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ABOUT KIDS STUFF THAT WAS BUILT COOL. GOT BEAT UP. GOT COOLER.

Tonka Clutch Poppers

This site/blog/page will be all about cool retro toys, that age well, but to start with it’s just about one, the awesome kids toy that was the Tonka Clutch Popper. Mainly the models that were released between 1978 and 1985 at the moment.

Gotta start somewhere!

Here you’ll find out a bit about these cars and what they’re all about, a bit of history, some photo’s, model reference, maintenance information, links, blog posts (about these and any other other retro-cool toy stuff), and anything else I can think of to chuck on here.

What were/are these things?

Well they were basically an 80’s toy car that you revved up by pushing them along the floor several times to spin up the internal flywheel, then set them down and pushed the button on the top (the “clutch popper”), at which point they took off like a bat out hell usually until they smacked into something doing it some damage. The car itself was/is seemingly indestructible.

But hey, at the end of the day these are just toy cars, and really pretty simple, but simple done very well, a lot of fun!

Compared to a lot of the junk you can get for kids out there today these things are on another level. These were toys that were built to be played with aggressively, and handle it. No batteries required, decent size but small enough to chuck in a pocket. If you want to get your kid/ nephew/ niece/ grandchild (or yourself:p) a new toy, something a bit different & durable, why not go retro and grab one of these off Ebay (or some other buy/sell site, second-hand shop, garage sale)? Toy companies don’t make anything like these anymore, and it’s not looking likely they will.

Back to the future

Keen to ditch the screens, flashing lights, batteries and plastic for a bit?. Clean one of these up, follow some of the stuff I’ve put on the maintenance page and it’ll be good as new, with just some real-life character patina – you pay good  money for that in Jeans:) And with these cars it actually suits them, it’s what they’re all about. Here’s a cool example. Better yet you could make that a little project to do with your kid.

These are the main features of these cars that make them awesome (even today):

  • Solid pressed steel body with a pretty decent paint job

  • High density & thick plastic base including front and back bumpers – a very good choice for these cars

  • Uniquely powerful, steel framed flywheel motor with clutch mechanism that engages the gear and flywheel

  • Rubber tires (back) for good grip & speed

  • No batteries required

  • Crazy fast for a friction powered toy car

  • Took an absolute hammering and kept on going, and keeps on going even today (40 odd years later)

  • Made in Japan to a high standard

  • Not made as disposable toy, these were built to last.

A photograph of a Tonka Clutch Popper, Chevy Monza
Tonka Clutch Popper – Chevy Monza

B A C K S T O R Y

Here’s a bit of context around both why the hell document this stuff, and a bit about the toy company that made great products (hint: that toy company no longer exists, the name/brand does, but that’s about it)


M O D E L S

A list and some related info about models and rough year of manufacture, of the ones I know about.


M A I N T E N A N C E

How to take an old beat up model and give it a new life. The beat up ones can actually end up being the best, most satisfying to put back into service!


G A L L E R Y

A collection of photos and videos of various models and related stuff


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