Tonka Quickshifter

The Tonka Quickshifter came out in 1977 and 1978, it was the first in Tonka’s Action series to incorporate a new type of flywheel motor that spun up to high speeds and had a slip gear that enabled the “quickshifting” function. Like all the vehicles in Tonka’s “Action” series, these were made in Japan from pressed steel (including the base on these), where they had the design engineers and tooling to design and make the little motors to specification at a reasonable cost.

Like most Tonka toys of this era these things were built tough with durability a big selling point at the time. They are incredibly robust, relatively heavy vehicles, that would take a very determined kid to destroy, probably with the assistance of power tools.

As far as I can tell there were four models of Quickshifter:

  • The Stingray – “Corvette” (red/orange)
  • The Porsche 911 – “Porsche” (red)
  • The Mustang – “Cobra” (blue)
  • The VW Golf – “Rabbit” (yellow)

These Quickshifters were essentially replaced in late 1978 by the Clutch Popper, which took the design principle and refined it, shrinking the overall size, improving the styling and adding the gear change/clutch button on top.

Similar to the Clutch Popper, the overall design is relatively simple, they consist of:

  • A pressed steel body
  • A pressed steel chassis
  • A steel framed flywheel motor & dust cover
  • A heavy duty plastic window piece

You can still see some of these pop up on second hand sites/stores/garage sales, though very few people know what they are and the friction function is probably seized up. However, similar to the clutch popper it would be a relatively simple job to get them functional again and cleaned up, and quite a fun little project to get your kid to do either by themselves or with a little help. Like with the clutch poppers, that’s actually half the fun with these things – the restoration, you can treat them like little mini car restoration jobs which is good fun for kids, all the way to getting the little motor fixed up and working again. Follow the same maintenance steps and/or hacks described for clutch poppers to sort these out if you have one.

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