Collection includes 1,770 or so tiny cars

Alex Tanford’s car collection began simply enough.

It was 20 years ago when the Indiana University law professor decided to look for 1/64 scale die-cast toy replicas of the cars he had owned throughout his life. A few dozen.

Two decades later, Tanford displays his cars in custom-made racks, 12 long rows in each. They are bolted to three walls in the basement of his Bloomington home.

A few of the 1/64 scale toy car replicas in the Alex Tanford collection.

His collection now includes 1,770 vehicles, plus or minus a few. Really. Most are Hot Wheels sized, although the 1/64 scale die-casts from Europe are slightly larger.

Tanford has another collection of about 40 1/43 scale die-cast vehicles on display in the Mauer Law School office. Graduates’ children and co-workers’ children spent hours riding them on the carpet while the adults went about their business. “Mine was the only office that had toys,” Tanford said.

The cars on display in his basement are parked side by side at an angle on shelves behind clear hard plastic panels. Others are in drawers marked with a year, waiting to be unpacked to find a place among the others.

Alex Tanford has several cars still in the package and tucked away in drawers waiting to be put on display.

Cars are organized by year, starting with 1948, and parked alphabetically within each year. Tanford created a multi-page master list referencing the vehicles in his collection.

For example, if you want to see all the Cadillacs, there is a list of them. A station wagon? Trucks? Convertibles? He knows how many there are and what year each one is from. No duplicates.

1/64 diecast model of the 1960 Chryser Imperial, partially in focus

Tanford also knows the cars he doesn’t own, cars he’s owned full-size but can’t find in 1/64 scale replicas. He’s pretty sure no one made the tiny toy version of the Nash Ambassador; his parents owned a 1950 model, the first car he ever drove.

When he was 16, Tanford learned to drive in a 1963 Ford Fairlane station wagon with a three-speed stick. “I don’t have one either,” he said.