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Jo-Han is a manufacturer of plastic scale model car
Model car
A model car or toy car is a miniature representation of an automobile. Other miniature motor vehicles, such as trucks, buses, or even ATVs, etc. are often included in the general category of model cars...

 promotionals and kits originally based in Detroit. The company was founded there in 1947 by tool and die maker
Tool and die maker
Tool and die makers are workers in the manufacturing industry who make jigs, fixtures, dies, molds, machine tools, cutting tools , gauges, and other tools used in manufacturing processes...

 John Hanley - a year before West Gallogly's AMT and about the same time as PMC. Afer changing hands a couple of times, Jo-Han models are now produced sporadically by Okey Spaulding in Covington, KY.

Early history

The first products were mid-1950s model aircraft and other promotional items (Cawthon 2002). Some of the early projects included scale model kitchen sets and a training model of Chrysler's fluid drive transmission
(Donnelly 2009). This awarded Hanley a contract to produce models for Chrysler.

Contracts with General Motors soon followed, and Jo-Han produced GM models for the 1955 model year. Over time, Jo-Han became known more for Chrysler models, though Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Studebaker and American Motors were also well represented - making Jo-Han a strong competitor to AMT, and later, to MPC
Model Products Corporation
Model Products Corporation or MPC for short, was a plastic model company started in 1963. It produced highly accurate and detailed kits and pre-assembled promotional models, mainly of cars...


The company was first called Ideal Models, but this name was changed to Jo-Han Models because of the already existing Ideal Toy Company
Ideal Toy Company
Ideal Toy Company was founded as Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in New York in 1907 by Morris and Rose Michtom after they had invented the Teddy bear in 1903. The company changed its name to Ideal Toy Company in 1938...

 (Cawthon 2002). The new name reflected the first two letters of the founder's first name and the first three letters of his last name. Similar to how AMT simultaneously used the SMP brand name, Jo-Han's 1955 Pontiac promotional models also continued to use the Ideal name during the transition.

The Golden Age

The 1950s and 1960s are considered a "golden age" for promotional models and kits, with pre-assembled dealer promotionals coming first around 1950, then kits adding profit in the late '50s. Most kits were known as "annuals" by hobbyists, and followed the bigger business of promos that represented the new cars introduced at the beginning of each model year.

In 1959, Jo-Han, similar to other model makers, began using non-warping polystyrene
Polystyrene ) also known as Thermocole, abbreviated following ISO Standard PS, is an aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry...

 plastic as opposed to cellulose acetate
Cellulose acetate
Cellulose acetate , first prepared in 1865, is the acetate ester of cellulose. Cellulose acetate is used as a film base in photography, as a component in some adhesives, and as a frame material for eyeglasses; it is also used as a synthetic fiber and in the manufacture of cigarette filters and...

 used previously. The new styrene held its shape over time. Often, the upward warping of the outward edges of front fenders above a non-warping styrene chrome grille was particularly pronounced on Jo-Han models, thus Clarence Young, promo connosieur, has called it the "Jo-Han" smile (Clarence Young Autohobby).

Usually there were no opening features, but Jo-Han plastic models were intricately detailed, with accurate body scripts, trim, and emblems, as well as seat and dashboard highlights. Intricate details would change from year to year according to annual design changes and specifications of the real cars produced.

On most Jo-Han models, especially on friction models, chassis detail was often absent - which lowered tooling expense for a company not quite so large as AMT or the later MPC. Commonly, the chassis base was just an indented slab with the Jo-Han company name and "Detroit, Michigan", but sometimes the company name was completely absent and only the GM or other car logo was present - emphasizing the real manufacturer instead of Jo-Han. Some later contracts, however, added complete chassis detail as seen in Cadillac Coupe DeVille and Eldorado promotionals from the 1970s. Apart from the often plain chassis, models were exact duplicates of the real thing in 1/25 scale.

