Subrato Sen : How to Choose the Right Size and Variety of Scale Models

Added in: Voices

Ninety percent of the time, our scale model purchases are guided by our sub-conscious minds and the balance ten is impulsive. There are several factors that influence this – what we learnt or studied, word of mouth, visual appeal and most importantly, our need.


Now, scale models come in myriad sizes and any amateur is confused what he should buy or what she should gift her boyfriend or hubby. How does one go about selecting the models? What scale size is ideal?Here is why, this makes it more confusing,

1:8 – These are monstrous in size. Extremely high priced and limited choices available.

1:10 – Mostly 2 wheeler bikes and scooters come in this scale.

1:12 – They are large highly detailed model cars and 14-15 inches long. But because of its scale size and cost, they are collected by few. However, 2 wheeler’s that come in this size are popular.

1:18 – These are large models that are 8 – 11 inches long. One of the most popular sizes in India.

1:24 – Beginners prefer this scale as it is price friendly.

1:32 – Most model tractors, farming vehicles, few car models & 3 wheeler’s come in this scale.

1:34 – Another scale most exclusively used by one of the leading brands for their truck models.

1:36 – A common scale for several toy models.

1:43 – Professional Collectors favourite choice. Variety of models available is extensive and covers cars, buses, trucks, 2 wheelers, etc. Also known as “O Gauge” in the UK.

1:48 – This scale is used for making model aircraft’s, military vehicles and plastic construction kits.

1:50 – Most widely known scale for making construction vehicles, buses, and trucks.

1:55 – The Disney-Pixar cars from Mattel and Siku use the scale for its toy range of cars and trucks.

1:60 – Some pre-war and post-war military vehicles were made by Dinky Toys in the past.

1:64 – Most popular scale size for farm models and American model trucks.

1:72 – This scale is used for military vehicles due to its compatibility with 1:72 plastic construction kits. Also, most popular scale size for aircraft.

1:76 – These are tiny and are most popular in Australia and the UK. Buses and trucks also come in this size. In the UK, this scale size is also known as “OO Gauge”.

1:87 – Some of the smallest size scale models one can possess.

1:100, 1:200, 1:250, 1:500, 1:1000 – Miniature planes are available in this size.

1:1200, 1:2400, 1:2500 – Miniature ships and cruise liners are available in this scale size.

First, let us understand the basics.

This is actually easy. If its a 1:18 scale (also written as 1/18), the scale model is 18 times smaller than the original vehicle. If its a 1:43, it is 43 times smaller and so on. For large sized ships, a manufacturer cannot make a 1:18, because 18 times smaller miniature model would mean the size of your room or house. So they make them 1200 or 2500 times smaller i.e. 1:1200 or 1:2500 scale. Got it.

To make it more simpler, see this illustrated scale chart (the sizes indicated are only representative). The car illustrated is a BMW Isetta which itself is small sized bubble car. Now, if a 1:43 scale Isetta is 4” long, a Mercedes-Benz 600 Limousine of the same scale would be 6” long. Similarly a 1:43 bus or a truck would be nearly 1 feet or 12” long.



So what does one collect when there are so many different sizes available?

Most importantly it all depends on one’s pocket size and the space available in your house. Scale model collection as a hobby can be expensive, but if one collects the right model, that money he spends actually can become an investment (read more below, to know how).

One can be purchasing a 1:18 model costing Rs. 3000-8000, but if he doesn’t have the display space, frankly, he is wasting money.Another could be buying whatever scale he gets whenever he visits a toy shop, but his display will end up looking like ‘one big mess’ as he’s collected few 1:18, some 1:32 &1:24, small number of 1:64 and few of 1:43 making his display uneven.

Space, is the biggest requirement for any collectible. And a collectible needs to be displayed. One cannot keep buying and storing them inside wardrobes and attics just because ‘some day’ he will get a chance to display them when he makes a larger glass cabinet. Well, that day will never come as he would have purchased many more, by then.

Look at the below two images. On the left is a 1:18 display that has taken up the entire wall and look at the other image on the right, where the 1:43 models have been displayed in a smaller space besides a picture frame. And being lighter in weight, the display could be put up on the wall.


If you are collecting cars, our strongest recommendation will be to go for a 1:43 as this is the favourite international scale size. Models that are modern and rare are all available and the variety one can get is simply mind boggling.It requires minimum space and most importantly they don’t collect dust as there’s no opening.

