Dune Crawler 2 Speed

Service: Dune Crawler

This one was more of a salvage job, another junker that was written off as stuffed, but I thought may well be salvageable and turned back into a fun toy for the kids to play with. I was also keen to have a look inside after getting pretty familiar with these clutch poppers recently, but this one looked like it would be a bit different with its 2-speed function. This one was essentially non-functioning and pretty dirty, but I could hear it was trying to do something so was a good sign.

I found out that these have a very handy feature, you can essentially drop the motor straight out the bottom with the removal of the central underside screw. This makes these super easy to clean up & fix if thye ever run into any trouble.

Tonka Clutch Popper – Dune Crawler 2 speed – Disassembled

So I cleaned out the motor by spraying it thoroughly with CRC until it was running clear(ish). Cleaned up the body, removed the side stickers as they weren’t in great shape, gave it a bit of polish and buff up. Sliced my thumb trying to scrub one of the stickers off, so there’s a lesson there, that side edge is sharp when out of the casing! Cleaned down all the plastic parts and scrubbed down the wheels.

I found that for some reason the low speed clutch would not pop up when the buggy was pushed forward. The high speed one would, but the other gear would just not drop into place by itself. This meant that it would essentially stay in low speed by default until you set it to high speed. After a bit more investigation I found it was related to the tension of two wires the hold that gear in place (or push it back when the clutch is released “popped”). Readjusting these wires a little (probably back to what they used to be like) sorted this issue out, and it now has its 2 speeds back!

Tonka Clutch Popper – Dune Crawler 2 speed – Post Service

Overall pretty happy with how this one scrubbed up considering it was a write off, I reckon its a cool little retro toy buggy, not as quick as the Chevy’s but quite a cool looking thing and a bit of fun with its two speeds. I found the low speed gear enables it to move up slopes a lot more effectively than the other clutch poppers, which are really made to run on flat surfaces.

Chevy Vega

Salvage: Chevy Vega

I salvaged this Chevy Vega out of a junk box, it was very beat up and not even really moving at all. I took it to bits to try and get it working, and as far as I could tell all the gears were actually in reasonable condition, surprising because the motor was filthy. Gave it a good spray down, but for some reason the clutch will just not engage the flywheel, I have the feeling something has been knocked slightly out of place but I didn’t have time to really look into it in any more detail. It has definitely seen it’s fair share of knocks so I’m not surprised! At some point I might take another look at it.

I stripped what was left of the stickers off and gave it a good clean up. The thing is with these old Tonka’s is that they do clean up quite well, this one is now a pretty cool steel toy car – even without the motor working. Scratches, dents, chips and all, I reckon it looks pretty cool. It got that way through some serious play, so time to get it back in service with some new kids and see how much further they can take it:)

Here it is cleaned up.

Tonka Clutch Popper – Chevy Vega – Post clean up
Chevy Monza

Service: Chevy Monza 2

This is a Tonka that was in a junk box, basically written off so was a salvage job really, just a few bucks so worth a crack getting it working again! I wasn’t holding out too much hope given it wasn’t really showing any sign of working, but at the very least thought it could end up being a reasonable cleaned up steel car for the kids to play with. Taking it apart I found it was really very dirty so it’s only chance required drilling the motor out and giving it a thorough clean. This one had no steel rivet in the middle hole, and instead two squashed down plastic ‘rivets’, so with these you’ve got to essentially drill those right out through the base to get the motor out. Having a look at the motor I found it was very dirty, basically loaded with a very fine sand, so this one had been really put through it’s paces!

After giving it a good clean out with CRC I managed to get a better look at what was going on. The motor and gears were all in good working order, but for some reason the clutch gear was no longer dropping into place by itself when the car is pushed forward. This is where normally it would push the button up into the ready position and drive another gear that spins the flywheel.