Jo-Han models were especially popular through the 1960s, offering some of the most accurately detailed scale replicas available in plastic. Detroit's offerings were well-represented by the company in both kit and dealer "promo" form. While most products were Chrysler, AMC, and GM, some Fords that AMT did not have did make their way to Jo-Han such as the Ford Maverick and Gran Torino in their introductory years (1970 and 1972). As the promotional model business tapered off in the 1970s, it became financially difficult for Jo-Han to develop new tooling. The last new model was of the 1977 Cadillac
Cadillac is an American luxury vehicle marque owned by General Motors . Cadillac vehicles are sold in over 50 countries and territories, but mostly in North America. Cadillac is currently the second oldest American automobile manufacturer behind fellow GM marque Buick and is among the oldest...

, which was continued as both the 1978 and 1979 Coupe deVille in promo and snap-kit form.

The Chrysler Turbine

Chrysler's 1963 Turbine car, experimentally put into the hands of 50 real consumers for testing and PR goodwill, was a particular boon for Jo-Han. Tooling for the model cost at least $250,000 at the time and Chrysler completely underwrote the expense (Donnelly 2009). Two kit versions of the Chrysler Turbine Car
Chrysler Turbine Car
Chrysler Turbine Cars were automobiles powered by gas turbine engines that the Chrysler Corporation assembled in a small plant in Detroit, Michigan, USA in 1963, for use in the only consumer test of gas turbine-powered cars...

 were significant - a standard bronze colored promotional authentic to the real vehicle, and a more toy-like white racing version with friction motor (less than 500 of this last were produced).

Some of the Turbine models were nearly as incredible as the real car, with such details as folding seats, opening doors, hood, deck lid, steerable front wheels and more (Dixon 1980). Chassis detail was remarkable, accurately depicting the huge ducting passages (the mere phrase 'exhaust pipes' doesn't do the system justice) running the length of the car - needed to expel the gas turbine's waste gasses. Later, in the 1980s and 1990s the standard turbine was produced both as a kit and a simple promotional - sans moving parts.

Jo-Han Fades

Gradually, a decrease in demand for promotionals occurred through the 1970s. Earlier hobbies of America's youth such as model building and bicycle riding gradually were replaced by video games, home movies, I-pods, and the Internet. Still, Jo-Han made several models, for example the 1972 Ford Torino that the company made in promo form and in 1976 re-issued as a snap-kit in stock and NASCAR form (Doty 2011, pages 87-88).

Jo-Han limped through the 1980s re-issuing old kits and promos. The company gave up trying to retail its models and used the vendor X-El Products to sell reissued promos. The X-El Products era was an ironic time. Models were carefully prepared and respected by collectors, but there was no capital to develop new product, so the company fell into decline. One consumer purchase update card sent by X-El Products to consumers in 1988 cautioned patience in waiting for models ordered, saying, "These promos are not done on a mass production basis. They are practically made to order and babied from start to finish" (X-El Products 1988). Of course this is another way of saying that Jo-Han did not have the labor to speed up service. Nevertheless, the reproductions from this time have also escalated in collector value - and were as well rendered as the original period promos and also done with accurate color schemes.

In 1991, the company was purchased by Seville Enterprises, a manufacturer of plastic parts for the auto industry (Ostrander 2011). Seville, at one time located in Romeo, Michigan, once again offered (mostly by mail order) kits and promos off the original Jo-Han dies. A few one-off paint combinations were also known to have been created by Seville during these years. Plans to produce an all-new GM-approved promotional of the new 1992 Cadillac Seville STS (thus the name of the company) were soon scrapped, however, due to lack of funding for the tooling required.

In 2000, Jo-Han was purchased from the ailing Seville by Mr. Okey Spaulding, and a new company, "JoHan Models LLC" was formed. Through about 2005, it produced a few of the original models in limited quantities, including the 1956 Plymouth, 1963 Chrysler Turbine car, 1959 Rambler
Rambler Six
The Rambler Six and the Rambler V8 are intermediate sized automobiles that were built and marketed by American Motors Corporation from 1956 to 1960....

station wagon, as well as some 1950s Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs. Spaulding sold cars through his website for a time, but as of 2010 all sales are done through the bid site emodelcars.com, though few models have been listed there.

External links