Tootsietoys 1935 LaSalle promotional gift set



When the new Harley Earl designed 1935 LaSalle was first shown to the public, it created waves as its styling was so advanced compared to Cadillac's previous offerings. A convertible version of the new car was selected for that year's Indy 500 pace car.
The Shure brothers, now in full ownership of the Dowst Manufacturing Company in Chicago, makers of the Tootsietoys die-cast models since 1911, struck a deal with General Motors similar to the one previously negotiated with the Graham company, that resulted in the production of their famous metallic-red promotional sedan issued in 1933.

But they went one further, manufacturing for General Motors, a gift set containing two beautiful LaSalle models, a "3-window" sedan and a coupe.
These two models are today quite scarce and fabulously rare when found with their original box.
The set you see here has its own interesting history of its own, as it came from a member of the Don Lee family.  The box is rather small, just large enough to contain the two models, locked on their display tray by wheels cutouts stamped in the black base.





Donald Musgrave Lee was born in 1880 and was the exclusive west coast distributor of Cadillac automobiles in the early 20th century. In 1919 Lee purchased the Earl Automobile Works of Hollywood, California. Harley Earl, the son of the company's owner, was kept on as manager.

Renamed Don Lee Coach and Body Works, the company produced many custom designed Cadillacs for the rich and famous. Harley Earl left the company to become the head of General Motors styling department in 1927.
Don Lee died in Los Angeles in 1934 of a sudden heart attack, leaving control of his auto and broadcasting empire to his son, Thomas S. "Tommy" Lee, born in 1906 and passed away in 1940, a mere 3 years after he attempted to have his car, a 1939 Mercedes Grand Prix spirited from Germany at the end of the war, to win the Indy 500.
The car, named the "Don Lee Spl.", failed to finish in the two years it ran, reportedly due to the lack of the exotic fuel mix that it was supposed to use. That perished with Hitler's dream of a German-run world empire.


Don Lee Cadillac retained one of the Tootsietoys LaSalle gift sets in their archives, and somehow this one surfaced and was sold to an antique dealer from whom I acquired it recently. It is in superb original condition, the two cars having never been played with. The body of the sedan had been the victim of "metal fatigue", a corrosion of the zinc mix from minute amounts of lead, and was replaced by another I had in the collection, while, thanks to the type of assembly used on these special models, all other original parts were retained.

These LaSalle models, that were never sold to the public but given as gifts by Cadillac and LaSalle dealers, are a bit different from the ones offered by Tootsietoys in toy and novelties stores. The cars received the "Bild-A-Car" split axles, body-color wheels and black rubber tires. They also do not have patent numbers cast under their bonnets. While the green coupe matched the regular production model, the sedan was painted in the same shade as used for the roofs of the "convertible" Graham models, a muddy mix that we call "khaki".
There were no differences in the casting of body parts, grille or rear bumper.
The box is of a folding type, and I will be soon offering exacting reproductions for collectors who own either one or both original models.

As seen at right, the coupe is fitted with body-color painted wheels, split axles and uses the same castings as that of the model offered as a toy in period novelties stores.





  As for most models issued before 1937, the grille casting and rear bumper were flash-nickel plated, a process that allows the fine detail to remain. The Tootsietoys LaSalle are some of the finest cast toy automobiles ever produced, with beautiful detail engraving and fine door and hood lines.




  As for the coupe, the sedan is fitted with the Bild-A-Car split axles that allow disassembling of the model without damaging any of its parts.
The zinc-alloy castings are very precise and provide an excellent impression of the full-size car, in a time where precision in toy making was not exactly the order of the day.

Compared to period Dinky Toys models made in England, the Tootsietoys LaSalle show a much higher level of quality and precision, and superior engineering.  While their patented design was often copied, no other toy company bettered their overall appeal.

The Tootsietoy LaSalle models are today highly prized by collectors and were offered in 18 distinct colors, plus the two special models included in this set.


An even rarer, previously unknown LaSalle model  can be seen HERE

Other Tootsietoys models    Other American Cast Toy Automobiles   Go back to the home page