When you hear the name AMT, many of you will probably ask the question, who was AMT? What did the company manufacture?
The AMT Corporation, which stood for Aluminum Model Toys, was located in Michigan and was one of the largest and leading manufacturing toy companies in the world to produce toy cars or scale models for Chrysler, General Motors, Ford, Packard, and Studebaker. The company was created by Mr. West Gallogy Sr. an attorney, Mr. George Toteff, Mr. Bill Swartz, Mr. Carl J. Holliver, Mr. Ernest J. Benson and many others.
In the beginning years, the company had several locations. A few were 21535 Grosbeck highway in Warren, Michigan, 200 Briggs Building in Birmingham, Michigan, and 222 East Maple Avenue in Troy Michigan.
The company produced its first model a metal die-cut aluminum replica of a Ford Motor Company's 1948 model. This replica was used at Ford Dealerships to promote their advertising slogan “There’s A Ford in Your Future!" The model car was designed to bring families into Ford dealerships and to show off the new Ford models that were on display.
In 1949, a Ford and a Plymouth were the only two models produced by AMT that year. However Studebaker dealer models along with remote control toys would follow in 1950. Automobile manufacturers soon realized the value of these scale model cars in drawing attention to and selling their own large counterparts. In model form a dealer could order a complete color assortment and show his customers in three dimensions what their car would look like when it arrived.
The 1950's started out very slow for the AMT Corporation but by 1954, the manufacture was producing Buick, Ford, along with Pontiac and Studebaker models for the dealerships and the toy store trade.
In 1951, AMT produced an authentic model of a Henney-Packard ambulance in 1/20th scale. This model was not very popular among the young kids at the time and through 1954, AMT continued to struggle within the sales markets.
At left, the late Bill Swartz standing
Many years ago, Mr. Carl J. Holliver shared stories of the AMT Corporation saying that "1954 was a disastrous year for the AMT Corporation however what saved the company from going out of business was when the AMT Corporation received the 1955 Ford Thunderbird scale model contract account from Ford Motor Company. That 1955 Ford Thunderbird model saved the AMT Corporation".
By 1956, AMT was one of the major companies and was producing more model cars for the dealerships than the toy stores. To keep up with their customer's demands AMT implemented twelve hour shifts and twenty-four hour days. Thousands upon thousands of models were being produced and many of the models were sent to the dealers first for new car announcement time.
Stores such as Arlan's, SS Kresge, Woolworth's, and many others participated in selling AMT models later. Cadillac, Dodge and the Lincoln Continental Mark II models were also available from AMT. The Revell company and AMT made an agreement to manufacture their 1/32 scale kit models.
AMT Assembly Line 1965
In 1953, AMT started to test the market for distribution of model kits for young children. AMT produced 3-car assembly kits that contained all component parts for entire assembly of three different models and included three paint colors, brush, glue and a screw driver. However, with a price tag of $4.95, the kit was way too expensive for many consumers to afford. In 1957, AMT tried again to sale unassembled models to their consumer market. This attempt was still unsuccessful. In 1958, AMT received the Edsel contract from Ford to produced miniature Edsel models. However, after the model year and due to poor sales, the Edsel was dropped from the model line by AMT.
1958 was one of the best years for the AMT corporation because the AMT/SMP company started to manufacture their model kit lines (3in 1) which generated huge sales and profits for the company. Mr. Bill Swartz informed me that the AMT Corporation made most of their money by selling model kits to the young consumers along with many teenagers throughout the years.
During the 1960's the company was the number one company in the world to produce miniature toy cars. With the addition of Chevrolet, Corvette, styling consultant George Barris, and other well know custom car designers, the company continued to do very well. The 1960's also brought the Slot car model interest that is still very popular today. In 1966, Executive Vice- President of AMT Mr. Carl Clendening said “AMT makes the best plastic model cars and model kits in the world. We can turn out 18 million units a year". Mr. Clendening also stated "It takes six months and $50,000 for a die from which AMT stamps out parts for custom car kits.”
By the 1970's, most model car companies were changing and in 1973 the oil embargo changed the direction of the toy car manufacturers and their markets. In 1978, Lesney Toy Manufacturer, the maker of Matchbox, purchased the AMT company and moved the company to Baltimore.
In conclusion , AMT had a great history throughout the years and worked very closely with General Motors, Ford ,Chrysler and Studebaker styling departments to make sure the consumers were receiving the best product possible. Mr. Budd Anderson once said "Scale model car kit manufacturers are enjoying unprecedented prosperity as the hobby spreads like wildfire.”
Today many of the pioneers who helped start AMT are no longer with us however their legacy will always be a part of automotive history. This story is dedicated to my two late good friends Mr. Carl J. Holliver and Mr. Bill Swartz, who are no longer with us.
A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the Robert Tate’s Personal Collection. (Bibliography: Anderson Budd. "Its A Hundred Million Car Year! Ward's Quarterly Spring 1965. Stark Al. " Big 3 Plus One-AMT Puts Youth On Wheels". Detroit News 1965. Swartz Bill. Personnel Reference Library On The History Of AMT 1948-1970.)
Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. For further information contact Robert Tate at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Desirae Tolbert at email@example.com.