MotorCities National Heritage Area

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Robert Tate's Collection
Posted: 11.10.2015

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During the post-war period, many toy car manufacturers were producing miniature, replica vehicles for a market that included the automotive industry, the hobby enthusiast and the toy stores as well.

During the late 1940s to 1950s, the Product Miniature Company – located in Pewaukee, Wisc. – was the main supplier for International toy trucks along with Chevrolet promotional model cars. Essentially, the Chevrolet brand's latest model line was available to customers in miniature form around the same time new vehicles were being introduced to new customers.

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The Product Miniature Company, or PMC, was founded by two brothers, the late William and Paul Ford, in 1946. At the time, other toy car manufacturers were already established businesses such as Chicago-based Banthrico and JoHan Models, located in Detroit. Other companies at that time were National Products and AMT.

The first scale models from PMC were produced in 1947. They were International Trucks (pickups) that were used for the International Truck dealerships around the country. The models were manufactured in 1/20 scale and produced in cellulose acetate plastic.

This was also a time that many companies could advertise their company name or logo on many toy truck products. For example Mayflower along with Gordon's Potato Chips and the U.S Mail became popular sales tools during the early days of manufacturing.

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Product Miniature Company also manufactured a mechanized bulldozer which was modeled after one of International’s big diesel-powered crawler tractors. The model offered a remote control unit that kids could operate for that much added play time. Product Miniature models were manufactured in popular International Truck colors such as bright yellow, green, orange or red, which were all popular colors for International Harvester.

In 1949, Product Miniature Company manufactured a Plymouth Station Wagon with an operating tailgate that could easily be operated by hand. The model was produced in 1/20 scale and molded in green plastic, the model also promoted the full-size vehicle at the time because Plymouth had recently introduced a 5-passenger all-steel station wagon that was offered without wood side trim.

PMC moves onto Chevy, Nash cars

In 1951, Product Miniature continued to produce its station wagon models along with an added popular Plymouth sedan model both still using the traditional 1/20 scale. These models are highly collectible today.

Also in 1951, Product Miniature Company received the Chevrolet contract which in previous years had been the exclusive rights of Banthrico Co.

The PMC Chevrolet models were a big hit throughout the many Chevy dealerships across the country. The models were used as penny banks for customers, with a slogan that read, “To help you save for a rainy day or to help you by your new Chevrolet.”

Product Miniature Company continued to make Chevrolet products with a Corvette model being offered from 1953 to 1954. In the photograph that is a part of this story (below) you can see the late Ed Cole along with W.E Fish, general sales manager, inspecting new Chevrolet miniature automobiles, which were all painted in factory colors for General Motors approval.

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Also in 1954, the Product Miniature Company added a Trailways Bus model along with a Ford tractor, and a miniature replica of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile which became very popular among children and remains a sought-after collectible for hobbyists today.

The line was dubbed the “Action Toys.” Product Miniature also had introduced a Nash Rambler in 1/25 scale along with a “Red Cross” Ford ambulance circa. 1955 to 1956; a 1953 to 1954 Plymouth, along with a taxi, and a city police model toy.

By 1954, Product Miniature Company had relocated to Milwaukee, Wisc. at 2240 South 54th street. That same year, the company added model kits to its product line along with remote control models with power steering.

The company used the slogan “Tru Miniatures” in its advertising for the sale and promotion of its latest miniature line.

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In 1956, PMC fell out of favor with Chevrolet after they had missed a company deadline to produce Chevy brand miniatures for use in dealerships in conjunction with the unveiling the car manufacturer’s new lineup. Chevy subsequently canceled the contract with Product miniatures, however, a 1957 Chevrolet model was still produced by the company but lacked the volume and intricate detail of products being made by a newer called Scale Model Products – based in Michigan.

Scale Model was manufacturing the new 1957 Chevrolet models at the time. Then from 1958 to 1959, the company produced toy replicas of the Corvette along with a 1958/1959 Ford station wagon and Ranchero model produced in a deluxe and toy store version.

By the early 1960s, the Product Miniature Company was losing sales and by 1965 the company had folded. Today the models manufactured by PMC have become collectable and are very sought after by collectors.

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For more on the history of Jo Han Models, see "The history of Jo Han Models" posted 07.22.2015.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for contributing the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of Robert Tate's personal collection. (Bibliography: Reference material "The History of Product Miniature Company" by Bob Tate 1991)

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