Imagine, having 6 pieces of 1:18 against 12-15 models of 1:43 displayed within the same available space i.e. 50% more space. Since they are not smaller like the 1:64, detailing can be seen. They also cost less (starts from Rs. 900) than the regular 1:18 available in the toy shops. And if you are a college going student, you can buy one of the lesser priced brands for just Rs. 300-400.

If its a bus or a truck, the ideal size again would be a 1:43. One can also go for a 1:50 scale and perhaps 1:76 since few unique models are made in this size.

Now, something about the 1:18 size, the most popular scale that most Indians are hooked to. True, a large 1:18 model is 8-10” long and looks good. One can open its doors, turn its steering wheel and also open the bonnet & boot. But, ask yourself, when you display it, do you display the model with its doors and bonnets open? Do you get a chance to peep in, while it is sitting inside that glass cabinet? The answer is an emphatic NO.

So, if you still think to invest on a 1:18, then decide only if you have lots of space, if you can protect it by putting it inside a dust-free cabinet. Further, we will recommend you to spend little more (INR 6,000-9,000) and get a more detailed car. One can then get fabric or leather like seats, and everything will look more real.

Our suggestion is not to buy those 1:18’s that are priced below INR 3,000. Because if you observe closely for a longer time, everything will give away. You will observe overly thick hinges that are attached to the doors and bonnet, cheaper looking plastic seats & dashboard, badly finished chrome that peel out after sometime exposing the plastic underneath, etc. But if you still insists to go for one, then go ahead, the choice is yours.


Unique. A collection needs to be unique. If everybody has a Lamborghini Gallardo or a Ferrari Testarossa, the same VW Beetle then where’s the exclusivity? All popular manufacturers make products that appeal to the masses and so one can find the same models re-appearing after some time in various colours and different packaging.


1:18 VW Beetle (standard)

Be different, collect different. Go for models and brands that are uncommon. That will enhance your exclusivity. Collect brands such as Delahaye, GAZ, Ariel, Horch, IFA, Auto Union, etc. that are not made by all, possessed by all. When it comes down to specific models go for items that are unique such as the 11 wheeled Citroen DS PLR or the Doodlebug Tanker (see image below). Collect a Michael Schumacher winning car or a Greyhound bus.


Hanomag car (unique)


Doodlebug Tanker (unique)

If you love to collect motorcycles, go for models that come in scale 1:24 or 1:18 as one can get a large number of unique models. If he wants something larger he can settle for a 1:10. Try adding an Ariel, Norton or a DKW rather than collecting the same Harley Davidson that all have.

One can also make his collection unique by adapting themes. Examples are Police i.e. collect police cars from every part of the world (see image below). You can also have a Presidential car collection. Or Ambulances. Or make your own Indian Pavilion i.e. buy models that were made or sold in India or collecting cars that were once owned by the Maharajahs and Nawabs of India.


The choice of topics is unlimited. But in the process of collecting, do not forget to maintain the scale size or again you will make a mess of your collection.

One last, but very important tip. Your collection today can be an investment if you collect the right mix of ‘unique’ models. Buy 2 of each, keep one for yourself and sell the other after few years. Your original expense will be recovered as you will sell it many times over the original price plus you make a profit. Several professional collectors do this privately and this is a secret, we reveal.

Now that you know what to collect and how to collect, please proceed to add your collection correctly. We also hope you liked this 3 part series about scale models.

Happy Collecting.

Subrato Sen is a welding engineer by profession and an avid scale model collector. His initiation as a scale model collector occurred as a school boy in 1978 when he got a BOAC (former name of British Airways) airlines coach made by Maxwell (Indian brand) from his parents; an item that he still, with pride, possesses. Models & brands that are lesser known are his speciality. He has a penchant for collecting automotive car & truck models from COMECON countries, steam-driven vehicles before 1900 and has a huge collection of taxis & buses from most cities of the world.

Currently, he lives in a suburb of Mumbai and continues together with his passion. He also runs an online scale model business. You can buy scale models from his website

Disclaimer : The opinions expressed within this article are those of the author. The article does not reflect the views of Motoroids and Motoroids does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The images used in the article have been provided by the contributor. Motoroids doesn’t claim the copyright for the images used.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *