This page is an overview of the pressed-steel Jeeps produced by Tonka Toys. See the bottom of this page for links to more Tonka details on The CJ3B Page.
Tonka Toys were first produced in 1946 by Mound Metalcraft Incorporated, of Minnesota. The name Tonka was taken from nearby Lake Minnetonka. Their first construction vehicles were introduced at the New York toy show in 1947, and the company added many other pressed-steel toy trucks (and Jeeps) to its line during the 1950's and 60's.
The first Tonka Jeep, the ten-inch-long flat-fender, apparently made its debut in 1962, and was sold in many variations for more than a decade. Its basic design, in steel with plastic interior, seems to have incorporated features of the CJ-3B Jeep Universal and the DJ-3A Jeep Dispatcher, and was sold under both of those names, as well as the "Jeep Runabout" and the pink Surrey version (50K JPEG). See Dispatcher Details: How to Date Your Tonka Flat-Fender. Other variations included a dune buggy with oversize wheels (see a 1969 Look Book catalogue page, 20K JPEG.)
Tonka produced a U.S. Army Jeep starting in 1963, with varying details. Some (the "Jeep Commander") had a plastic canopy. Dan Fedorko's G-2-2431 (30K JPEG) is apparently late-1960's and has a white interior and whitewall tires. There was also a similar U.S. Air Force version (30K JPEG).
The Tonka Jeepsters, based on the 1967-73 Commando, were larger -- about 12 inches long. This 1970 catalogue page shows several configurations. See Other Tonka Jeeps for more Jeepster photos.
Mike Boyink says: "I've found the best place to buy the older Tonkas is at toy shows and not the antique shops. I found one for $20, and there were a few to be had in that price range. It's not mint, some rust here and there, but it cleaned up pretty well and to me the somewhat rough shape adds to its appeal somehow. Of course after I got it home and showed my parents what I bought, my mom told me she had kept the one from when I was a kid.... Any variations on the toy such as the ambulances, wreckers and fire Jeeps did fetch a much higher price, anywhere from $80 up."
Here's the white wrecker. See a rear view (20K JPEG) showing the "AA" decal. Later wreckers are blue and orange, including most of the ones made in Canada.
An unusual version is the U.S. Army wrecker (35K JPEG). Does anyone have more information on this model? It was possibly part of a set. Photo by Jenni Hypes.
Perhaps the most collectable variation is the Fire Pumper.
Other emergency vehicles including Police, Fire Chief and Rescue Ambulance, are among a number of Jeep Wagoneer toys produced by Tonka in their smaller Mini-Tonka series, as seen in this 1967 catalogue page. A 1967 advertisement (120K JPEG) from the Milwaukee Journal shows a price of $1.79.
See also the Emergency Service Jeep Toys page.
In addition to the camper, wrecker and fire truck, Mini-Tonka versions of the Gladiator pickup included a dump truck, cement mixer and a horse trailer set. See Mini-Tonka Does the Full-Size-Jeep.
The U.S.-made Mini-Tonka Jeeps also include a six-inch version of the Universal flat-fender, sold in both a stock configuration and a modified version with a plastic roll cage. The latter came with wide wheels and various paint jobs, and was obviously designed for sandbox racing. See a great photo from Mike Albright of some of the Mini-Tonka varieties (100K JPEG) including some smaller, less-detailed toys produced in Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong under the Tonka name.
See also these Mini-Tonka photos:
There is a newer ten-inch Tonka Jeep, introduced in the late 1970's and based on the CJ-5. It has a plastic frame, grille and windshield, as well as interior -- only the tub, hood and fenders are steel. It's also found with a plastic hardtop and in other variations.
Note: the driver in this action photo from a construction site, doesn't come with the Tonka.
More and better information on all the Tonkas is welcome. Thanks to Terri Key for the photo of the Runabout with the Clipper Boat, and thanks to Butch Cudahy, Bill Kelsey, Mike Albright and Jarek Skonieczny for Mini-Tonka photos. -- Derek Redmond
For lots more on Tonka Jeeps, return to the Toy Jeeps Pages on The CJ3B Page.
See also the 1993 Jurassic Park Tonka on the Jeep in Play Sets page.
Elsewhere on the web, see Neat Old Toys Featuring Tonka Pickup Trucks for lots more Tonka information, original catalogs, and restoration tips.
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