The motor, cleaned out

What I found though was that it functioned fine if the gear was manually pulled down into place, which in turn popped the clutch up. Just needed a way of setting it when the car was back together. So a little hack I came up with was to drill a hole in the base under the gear and make a little “key” that could hook the gear down into place with a little pull. Worked a treat! This one now has a special feature where you need its “key” to make it work, I may even find an old car key base and use that as the handle, makes it a bit more fun for the kids:)

I took all the stickers of as they were not in great condition, I quite like the look of these without the stickers, bit more simple and easier to clean up. This one now runs pretty quick even on a single rev up, so I added weight to the opposite side of the flywheel to try and straighten it up a bit. Also ran it on about a meter of a grippy mat to help it get going without immediately spinning out. Here it is all cleaned up an ready to go!

Tonka Clutch Popper – Chevy Monza 2 – Post Service

Service: Porsche

One of these clutch popper Porsche 935’s came into the workshop today (aka “the shed”), very good condition at a bargain price of $10. Was just a bit noisy and slow, but body wise very good nick, hardly a scratch. Had obviously spent time in a home of very well behaved and gentle kids, it’s in for a rude awakening here:). One thing I really like about these pressed steel cars though is how well they scrub up, even if in terrible condition (not like this one), as standard car polish pretty much sorts them out. And as the pressed steel is all essentially one piece they are very easy to take apart, and also very durable as these are a fairly heavy gauge steel for toy car.

Tonka Clutch Popper – Porsche – Disassembled

This one has smaller rear tires than the Chevy models, so doesn’t move quite as fast, but still pretty respectable for a friction/flywheel powered car. Like some of the others, if you want it to go straight(ish) at speed then you really need to add weight to the opposite side of the flywheel. Either that or just point it on an angle and let it curve! The faster the flywheel spins the more mass like force it is generating which will pull the car to that side, the only way to counter that is to add more weight to the opposing side. I think the engineers who designed these either expected the car to weigh more, or didn’t expect kids to rev the hell out of them before setting them off. If you just give any of these clutch poppers just a couple of revs they’ll be fine (usually), but any more than that the flywheel will be moving at a very high speed and only additional weight will counter it. I didn’t bother with this one and just point it on an angle, I’ll leave it up to the kids to work out how best to work with it, maybe even a bit more fun that way!


Service: Pickup

So I managed to get hold of one of these Tonka Pickup trucks for about $5 so pretty happy with that, was mainly interested in having a look inside as this one has a front wheel drive flywheel. It was actually in pretty good nick and motor pretty clean, just needed a bit of lube then was all good.

The motor is a little different in configuration to other Clutch Poppers, it has the front axle out in front of the motor, therefore there must be one additional gear to reach it, though this may be a “neutral” gear. I didn’t take the motor out to look closely (as there was no reason to), but from what I can tell that is what looks like is going on. The “Turbo Sound” maker is also in a different configuration for this reason, it sits above the front axle and vibrates against the top of the dust cover.

Tonka Clutch Popper – Pickup – Disassembled

I thought this model would look better without the hood sticker/decal (I think that’s true for a lot of them to be honest), and I’m no collector purest so I took it off:) Looks way better in my opinion.

So it turns out these do run pretty quick, probably not as fast as the other car type (rear wheel drive) models, but not too bad – probably due to that extra gear out in front. The front wheel drive also seems to help them from spinning out too much, but they will still drift to the left. This is the side of the spinning flywheel on these front wheel motors, it is essentially generating mass. I added extra weight, using fishing sinkers and blue-tack, to the right (to counter the flywheel), and now it goes reasonably straight at speed. Bit of a hack but works well! And if anyone wanted to get rid of them you can just pull them out.

The other cool thing with these ones for kids is that they can chuck stuff in the back tray, probably have to Plasticine them in to stop them flying out, but a bit of fun you can’t really do with the other clutch poppers. So all in all I’m pretty impressed with the Pickup, not as much as a looker as some of the other models, but still a pretty cool toy car to have lying around.

Tonka Clutch Popper – Pickup – Post Service

Here it is below with the hood sticker removed

A photograph of a Tonka Clutch Popper, Pickup
Tonka Clutch Popper – Pickup