There might not be a toy that says “boy” more! Boys love their Tonka Trucks. Love to hold them, love to smash them into other Tonkas, love to take chips out of the wall plaster with them, love to personalize them with “vroom vroom” sound effects. Tonkas are an inside and an outside toy – they’re sturdy and virtually unbreakable.
There are plenty of moving parts, but not a lot of separable parts, so there’s no need to worry about things getting lost. There are enough models in the product line to make a complete collection seem just barely attainable – instilling the Truck aficionado with a yen for more and more Truck acquisitions (in toy company land, this consumer’s sense of quest means a promotion for everyone in the marketing department).
In 1947, a small fleet of Minnesota teachers set out to make and sell gardening tools from a schoolhouse basement. Their green thumb equipment didn’t produce much green though unfortunately, and so they decided to start a little toy venture with their leftover building materials.
They named their product after the nearby Lake Minnetonka, which means “great” in Sioux. The earliest trucks were the No. 100 steam shovel and the No. 150 crane.
Later years saw many other truck and Jeep models, based on designs from the US Army, from the Air Force, and from commercial lines like John Deere and Humvee. In 1965, the Tonka Mighty Dump Truck roared onto the scene in all its bright yellow glory, and it remains the best-selling truck today.
There are trucks for building, for transporting and for just plain old cruising around. Whatever a kid has in mind, whatever mini-city he’s erected with Star Wars figures and Lego bricks, whatever ramp, whatever obstacle course – a Tonka Truck can navigate right through it or smash it to kingdom come – it just depends on the truck driver’s mood that day.
Tonka was purchased by Hasbro in 1991. They’re still heartily manufactured and sold, still a staple for any little boy’s toy compilation. Their collectors are many, by the way, and if you happen to stumble upon these grown-up boys in an unguarded moment, you just may catch them making “vroom” noises across the carpet with bright yellow dump truck in hand.