LIFE IMITATES ART
Were stylists at Mack Trucks influenced by the Tonka 690 refuse truck of the 1960s? Jeff Alterman recently noticed similarities between the iconic pressed-steel toy and the Mack MR series cab which appeared shortly afterwards in the 1970s. Even more evocative of the Tonka is the current Mack LE (low entry) cab design so popular in the refuse industry.
In reality, the Tonka 690 was most likely inspired by the futuristic Ford Big Red and Chevrolet Turbo Titan, which were experimental turbine-powered trucks of the mid 1960s. Nevertheless, one can't help wondering if the truck engineers of the time were not influenced by their own children's toys. (May, 2012)
The Tonka model 690 was a pressed-steel rear loader with a simple working paddle-packer, open top and manual hoist and was first produced around 1965. Jeff Alterman forwarded this early all-white version found on ebay, which sold for $101.00. All versions featured the 'Turbine' syle cab, later done in dark blue, and then a light blue with white bodies.
A very nice custom recently sold on ebay for $149.00. This is a hybrid of the Nylint Toys Ford cab and chassis and the Tonka 690 packer body, seen in the pictures below. This well-executed mating is far more realistic looking than the radical 'Turbine' cab used on the stock Tonka. The Nylint Ford is a perfect replica of a 1958-1960 Ford C-Series cabover, complete with accurate 'FORD" lettering and badge. Though never sold with a refuse body, these toys would make the perfect foundation for a custom classic model, such as an old Gar Wood or Leach Standard Packmaster. (April, 2011)
Another custom job: Tonka 690 packer body on the older Tonka conventional truck chassis, painted nicely in BFI colors:
Custom 690 on old-style conventional truck chassis in white with Tonka decals:
Custom 690s on Ertl Toys IHC Fleetstar truck chassis (left) and 50s Tonka chassis (right):
TONKA FRONT LOADERS
The Tonka Number 140 front-loading refuse truck was issued in 1960, and has long been a desirable collectors item. It features realistic cab styling, based on the 1957-60 Ford conventional trucks, and is easily identifiable by the tapered shape of the body at the tailgate area. This extra-clean example recently sold for $582.00 USD, even without the original packaging!
Even more desirable is the 140's predecessor, the B-203 play set issued in 1959. The set featured a front loader truck with a realistic-looking squared body, which looks very much like the earliest non-compaction front loaders coming out of Southern California in the early 1950s.
In addition to the truck, set B-203 included three detachable containers. Two were refuse bins, and the other a flat street scoop. One or both of these Tonka front loader toys are believed to have been withdrawn from the market at some point, owing to some sort of injury hazard to children.
Jeff Alterman sent in a picture of a Tonka refuse truck for which he has found a practical use: junk mail collector! Yes, these large stamped steel toys, while generic in appearance are quite functional with their open roof designs and would look good on any desk. It would be quite easy to custom paint these toys (as many have already done) to specific colors of a local municipality or contractor as well.
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© 2011, 2012 Eric Voytko
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Photos from factory brochures/trade advertisements except as noted