|By Eric Bryan
Diecast model maker Winross, now based in Churchville, N.Y., was founded in Rochester by Roger Austin in 1963. Winross focused on producing models of White Motor Company and Autocar brand trucks made to 1:64 scale. Manufactured both as toys and promotional models, the promotional versions appeared in a myriad of liveries.
Winross models are generally simple castings, the cabs lacking window inserts and interiors. From the 1960s Winross’ American Highway Series comprised of truck models in a number of liveries issued for the retail market.
Early Winross models have diecast hubs (later switched to plastic) with black rubber tires. Axle types used on early models are wire, plastic, and cast. The semi van trailers consist of a diecast frame with soft metal sides bearing various liveries slid in to fit. These vintage models were each constructed of about 40 pieces.
Especially when taking into account promotional models, Winross used too many liveries to list. Kodak, Allied Van Lines, and Hertz are three high-profile examples represented. In the early 1970s Sinclair’s Auto Miniatures of Erie, Pa., commissioned Winross models in small batches in various liveries such as Dannon Yogurt and Meadow Gold Milk.
Winross’ first release was a model of a White 3000 open-topped truck. You can recognize the White 3000 by its rounded, cab-over design. This model appeared in various liveries such as ice, gas, electric, Firestone and Maine Public Service. Some were issued with canopies which formed a raised cap over the cargo bed. Auction values include an ice truck for $26, a Firestone for $53, and a Maine Public Service for $64. Winross also produced the White 3000 as a tractor with a single rear axle in van, flatbed, and tanker semi-trailer configurations. An MIB new-old stock example of a Winross White 3000 semi flatbed with side panels at the front auctioned for $92.
Winross produced models of the White 1500 truck in box, open-topped and flatbed configurations. You can identify the 1500 by its cab-over configuration which has a ridged roof that slightly overhangs the gently rear-sloping windshield. Recent listing prices of several variants in conditions ranging from good to MIB are from $70-145.
Miniatures of an Autocar truck in crane/recovery and dump truck configurations were also in the early Winross lineup. The Autocar has three axles, and Winross further used the Autocar as a tractor in an articulated timber truck format, a mint new-old stock example of which auctioned for $160. You’ll know the Autocar by its long hood and long, flat-topped front fenders.
Winross’ model of the White 9000 tractor, produced first with one rear axle and later with two, was released in semi variants of van, tanker and flatbed trailer. You’ll sometimes see examples of the flatbed with a steel I-beam as cargo. A casting change in the late 1970s elongated the 9000’s right-side fuel tank on ensuing releases. Auction results for the 9000 have been from $30-70.
The Winross White 7000 tractor model is of the cab-over sleeper cab type with a ridged roof. First made with a single rear axle, Winross later produced the 7000 tractor with two rear axles. Early releases have cylindrical fuel tanks, while a casting alteration in the early 1970s gave subsequent 7000s rectangular fuel tanks. Semi configurations are van, tanker and flatbed. Auction values have ranged widely, from $8-80.
You’ll easily identify Winross’ models of the White 5000 tractor due to its extremely compact and shallow cab-over design. At first made with a single rear axle, Winross later issued the 5000 with double rear axles. Early releases have rounded fuel tanks, while again an early 1970s casting change gave succeeding 5000s rectangular fuel tanks. The White 5000 was made in van, flatbed and tanker semi formats. A Winross White 5000 semi in Howard Johnson’s livery went for $107, and another in Cooper Tires livery sold for $248.
Winross marketed the early models in white window boxes, while at least some models also hit the shelves in red, blue, green, purple, and orange window boxes. “Models of American vehicles from our great superhighways” was one slogan used on some of the packaging. Winross later used bubble packs and all-carded boxes.
A Winross diecast line released in the 1970s consists of 1:50 scale industrial and construction vehicles. Models include a Caterpillar 235 Excavator, JLG Lift and JLG 8875 Crane. Winross marketed these miniatures on blister cards. All of these models have fully rotatable bodies. The excavator has a functional digger arm and scoop and rubber tracks, the lift has a telescoping three-section boom and adjustable basket, and the crane likewise has a three-section telescopic boom with a hook system attached on the end. Some auction values are $112 for the Excavator, $40 for the JLG Lift, and $32 for an example of the JLG Crane on its blister card.
Winross ceased manufacturing for the retail market in 1978 and has since produced only promotional models for corporate clients. The company however has been responsive to collectors, and created its Winross by Mail program, which released a limited number of promotional models to subscribers. The Winross Collectors Club of America (WCCA), based in Mount Joy, Pa., was established in 1988.
Winross models became more detailed in later years, each being made from approximately 60 parts, and 21st century releases consist of 100-150 parts each. A greater number of types and makes of cabs became available, with added faux lighting and chromed detailing. Winross has produced models based on International, Ford, Kenworth and Freightliner trucks. The company resisted outsourcing its manufacturing to the Far East, and continued to produce its models in New York.
The range expanded to 16 different truck and trailer types, from propane haulers to flatbeds, and introduced more non-articulated trucks. Special models, sometimes of vintage vehicles, regularly appeared in the Winross lineup. The miniatures feature “the specially-engineered Winross suspension system,” with the wheels rolling independently of each other and fitted with rubber tires. Liveries more recently used by Winross include Sorrento, FedEx and Clover Farms Milk. All Winross tractors and trailers are interchangeable.
In 2005 Winross merged with AWA Precision Screening and expanded its screen printing to products beyond diecast models. The merged firm retained the name of Winross, and continued production of 1:64 scale trucks.
According to Roger Austin’s wife and business partner Phyllis O Austin, Winross may have produced promotional truck models for as many as 7,000 companies. Mrs. Austin noted that in 1966 alone, Winross orders from Howard Johnson’s amounted to 90,000 units, and that over a 10-year period Howard Johnson’s ordered 750,000 truck models from Winross. Many customers telephoned the Winross office inquiring about the models after having lunch at a Howard Johnson’s where they’d seen the miniatures on display. Winross models remain highly collectible, and interested collectors can rest assured that there is a strong online auction market for both vintage and more recent examples of these American diecast miniatures!