All models based on the original 1978 Tonka Clutch Popper series (Chevy Monza – Red, Chevy Vega – Blue, and Chevy Chevelle – Yellow), excluding the Indy car & below variants, have the same basic format, all made in Japan, and made up of the following:
- A heavy duty plastic wheelbase/chassis with incorporated steel framed flywheel motor (riveted – but possibly not always, I think there may have been two different factories that produced these things).
- A motor dust cover
- A pressed steel body
- A plastic window section and button.
That’s basically it! A simple but effective combination, these were toys that were built to be played with aggressively and have proven to outlast many of the toys of their era. There are intricate, realistic toy models of cars around, prized when they are in perfect condition. These are not those toys. These are almost the opposite. Where those toys are treated carefully, these are up for pretty much anything a kid can throw at it, even now. Putting these things on a shelf not to be touched is a mistake and not really how they were intended to be used. Tonka toys are some of the most play-worn and beat up toys you will come across, that’s a success in my book. I think they look great beat up (once given a bit of a clean-up), all those scratches and dents tell a story, a good one. In the non-battery powered, motorised & durable toy world, these things are part of a select few. If you’ve got one that is not functioning properly, it could be a relatively simple process to give it a new life, check out the maintenance page of more info.
There is the same motor in all these main models (the Chevy types), a steel flywheel friction motor, brass and nylon gearing’s, with a single (sometimes double – on the Dune buggy) clutch mechanism that engages the flywheel to the rear wheel axle. Where there is variation it is in the body type (base & body) for each of those main 3 models, then also the steel used and decals for later models (1985 ish-87?).
The other main model variants in the Tonka Clutch Popper series, also made in Japan between 1980-87, are (some of which do have a different friction motor):
- The Indy Car
- The Sports Racer
- The Porsche (6175)
- The Dune Crawler (single clutch)
- The Dune Crawler (double clutch (Rare)) 6200 – 1984
- The Drag Racers (Wheelie – made in Hong Kong, plastic)
- The Pickup (5936) 80-82
- The ATV 3 Wheeler (2-speed – Rare) – 1982
- The GMC Trucks (6170)
- The Big Rig Road Boss (Very Rare)
- The Scrambler Motorcycle (Rare – though made in Hong Kong, plastic)
- The mini clutch poppers (Power Punchers I think they were called) – all based on the Chevy design. 1982-85 – 6155
The above are all really sideline models to the core Chevy models which are the ones you’ll find the most of on Ebay and the like, including the mini versions. I’ll update the pages on them as I get a hold of any and/or get around to it!
Most of these were intended for ages min 5 or 6 to 100:), though the mini ones have a wider age range, little kids can have trouble revving the larger models up without pressing the button, same with the oldies:p.