Skip to main content

Any suggestions on the best scale for model automobiles and trucks to complement postwar, MPC, LionChief, and Lionmaster equipment?

0 "Scale" vehicles seem a little too large for my layout which includes scale and Plasticville structures, but I don't want a "toy" look.

The photo below is an example of what I'd like to avoid - this scale sized Edsel is as long as the Plasticville radio station it is parked next to.



Images (1)
  • L1030037
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

O "scale" vehicles are actually 1:43 (too big), 1:50 (slightly small) and 1:48 (just right).   A lot of Plasticville structures are closer to S scale 1:64, so S scale vehicles may look better next to them.  Winross makes tractor trailer rigs in 1:64 scale.   Do a google search for "1:64 vehicles" for lots of options.


Don W.

I have an Edsel on my layout. It's a 2-door hardtop not a convertible, but the body size is the same.  Anyway, my Edsel is a good fit to O-scale structures on my layout - refer to the attached pic of the car parked at Stella's Diner alongside other 1950s autos.

The Plasticville structures are a bit undersized for O-scale. IMHO, they are better suited to S-scale layouts with AF trains.

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12394


Images (1)
  • East Platform

Most O-Scale vehicles are 1:43 scale (European O scale) but in my opinon that looks better with 1:48 scale O-gauge trains and layout structures, which I have.  Your postwar locos and Plasticville are a bit smaller than 1:48 for the most part, and the advice given earlier to buy one of each scale 1:64, 1:50, 1:48, and 1:43 is good I think, to help you decide.

The vast majority of car models in O gauge sizes are made in 1:43 - probably 20 times as many as in 1:50 and 1:48 combined.  Also really good models are made almost exclusively in this scale (I;m talking really exquisite models, like Brooklin and NEO that cost $75 - $225.  But alot of big rig and bus models are made in 1:50 and 1:53, and will probably look good with you layout.

I wrote the  book contained in the attached file several years ago, but nothing significant has changed, other than that a US-producer for operating O-Gauge wire-guided cars (similar to the European Faller Car System, but in either 1:48 or 1:43 scale rather than Faller's N or HO scale) now makes cars and roadtrack that works well.  Anyway, this book might give you some ideas. 


Last edited by Lee Willis

I would use 1:43 for your cars and pick-up trucks, and 1:50 for your box trucks, tractor-trailer trucks and buses. There are many choices in these scales. All of the many cars and trucks I have on my layout are in these respective scales, and they all look great. My favorite brands are as follows: Matchbox and Road Champs for the cars and pick-up trucks, Athearn for the box trucks, Corgi and Lionel for the tractor-trailer trucks, and Corgi for the buses. All of these are relatively inexpensive. In my opinion, there is no need to buy the very expensive brands. Better to spend the money on trains.


I found you have to mix and match vehicles and buildings to make a scene look "just right".  Sometimes it works and sometimes, well, you make do to set the scene you want.  These photos were taken on my last layout.

The Good Humor Ice Cream truck with the Dalmatian guarding it looks fine since it's backed up next to a customized Lionel Rico Station.  (The Dal looks fine size-wise, too, since we had an 85 pound Dalmatian, Mick ,who looked just like this figure except he had white fur, not black, on his tail.)

Dalmatian Guarding Good Humor Truck

The two pickup trucks in the photo below, which cost a buck apiece in Dollar General, look good on the Starlite Diner's parking lot because the spaces are pretty short.  The Hummer on the right side looks alright since it's next to an RV.  The red car in the center didn't last in that place too long as its size didn't look right after I took this photo.

Two bucks worth of Low Rider Pickup Trucks from Dollar General at Diner

Buses have been a problem for me since so many seem to come in 1:50 instead of 1:43 or 1:48.  When you love the look of Greyhound's Scenicruisers, you just shrug and say, ok, put them towards the back of the layout and get on with life.

Looking down Veterans Blvd

But when you find a Worcester Bus Company bus and your mom's from Worcester, you just HAVE to find a way to make the scene work.  In this case, it was on the back of my last layout along with the Trailways bus from MTH.  (Since my maternal grandmother used to ride the Trailways bus from Massachusetts to NJ to see us, you know I just had to find a way to make that work with the Worcester bus, so the under size issue was something I had to play with a bit to try and improve things.  Setting it by the chapel helped a bit.

Worcester and Trailways Buses on Pat's Layout




Images (4)
  • Dalmatian Guarding Good Humor Truck
  • Two bucks worth of Low Rider Pickup Trucks from Dollar General at Diner
  • Looking down Veterans Blvd
  • Worcester and Trailways Buses on Pat's Layout

I bought a few BROOKLIN 1:48 autos because they were models of cars that were meaningful to me:  a 1948 Packard (my mom's car) and a 1956 Continental Mk II (my classic car; it's  now parked on the driveway awaiting further restoration).  I mostly buy Ertl and Corgi models -- good models for the money. 

In my fantasy life, I wanted a 1953 Studebaker, but that wish was never fulfilled.  So I created a Studebaker car dealership on my layout as an echo of that wish. I once wanted a 1958 Edsel Citation, but my wife outvoted me. I bought a model for my layout.  Mini-dreams can come true!

Some pix attached.

Mike Mottler    LCCA 12394



Images (2)
  • Ken's Car Dealership, w-Studebakers
  • MTH A&W Root Beer
Last edited by Mike H Mottler

^^What Tom Tee said.  Especially for the "traditional-size" trains you enumerate in the first post.  Overpowering the layout goes for cars too.  Personally I wouldn't buy anything larger than 1:50.  Wider cars means wider roads, which eats into available space.  Plasticville houses, roads, cars add realism and a sense of environment, but you can get more in a small space, and I like the focus to be on the trains.

Proportion is what is important to me.  Cars come in a wide range of sizes.  Also the placement of items on a layout can be used to "allow" one to use various sizes.  Larger cars can be placed in the distance to appear smaller if not too close to something that will emphasize and reveal their larger size by comparison.

I have a few O scale cars which are not on my layout.  The layout is Toy O27 layout with lots of Plasticville buildings.  I mostly use HOish size cars and trucks and do not use the O scale cars to allow comparison.  I also like the fact that the small cars and trucks put emphasis on the the trains making them appear larger than they are.  After all this is model train layout.  Larger vehicles would diminish the size of the train engines and cars.


Like some of my fellow Forum members, I find inexpensive autos can make very satisfactory additions to your layout.  I like to improve the appearance of these autos by detailing them with paint.

I’m attaching photos of two Road Signature models as examples.  The 57 Corvette’s interior was all white; I found a complimentary blue paint to add color to the seat cushions and floor.  Black paint was used in the steering wheel rim, white on the shift knob and silver to highlight the instruments and controls.  A dab of red paint on the all “chrome” taillights created lenses.

The chrome pieces on the side of the 48 Ford Woody were the same color as the car.  I painted the door handles, chrome fender trim and mud guards silver.

if you look closely you can see my hand isn’t as steady as it used to be and silver paint doesn’t look as good as simulated chrome.  Once on the layout, however, it’s hard to tell these detailed autos from their more expensive cousins.




Images (3)
  • FA32CAC7-CB63-4853-A59B-97E93011CDC8
  • AEA23C33-3AF9-45A1-98DF-010BE8C5D9AA
  • 810B810D-9C67-4DEB-9529-0E431F735896

Add Reply

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.