Tonka Toys Trucks Frequently Asked Questions FAQ Page 5

Question: What are the dimensions of the logs as used on the 1953 #575-3 through the 1956 #575-6 and the 1957 #14 Tonka Logger?

Answer: With logs being reproduced for various toy truck manufactures, it's getting difficult to tell which logs are for Tonka, Buddy L and others. Tonka's logs are 15 inches in length and 7/8 inch OD.

Question: Why was the "chrome" Mighty Dump manufactured? And was it really "chrome" plated?

Answer: The "chrome" Mighty Dump truck celebrates 25 years of Mighty Dumps. Tonka manufactured their first Dump Truck in 1949, the red and green Model #180. However, the very first Mighty Dump is recognized as being manufactured in 1965, hence the 25th silver anniversary model manufactured in 1990. Of note: The 25th anniversary model used exactly the same plastic and steel parts as the typical yellow Mighty Dump of 1990. To achieve the "chrome" finish, plastic and bare steel parts went through a process called vacuum plating or metalizing, in this case silver metalizing. The dump box, cab wrap, roof, chassis and hubs all went through this process prior to assembly.

It should be noted that Tonka did not have vacuum metalizing capabilities. All of the parts had to be shipped from El Paso, Texas to Sparta, Wisconsin for metalizing and back to Texas for assembly.

Question: Anyone who has had the opportunity to bid on Ebay, arguably the internet's most popular auction site, has probably noticed that the 50th anniversary reproduction of the Tonka 1956 pickup truck tends to sell for almost double the 50th anniversary reproduction 1949 dump truck. Both trucks were issued in 1997 to celebrate 50 years of Tonka Toys (1947 - 1997). Why?

Answer: It's very possible that the popularity of pickup trucks has an effect on the prices bidders are willing to pay for the 50th anniversary pickup. An additional possibility may also be the scarcity of the anniversary pickup compared to the dump truck. Rumor has it that 10000 each of the pickup and the dump were to be made available to consumers. The 1949 dump was the first of the two commemorative's to be issued. The full 10000 trucks were manufactured and imported from China as planned. However, there was some sort of glitch when orders were placed for the pickup by toy retailers here in the states. The rumor was a little vague as to whether or not the full 10000 pickups were manufactured and only about 2500 were imported or if just 2500 ended up being produced. In any event, far fewer of the pickups appear to have been available than the dump.

Question: How many pounds of steel was used per year to manufacture the Mighty Dump from the mid 1980's through the mid 1990's?

Answer: From the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's, Tonka manufactured between 900,000 and 1,000,000 Mighty Dump trucks a year. In 2005, I interviewed an ex-Tonka employee who was the steel buyer during this time frame. Would you believe that in one year, 5 to 6 million pounds of steel was purchased just for the Mighty Dump. An additional 15 to 17 million pounds was purchased for the balance of the Mighty Tonka series and the Regular series of trucks.

Question: Were the Tonka "Gas Turbine" trucks based on the design of GMC, Ford or Dodge trucks of the era?

Answer: Tonka's "Gas Turbine", a series within a series, first appeared in 1965 as part of the Regular truck line. Tonka was actually on the cutting edge of concept and design, as were other toy manufactures like Structo and Marx. The Tonka offering closely resembles a gas turbine concept truck Ford was showing off in 1964. Take a look. Fairly close resemblance don't you think? Was the Tonka series actually based on Ford's concept? I reviewed an article in the October 1991 issue of 'Toy Trucker and Contractor' magazine, written by Lloyd Laumann. Lloyd is recognized by many in Tonka collector circles, as THE historian on early Tonka trucks. Lloyd mentions that "Tonka designers did have a preview of the Ford experimental gas turbine. Want to learn more about Tonka's Gas Turbine trucks? This website will answer most of your questions.

Question: Actually, no one has ever asked about Tonka's axle specifications, but it's good information and I didn't know where to put it.

