.
Recommended article to read: Why is AutoArt Expensive and Valuable?
MINICHAMPS is the best among reasonably priced 1/18 scale diecast figures.
The MINICHAMPS cars feel excellent due to their sheer weight.
They are the heaviest of the others, which is important because the weight equates to quality.
They are sturdy but open to reveal textured seats and steering wheels.
Like the real thing, the exposed rubber cables that run from the cockpit’s center to the engine are even cable-tied.
The motorsport center brake light is formed of separate pieces, so are the rear engine lower crossbar and red tow hook.
It goes without saying that even the hood pins are separate.
MINICHAMPS cars are priced between $115 and $215. They don’t have as many models as Hot Wheels, AUTOart, or Maisto, but they make up for it with the overall quality, durability, and craftsmanship.
Maisto International Inc. is a global toy brand owned by the May Cheong Group.
In 2007, the company bought the assets of the well-known brand Bburago.
Maisto later bought Polistil, another renowned Italian diecast model manufacturer that had gone bankrupt. Maisto is a famous brand with a high volume in affordable prices that can be found in most stores, from Costco to Target.
One of Maisto’s best features is that they license almost every manufacturer—Nissan, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Bentley, Honda, Acura, and Yamaha.
If you’re just starting or looking to build a large collection, Maisto is the best move, retailing close to $29.99 (but usually available for half that).
Maisto 1/18 scale vehicles usually have all of their features open, as well as nicely appointed engines and interiors.
The models’ bodies are pretty much perfectly proportioned, and every detail has been meticulously researched.
Maisto has a solid selection of diecast muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s, and their incredible Harley-Davidson collection is just incredible.
Owned by the May Cheong Group as well, Bburago is a great scale model car brand to consider.
Its origin and location can be traced back to Burago Di Molgora in Italy, where the majority of the products were first manufactured. Martoys was the original name, but it was changed in 1976.
Politoys and Maisto were Bburago’s main competitors at its peak, with the latter dominating the 1/18 market segment around the year 2000.
After declaring bankruptcy in 2007, Bburago rebranded as Maisto.
Bburago is the brand for you if you like Ferraris or other European “supercars.”
Other than supercars, Bburago specializes in diecast European sports cars and race cars.
In addition to holding the exclusive license to make Ferrari diecast cars, it is also known for excellent 1/24 scale replicas of other leading European brands, such as Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, McLaren, Bugatti, and Jaguar, as well as other prestigious marques.
The detail on the 1/43 model was excellent, as was the presentation, though the price is geared more toward children. Bburago also offers several 1/64 scale models, but the majority of them lack opening features.
I recommend you to read my article comparing Maisto and Bburago, here is the link: Which is better: Maisto vs Bburago
With their limited edition models and fantasy series, Hot Wheels has always been the favorite of collectors and kids alike.
But, Matchbox is the one that takes you to the nostalgia ride with their epic, realistic cars of the 60s and 70s.
If you are a beginner collector or want to build a large collection, Maisto and Bburago models are perfect for you considering the price point.
On the other hand, you are an ardent collector and concerned about details and craftsmanship, AUTOart and Minichamps will offer you what you are looking for.
Still, there is no match for Hot Wheels when it comes to uniqueness, variety, and price point. That is why Hot Wheels became the synonym for small toy cars.
Although, as I said, there are lots of companies that make model cars, I actually have some recommendations for you to read next.
This article talked about diecast cars but there are also good plastic car model makers. Here is the recommended read: Which are the best company that makes model car kits?
“Only the things I love”
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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.
- Air Brush – For me, this is the best since it not just removes dust but you can use it in painting/clear coating.
- Air Duster – This is a good alternative to Airbrush
- 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.
- Removing Decal Adhesive – Use Goo Gone on those hard-to-remove decal adhesives. It works fast and works like charm!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
Make sure when you paint models, have these ready.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Drop Cloths – Drop Cloths will protect your surroundings from the paint.
- 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.
- 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.
- Acrylic Paint – Good for beginners because it dries quickly. However, it doesn’t produce results as good as enamel paint.
- Enamel Paint – Provides a good quality finish and longer-lasting paint. However, it takes longer to dry and requires expertise to use.
- 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.
- 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.
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.