makezine.com/go/tonka). There are more I still want
to build — a Tonka lowrider! a Tonka painted like
the Partridge Family bus! — and I’ll make them all
eventually, but in the meantime you may have even
better ideas. Here’s everything you need to know
about creating your own Kustom Tonkas.
2d. Remove the dump bed from the chassis.
This is the only tricky part of the deconstruction
process. The dump bed is attached to the chassis
with 2 metal rivets. These must be drilled out. Begin
by using a small drill bit to create pilot holes in the
center of each rivet (Figure D).
Using the pilot holes as a guide, swap in a y" drill
bit to bore out the rivet entirely. Be careful! Although
the metal is tough, the plastic chassis is soft, so avoid
drilling the holes in the chassis beyond their original
size. It’s not the end of the world if the holes get a
bit frayed, but try to minimize the damage to the
plastic as best you can.
2e. Remove the Tonka stickers. The decals that
come attached to the Tonka may not match your
planned design, so you probably want to remove
them. The stripes on the sides of the dump body are
simple enough to scrape off, and you can remove
any adhesive residue with Goo Gone. Be gentle
when peeling the decals from the sides of the cab.
If you remove them in one piece, they can be reused
as handy templates for making replacement decals
that match your paint scheme.
When you’re finished, you should have a collection
of parts that looks like Figure E.
1. Buy a classic Tonka dump truck.
This isn’t as easy as it used to be. Hasbro, the company that owns the Tonka brand, recently created an
all-new Mighty Dump Truck. The new model is bigger,
more modern-looking, and a bit more expensive. The
older one — which employs the same basic design
Tonka has used since 1964 — is still offered, but
like old Coke, it’s now marketed as Tonka Classics
(Figure A), and it’s getting harder to find. Fortunately,
most Toys “R” Us stores still carry the Tonka Classics
Dump Truck right alongside the newer model, for
the bargain price of about $20. Cheap!
2. Deconstruct the truck.
Tonka dump trucks are famously rugged, and much
of their strength comes from the simplicity of their
design. All you need to take one apart is a flathead
screwdriver and an electric drill. Here’s how to do it:
2a. Remove the wheels. Use a long, thin, flathead
screwdriver to gently but firmly pry the chrome cap
off one end of each axle (Figure B). Start by wedging
the blade under the cap, then roll it side-to-side to
loosen the end cap. Try to avoid bending or mutilating the caps, because you’ll replace them later when
your ride is ready for reassembly. Save the caps and
axles in a safe place, so you don’t lose them.
2b. Remove the tires from the wheels. There’s no
glue holding the yellow plastic wheels to the black
plastic tires — it’s just a tight fit. You may be able to
push the wheels out with your bare hands. If not,
just place the tire facedown over the center of a roll
of masking tape, and tap the axle hole lightly with a
hammer. The wheel should loosen and pop right out.
2c. Remove the metal cab deck. With the wheels
removed, turn the chassis upside down. Inside the
front wheel wells, you’ll see 4 bent metal tabs that
hold the metal cab deck to the plastic chassis. It
may take some wiggling, but these tabs can be
bent straight if you use a long flathead screwdriver
(Figure C). Once the tabs are straightened and
unbent, the cab assembly lifts right off the chassis
Remove the plastic windshield and the rubber
exhaust pipe, and put them in a safe place for later.
3. Prep for painting.
Out of the box, Tonkas come with glossy yellow
paint. Stripping the gloss from the metal surfaces
will help your new paint adhere. Use very fine grit
sandpaper or, even better, a finishing sander wheel
to get rid of the shine (Figure F). When you’re done,
the old paint should be an even, dull yellow.
4. Bring the color.
Once your Tonka is prepped, you can paint it. The
truck body can be painted one color, and the wheels
painted as a contrasting accent. On the chassis, the
grill and gas tanks can be masked and painted silver
to give them a chrome look. Just think of the Tonka
as a canvas, and paint it accordingly.
Regular Krylon spray paints work fine; just be sure
to apply the paint in even strokes and allow plenty of
drying time between each coat. Lay on several coats
to create a hearty finish. Automotive finishes look
better and are even more durable, if you have access
to a proper painting booth (or if you can convince
your local auto body shop to paint a Tonka for you).
Whatever finish you’d apply to a real custom car or
truck, you can also apply to a Tonka.
112 Make: Volume 19