Answer: I know many of you Tonkaphiles have wondered for years, just what the specifications were for the axles used on your favorite Tonka truck. Especially those of you who must have the perfect restoration. (You know who you are!) Peerless Chain Company, located in beautiful Winona, Minnesota was a major supplier of axles to Tonka until the late 1980's. I contacted Peerless Chain Co. and posed the question. Robert Jensen was kind enough to respond with the following. Axles used on the larger trucks, such as the Regular and Mighty series, were cold headed steel. The axles were electro-plated per ASTM B633 Type III Class Fe/Zn5 Standard. In other words, zinc plated, .0002 inch minimum thickness with a clear chromate dip. Peerless also supplied axles with annular ring style knurls. The application would be to press the axle into a plastic wheel, causing the wheel and axle to rotate as one. Tonka used this type of axle extensively when they introduced the injection molded, one piece tire and wheel on many of their trucks in the 1980's. I don't know yet if this style axle was used earlier on the Mini-Tonka or the Tiny-Tonka series.

Question: Did Tonka test raw material such as steel, plastic resin and paint before it was used to make a truck?

Answer: A toy manufacturer just doesn't go out and buy off the shelf materials and make a truck, especially a Tonka, for the kidos. All production materials that go into a Tonka truck must meet certain, critical government mandated criteria. The early years are still a bit blurry. Translated, I haven't been able to find a source who would know what that criteria may have been. In the later years however, this we do know. Everything from the plastic resin used in the tires and windshield, etc., to the paint, even the stickers and packaging was tested to insure that if little Johnny decided to do a taste test on any part of a Tonka, he wouldn't be at risk from some sort of heavy metal type poisoning. (Reassuring isn't it!) Using very sophisticated equipment, like something called an Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS) replaced in later years by an Inductive Coupled Plasma Spectrometer (ICP), highly skilled technicians tested every new shipment of production material to insure that levels of barium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, antimony, lead, mercury and selenium, met required government standards.

I know you're probably just dying to learn just what the accuracy is on these two pieces of high tech test equipment. Hold on to your slide rule. (I've still got the one I used in college). The AAS has an accuracy of 1 part per million. Now, get a grip on your pocket protector. The ICP is good for 1 part per billion. That's an awful lot of zeros.

Question: Did Tonka ever make wood trucks?

In today's high tech world, the slide rule has given way to the digital calculator. And a design engineer would be lost without CAD/CAM software loaded into his/her multi-gig computer. However, during Tonka's formative years, Tonka designers actually made their prototype trucks out of wood. That's right, wood! These wooden models would be critiqued and analyzed by the various design/engineering functions before being field tested by kids in the neighborhood. Feedback from the kids was often incorporated into the final toy design.

The preceding question was originally answered in 2000. Since then, under the leadership of Hasbro, the Tonka name was applied to wooden toy trucks the consumer has to assemble. Dump trucks, tankers, race cars and more were being made by Funrise Toy Corp in China under a licensing agreement with Hasbro.

Question: Here I go again. Great information for a question that no one has asked. Go figure!

Answer: Selected Mighty Tonka models first began using extrusion blow molded tires; referred to as Mighty balloon tires; in 1967 as opposed to the injection molded tires used since 1965. Time to go pull a couple of your old Mighty Tonkas off the shelf for a look see. Take a close look at the tire surfaces. The tread area and the sidewalls may not be as smooth as intended. You may observe varying degrees of texturing that, in many cases, gives the tires a wood-grained look. The Mound, MN facility was not air conditioned. When Mighty balloon tires were being produced on hot, humid days, the cycle time was such that while the cooled molds were open, moisture from the air would condense in the cavities. When the next parrison was blown, the trapped condensation on the cavity walls left it's "water" mark on the surface of the newly created tires.

So, just what exactly is extrusion blow molding? I found this definition while surfing the web. "A molding process whereby heat-softened polymer is forced into the shape of a hollow tube. (NOTE: This hollow tube is technically called a parrison.) While still soft, a mold closes around the tube, pinching the top and bottom of the tube closed. A blow pin is introduced, and air is forced through the pin forcing the tube to take the shape of the blow mold cavity." Click here to see a typical blow molding machine.


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