This comedy revolves around two aluminum siding salesmen — called "tin men" — who work for competing firms in Baltimore in 1963. BB Babowsky (Richard Dreyfuss) and Ernest Tilley (Danny DeVito) are fast talkers who use every trick in the book to convince blue-collar workers to buy their product.

When Tilley crashes into BB's brand new cadillac, the two men begin a protracted feud. They savage each other's cars and abuse each other in public. The war escalates when BB seduces Tilley's neglected wife (Barbara Hershey). To make matters worse, Maryland's Home Improvement Commission has begun to investigate unscrupulous practices by salesmen in their business. Those who are found guilty lose their licenses.

Although the two lead characters in this story are selfish, vengeful, and mean, director Barry Levinson conveys his admiration for their sheer cussedness in the face of troubes and change. He also challenges us to put ourselves in the story and to become more cognizant of our perceptions of manhood, competition, anger and intimacy.