Scaling down reality is a simple idea – isn’t it? The answer is yes, it is straightforward and easy to do. Many people, however, just don’t understand it. Unfortunately, many of these people publish articles and sell items with the scales listed incorrectly causing confusion for others. To complicate it even more, some manufacturers produce product lines with mixed scales that are not well differentiated.
Depending on the application, there are many issues associated with scale we could discuss. This page will focus on scale as related to diecast car and truck collectibles. I have a similar page that addresses tabletop gaming scales.
THE MATCHBOX MYTH
One of the most misused scale references is 1/64. This is mostly because the stated nominal scale for Matchbox and Hot Wheels diecast cars is 1/64. Some (a relatively small percentage, actually) of these cars and trucks are produced in 1/64 scale – most, however, are not. Oddly, diecast cars from Maisto and ERTL that appear to be the same size with a glance are usually actually slightly larger and approximate 1/64 often.
An example of when this myth’s impact is magnified occurred when Hot Wheels produced a line of Star Trek starships that had no scale label. People who don’t understand scale simply apply the core Hot Wheels 1/64 scale myth to these products that are even further from 1/64.
Here is a practical example. This picture is a side by side comparison. The upper car is a Dodge Charger produced by Hot Wheels. The lower car is a Dodge Charger from Maisto. To determine the scale of the cars, we do the following:
- Identify the length of the real car. A quick google search shows the overall length to be 200 inches. One inch is 25.4 millimeters (mm), so the real Charger is 5080 mm.
- The scale of the Hot Wheels Charger is the real length divided by the diecast car length. Our ruler shows the length of the toy as 73 mm. Doing the math, the Hot Wheels car is 1:70.
- The scale of the Maisto Charger is the real length divided by the diecast car length. Our ruler shows the length of the toy as 79 mm. Doing the math, the Maisto car is 1:64.
I also have a Matchbox Dodge Challenger that has an overall length of 72 mm – making it 1:70 scale (not pictured).
COMMON DIECAST SCALES
This illustration of an early 1960’s Corvette in different scales allows us to visualize the significant differences in the scales. The scales shown are the most common collectible sizes for diecast cars and trucks.
One thing to note – this image has a ruler in inches at the bottom. You might have noticed that I used millimeters in my example calculations. When I first started working on models, I used inches. I rapidly learned this is not an effective choice of measurement units for several reasons:
* The partial inch units on the ruler don’t play well as decimalized values. That is to say that a 1/16 of an inch is 0.0625 inch.
* 1/16th is typically the smallest division on a ruler and therefore it becomes the limiting factor of your measurement resolution.
I found that adjusting to millimeters took some effort, but it has made my scaling far more effective. Here are a few reasons why working in millimeters has proven to be more effective for me:
* The decimalized unit is always a nice even value.
* The millimeter is the smallest unit on a standard ruler. A millimeter is smaller than a 1/16th of an inch, so the resolution of the measurement is better. A standard ruler has 192 16th’s of an inch on one side and 305 mm on the other side.
Diecast models and toys crossover scales with several other applications. Briefly, the best examples would be:
1:87 is HO Scale, an extremely common small model railroad scale
1:64 is an extremely common scale for fire trucks and other emergency response vehicle models
1:32 is very commonly used for military models like tanks