Viability of 1:43 Toy Cars in 28mm Gaming

Maxxon


The test team is assembled. Vehicles are an essential part of modern and science fiction gaming. Even if they are not actually driven in the game, cars are an indispensable part of an urban landscape. Who'd believe a street with no parked cars?

While there are vehicle models to go with the figures, they tend to be expensive and selection is limited to military vehicles mostly. However, toy cars are made in a variety of scales and can be had for cheap. Could they be the answer to this dilemma?

Scale Considerations

Assuming a 28mm tall model is supposed to represent a roughly 6 foot tall man, that would translate to a scale of 1:64. Just find cars in 1:64 and you're done, right?

Wrong.

The problem is that a 28mm figure is not a scale model of a human being. Like it or not, but the modern style of 28mm figures has modified proportions -- namely, they are wider and bulkier than their height would suggest, and certain features like heads and hands are exaggerated.

A 1:60 car next to a modern 28mm figure just looks silly, as this picture shows. Even though the height scale might be correct, the figure would never fit in the car and frankly they look silly standing next to each other.
Warzone ashigaru next to a 1:60 Peugeot 406. Would you believe these guys just came from that car? Me neither... 1:60 is just too small for modern 28mm.

The ideal solution would be to have vehicles done in the same style as the figures. While some manufacturers do offer vehicle kits, they are expensive and usually cover only military subjects. Who wants streets parked full of APCs?

Measuring the Viper Since the figures don't conform to a real scale measure, the suitability of vehicle models can not be determined with a simple calculation. One must actually compare the vehicle models and figures.

There are two primary considerations for this: How the figures look standing next to a vehicle model, and how they'd look inside the vehicle model. Is there a figure scale that would look reasonable in both cases?

Luckily, 1:43 toy cars are readily available and reasonably cheap. Simple arithmetic tells us that a scale human should be about 42mm tall. However, given the above consideration, maybe there is hope for 1:43 after all.

The Test Cases

The Cars

We start with picking three random sample cars from my son's collection and checking their scale accuracy, as sometimes toy cars are not really the scale they claim to be.

Car Real size (l x w x h) Model size Scale Picture
Land Rover Freelander 4.4m x 1.8m x 1.7m 100mm x 42mm x 39mm 1:44 / 1:43 / 1:44 1:43 Land Rover Freelander by Burago.
Volkswagen Golf 4.2m x 1.7m x 1.4m 95mm x 43mm x 35mm 1:44 / 1:39 / 1:40 1:43 Volkswagen Golf by Burago.
Dodge Viper 4.4m x 1.9m x 1.2m 104mm x 47mm x 28mm 1:42 / 1:40 / 1:43 1:43 Dodge Viper by Burago

Overall, the scale accuracy is reasonably good, but the Golf has clearly been puffed up a bit to fill the box better.

The Men

For three cars, we pick three men. This does not imply that female figures couldn't drive (none of them can, they're too leaden), but there is often a very profound difference in the stature of male and female figures, where the latter can be described as "silicone-enhanced anorexia". Not that the muscle-bound physiques of male figures are very realistic either, but at least they tend to form the majority of tabletop troops. The occasional willowy female can blend in, but if vehicles don't match the bulk of the troops, it's going to get noticed.

It should be noted that the bases do make a difference. A "standard" slottabase is about 5mm thick, giving the figures a bit of a boost to see over fences, walls and ofcourse vehicles.

Man Make and Model Height with base Height w/o base Picture
The Cowboy Foundry Old West 33mm 27mm This guy looks like a show-off, so I painted his gun silver. My daughter insisted on putting the rock on the base.
Ashigaru Target Warzone 36mm 31mm Closeup of one trooper.
Chainsaw Warrior Games Workshop Ltd. Edition 34mm 29mm I was still using enamels when I did these. This guy has a SMG and a combat chainsaw.

The Measurements

Outside Measurements

A normal man should stand roughly head and shoulders above a normal car. The car should be roughly as wide as a man is tall and twice as long. There is some fudge factor involved, but too large a divergence becomes readily apparent from too far away.

Looking at the sample cars, a normal man should be just about level with the Land Rover, able to shoot over the Golf and jump on top of the Viper.

The dynamic trio in front of a Land Rover Freelander. The Golf is really a bit too high, but its scale was actually off. These guys could probably jump in the Viper and speed away... well, at least two of them.

Results

As these pictures tell, the cars are a bit too tall. Even with the thickish slottabase, none of the figures really looks like it could fire over the Freelander or the Golf. With the Freelander this is okay, but the Golf is really too tall -- but then again, its height scale was off anyway. The Viper looks perhaps a tad too tall, but not off by that much.

This discrepancy is less apparent the farther away the figures are from the vehicles.

Inside Measurements

Careful scientific measurement... What's the point of having a car if you don't drive it? While you can't usually put your figures inside the vehicles, will it look like they could if the wanted to?

To check this, we introduce a new measurement: Butt Width. Butt Width measures whether the seats are wide enough for the figures.

Man Butt Width
The Cowboy 8mm
Ashigaru 10mm
Chainsaw Warrior 9mm

Corresponding measurements for cars:

Car Seat Width
Freelander 11mm
Golf 10mm
Viper 9mm

Results

The seats are a bit tight, especially on the sporty Viper, but figures look they might be able to squeeze in. If there are no actual crew figures to compare against, the scale difference is not immediately apparent.

