AMT, short for Aluminum Model Toys, was a model company founded in Troy, Michigan in 1948 by attorney West Gallogly, Sr. as a side business. Their first products were 1/25 scale pre-assembled promotional car models. AMT’s first model was a 1947-1948 Ford Fordor sedan made of cast aluminum and painted with official Ford paint.
The type of paint used on the models made a difference because dealers often did not have cars with every color in stock. The promo models they made were close replicas of the real thing and AMT worked closely with Ford and General Motors as well as other car companies. Models were molded in different colors as well as painted in actual factory auto paint. This enabled potential customers to see the various colors of car models available.
Their construction was sturdy, often with few parts and hoods that didn’t open or engines and suspensions molded in one piece. AMT made their promo models out of aluminum at first, but an AMT employee, George Toteﬀ, devised the “sliding pillar” tooling design, a way to produce complex shapes in plastic. This allowed for faster production and lower costs. From then on, they produced plastic promo models at first in cellulose acetate (which was prone to warping) and then in styrene (brand name Cycolac.)
In the early 1950s Gallogly turned over the day-to-day operations to Toteff so he could focus on his main career. AMT designed their own models but subcontracted the molding to several companies, including Continental Plastics in Fraser, Michigan.
AMT produced promotional car models for quite some time, but eventually the market for these cooled off in the mid-1960s.
AMT and other model companies continued to make promo models until the 1980s and 1990s, but not like they did in the 1960s. The few promotionals they produced were for popular cars and the dealerships started charging for them instead of giving them away. Car companies also started charging the model companies to use their names and designs, so the idea of “promotional” models went out the window.
The next logical step for AMT was model kits, since the licensing was already paid for. As a way of expanding the market for their kits, AMT took inspiration from model builders who customized their car models. In 1961, AMT bought another scale model company, Scale Model Products (SMP) based in Birmingham, Michigan.
SMP started to make model kits that could be assembled in three different ways in 1958. AMT used SMP’s 3-in-1 kit idea and the SMP logo.
After their regular promotional model runs finished, AMT added several customizing parts to the tooling molds, used styrene for the parts and introduced the 3-in-1 Customizing Kit series. AMT worked with 1:1 car customizers such as George Barris, Gene Winfield, the Alexander Brothers, Bill Cushenberry, Dean Jeﬀries and Alex Kraus to create their customizing models. Sometimes the instructions had customizing hints and tips from the above mentioned customizers.
By the mid-to-late 1960s, model kit sales really picked up and other companies such as Model Products Corporation (MPC) entered the market and were gaining popularity. AMT, facing competition, decided to branch out with other themes and types of models to better compete.
Some of these include models based on TV shows and movies, science fiction models, fire trucks, planes, bulldozers, trucks, NASCAR models and vans.
In 1969, AMT released truck kits such as the California Hauler 359 kit and through the 1970s, AMT offered others like the Chevrolet Titan/GMC Astro, Peterbilt 352, Kenworth W925, Autocar A64B and White Road Boss. In 1971 AMT issued models of American LaFrance fire-fighting trucks, including a pumper, a rear-mount aerial ladder truck and a rear-mount articulating boom truck.
AMT hit the big time when they signed a contract on August 1, 1966 for the plastic model rights to the Star Trek TV series. AMT produced a model of the Starship Enterprise, which was one of their best selling kits. They also made a kit of the Klingon D-7 Battlecruiser ship. They continued to release several other Star Trek kits, such as the 1:12 scale figure of Spock fighting a three-headed alien, a Romulan Bird Of Prey ship, a Starfleet Shuttlecraft, the Enterprise Bridge and the K-7 Space Station. They also released a three-piece Exploration Set consisting of approximately 3/4 scale models of a phaser, communicator and tricorder.
In 1978, Lesney Products & Co. Ltd., of England, the makers of Matchbox diecast vehicles, bought AMT and moved the company to Baltimore, Maryland, closing the Maple Road facility in Troy, Michigan. This was just the first of a series of buyouts of AMT over the next few years. In 1982, the Ertl company purchased AMT from Lesney, renamed it to AMT-Ertl and moved the company to Dyersville, Iowa.
AMT-Ertl then had a 24 year relationship until AMT was sold in 2007. Ertl itself was bought by Racing Champions in 1999. Production of plastic kits continued but they were not very good. Companies such as Stevens International and Model King reissued AMT kits.
AMT was then purchased by Round 2, LLC of South Bend, Indiana, in 2012.
In the early 1990s AMT released brand new kits with new tooling for some of their older kits, such as the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, 1966 Ford Fairlane GT, 1958 Edsel Pacer, 1960 Ford Starliner and 1957 Chrysler 300.
In the late 1990s AMT did something new. They released pre-assembled and painted versions of these kits. They were sold as the Masterpiece Series and were nicely packaged in foam, including a Certificate of Authenticity, were beautifully finished and featured whitewall tires along with very detailed and authentically painted engines, suspensions and interiors, showing more detail than any promotional.
Models included a 1957 Chrysler 300C, 1960 Ford Starliner, 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS convertible, 1962 Pontiac Catalina SD421 and 1966 Buick Riviera.
Round 2 is making an effort to re-release some of the classic AMT catalog, featuring for example the 1962 Buick Electra 225 and the 1961 Ford Galaxie Skyline.
Classic and re-released AMT model kits are available from Round 2, in hobby stores, EBay and online retailers. As expected, the original promo models made by AMT can be costly in the collector’s market.
Email from Douglas Ridge July 9, 2019