Tonka history has been very well documented on a number of websites including this neat website so I won't reinvent the wheel and go into detail here. However, a few early highlights may be in order. Tonka got the manufacturing ball rolling in 1947 with the model #100 Crane & Clam and model #150 Steam Shovel. In 1948, Tonka added model #200 Lift Truck & Cart to its expanding product line. In 1949, Tonka offered 13 models including its first trucks. Tonka historian Lloyd Laumann noted that Tonka's design was based on GMC cab overs of the 1940's. These trucks became what is referred to as Tonkas "Regular" series, roughly 1:16 to 1:18 scale.
The Regular series was manufactured unopposed until 1963. Tonka recognized a need to expand its product line and grab a bigger piece of Mom and Dad's toy dollar. The Mini-Tonka line was introduced to do just that and was an immediate sales success.
1964 was a banner year for Tonka. The iconic, bright yellow model #900 Mighty Dump was introduced and Tonka's legacy was assured. Tonka now had three series ranging in size from the smaller Mini-Tonka, to the Regular and finishing with the largest, the Mighty Tonka. With the Mighty series barely getting a foothold in 1965, Tonka was more than ready for another entry in toy land.
So in 1965, Tonka introduced a sub series to the Regular series. It should be noted that this sub series was initially planned for release in 1964. However, there was not enough tooling dollars in the budget to build the molds and stamping dies. The delay not with-standing, a futuristic design was added in 1965 and referred to as "Gas Turbine". Still not as popular today (2014) as its traditional counter parts, it is gaining a following. Not much is known about the development of the "Gas Turbine" series. The design is thought to be based in part on Fords futuristic cab over prototype gas turbine of 1964. Tonka historian Lloyd Laumann noted that Tonka engineers did get a peek at the Ford prototype and thus may have influenced the Tonka design. Turbine power in the 1960's was seen as the next big thing in powering cars and trucks into the 21st century.
The design of "Gas Turbine" trucks remained basically the same into the 1980's. The initial design, 1965 through 1975, featured a die stamped metal grille with two rubber bumper pads and one round clear or white headlight per side. In 1976, Tonka did a redesign that eliminated the stamped metal grille and replaced it with a chunk of plastic. Models manufactured in 1976 and 1977 have been added for reference. I personally refer to the "Gas Turbines" made from 1976 on as second generation "Gas Turbine" trucks.
My research thus far indicates that there were at least two Regular series Gas Turbine private label trucks manufactured. Are there more? If you have or know of the existence of an elusive Regular series "Gas Turbine" private label truck, please contact me immediately. Pictures would be great.
Gas Turbine models manufactured from 1965 through 1977 were: #620 Cement Mixer, #840 Car Carrier, #926 Pumper, #998 Aerial Ladder, #2175 Construction Set, #910 Bottom Dump, #2180 Road Builder Set, #690 Sanitary Service, #2620 Cement Mixer, #2690 Sanitary Service, #2840 Car Carrier, #2910 Bottom Dump, #2926 Pumper, #2998 Aerial Ladder, #3109 Construction Set, #2465 Dump, #2585 Hydraulic Dump, #2820 Pumper, #2850 Car Carrier, #2950 Snorkel Pumper, #2960 Aerial Ladder, #2831 Lowboy and Dozer, #2640 Tandem Dump, #2845 Car Carrier, #2635 Tanker, #2992 Ramp Hoist and Dozer, #2997 Crane Boom on Flatbed, #2971 Sanitary Truck and #2970 Material Handling Set.
Special thanks to Lloyd Laumann and his series of "Tonka Topics" articles in Toy Trucker & Contractor magazine. I have 20 years worth of topics on hand for references, some of which were used in developing this website.
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