Ertl Co. is an American toy company best known for its diecast metal alloy collectible replicas of farm vehicles and equipment. In 1945, Fred Ertl Sr. started making toy tractors in the furnace of his home. He was a molder at a Dubuque firm that was temporarily closed. With a wife and familiy to support, he started taking defective aluminum aircraft pistons and melting them down. He poured this aluminum into sand molds, and started making toy model tractors. In 1959, Ertl built a larger facility in Dyersville, Iowa and moved all production to that facility. The Ertl Company was acquired by Victor Comptometer Corporation in 1967 which was subsequently purchase by Kidde, Inc. in 1977.
In the 1990s, Ertl also began production in Mexico, inevitably laying off the employees of the original Ertl factory which would become a warehouse/distribution facility and an outlet store.
In the early 1990s Ertl started the American Muscle line up of diecast collectible cars and trucks. These were 1:18 scale replicas that quickly found a dedicated following of baby boomers. Limited editions of 2,500 were especially sought after. Many of the earliest releases have fetched upwards of $500. The most popular and desirable is the 1957 Chevy Bel Air known as Peggy Sue.
In the last 20 years, Ertl -now RC2- has produced over 58 million die-cast tractor and the popularity is undoubtedly due to their detailed, small-scale representations of tractors and other vehicles.