The Conclusion

Chainsaw Warrior peeks around the corner. While 1:43 toy cars are not an ideal solution, they provide a workable low-cost alternative to 1:48 models. Ironically, the high slottabases help alleviate the scale differences.

It seems that the worst problem is actually the scale inconsistency in the cars themselves. Despite being advertised as specific scale, their actual dimensions seem to vary according to the time-honored toy productions logistics maxim: "whatever fits in the box".

P.S. If you liked this, you might like my newer piece on Viability of OO Scale Buildings in 28mm Gaming.


Sucks! (41) Sucks by 41 votes Rocks by 203 votes (203) Rocks!

Comments

1/43rd cars guest Dec 28, 2005 00:51

I liked the article. Please keep stuff like this online. Chuck Sheffey sgtrockcts@hotmail.com

TwoGunBob guest Dec 28, 2005 19:54

This article just happened to cover exactly what I'm having issues with as I start Westwind's Road Kill. Excellent article and exactly what I needed to know. Cheers!

Thanks guest Oct 17, 2006 23:08

Just the sort of practical information needed. I've been trying to determine what sort of vehicles might go with 28mm figures.

Vehicles guest Nov 27, 2006 18:33

It's amazing that this is exactly the kind of article I was looking for with exactly the information I needed for a campaign I am starting. Please keep this posted!

Thanks a lot guest Apr 19, 2007 20:19

Great article!

Keep it alive.

It really saved my much time, not to have to do all the calculating by myself.

thumbsup

Vehicles in tabletop games. guest Jul 30, 2007 21:38

Thanks for such a helpful article. 1/43 scale cars look pretty good next to your figures. Quick question, if 1/48 scale was not expensive would you go with that scale instead? Again great article please keep'em coming.

Still great! guest Apr 24, 2008 17:21

Even two years old, this is a fine and useful piece of work. I was especially pleased to be able to find it by googling "butt width car", since I couldn't remember anything else about this site when I was looking for this.

In case you haven't looked recently (assuming they're available where you are), Hot Wheels has been releasing cars in a proper (and fairly consistent) 1:50 scale. I have a comparison report up at http://overloadedqueue.blogspot.com/2008/04/vroom.html .

Thanks guest Feb 20, 2009 19:54

This was exactly what I was looking for, thanks!

Thanks guest May 03, 2010 12:21

Thanks this article has really helped me.

Disagree Charles (guest) May 06, 2014 02:09

The scale you are using makes the figures look like dwarfs or large children. True 1:64 scale cars, while small width wise, still look better. The problem is that many name brand cars that claim to be 1:64 scale (Hot Wheels and Matchbox) are closer to 1:72 scale. Cars by Jada Toys and some by Greenlight are closer to 1:64 and even 1:60 scale. If the figure cannot look over the roof of the car then it is too big.

PS Charles (guest) May 06, 2014 02:11

The first 1:64 scale car you have a model next to looks like it might be 1:72 scale instead. If that is the case then the figure really is too big next to it. Try figures against the Jada Toys line of police vehicles. They make a better fit.

You might be right... maxxon May 06, 2014 07:49

The first sample car said 1:64 on the bottom, I admit I never checked the actual scale. As we later see with the other vehicles, the reported scale with toy cars is only a rough indicator.

The real point, though, is that the car is what we call "Matchbox" scale. These are toy cars that are made to fit certain dimensions (the sales package), regardless of the actual size of the vehicle. Thus small compact cars are the same size as vans. They are cheap and easily available, but the scale is all over the place (they're actually a pretty good source of 1:100-ish trucks for 15mm). And they are all too small for 28mm minis, as the car has roughly the same dimensions as a single figure. Not even Japanese subcompacts are that small.

I can't get Jada locally, so that's a moot point.

Superb Piece! Nick P (guest) Dec 29, 2015 11:57

The fact that this article came up top on my Google Search shows how very useful this article is.

I see that it is now exactly a decade since it was written. I have heard that there has been a fair bit of 'size creep' over time and so I can imagine that a 2015 miniature is even bigger than a 2005 miniature.

I find that consistency is more important than the exact scale. We have tried mixing 1/48 and 1/56 in the past and it looks very wrong.

In any case, 1/43 looks close enough to me - and this opens up a whole host of fabulous diecast vehicle options that are ready to play right out of the box. I can recommend aliexpress.com (China's equivalent of Ebay) for a huge choice of incredibly cheap vehicles (although delivery usually takes a month, so you need to be a bit patient).

Keep up the great work!

Thanks maxxon Dec 30, 2015 10:34

I check the site usage stats every now and then and personally I'm also amazed how this little piece has remained popular over the years.

Perhaps I should update it at some point.

auto scale horridperson (guest) Apr 13, 2016 07:24

Thanks very much for posting this. I'm certain most of us have had this internal dialogue but it is nice to see it articulated more precisely and with considerably more thought involved. I'm appreciative a referral brought me to your blog. I must see what else you have here :) .

Still Usefull Kyle White (guest) Aug 06, 2018 03:31

Still usefull, just found some resin replicas of old cars in 1:43 that would look great with my Fallout mini's =D

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