As I was walking through the local Wal-Mart a while back (or walmarts as it's referred to locally) I saw a familiar yellow shape on a kiosk in the big center aisle next to toys. "Wow", I said to myself, "they're still making Tonka big yellow dump trucks." Alas, the next thing I said was "Oh hell no!" Yep, I actually said that, Oh. Hell. No. Why my dismay, you might ask? It was made of plastic. The whole thing, not just the wheels and headlights. Ugh. That's on par with a fat-free snickers bar...it's just wrong. It's like making a gun out of plastic. (Oh, sorry Glock.) Tonkas are tin and steel and last forever, or should be and should.
My disgust at the situation, reminded me of the countless hours I spent with my Tonkas as a kid and I remembered that they survived dozens of nieces and nephews and were shoved in the shed at the old home place. I made a point of picking up my Mighty Dump Truck the next time I was over there with an intent to refinish it, of course. Here's what it looked like.
It's a little rough, but it's a 1968 model. It's holding up better than a lot of 42 year olds I've seen here in the meth capital of the known universe. Hmmm, missing grill, blotchy scabby skin, emaciated looking?!?! Naaaaww, my Tonka would never do meth. It's just got a nasty case of exposure.
Being a tech savvy Luddite I set out to find replacement parts online. All I really needed were the grill, bumper, and windshield/steering wheel assembly. Let me save you the trouble, you won't find them. There are a few places that do complete refinishing for you, but the quote I got was for $350. *cough, kill my hairy red ass, cough* I don't want a collector piece I want a work truck. Basically something that Mini Tornado can play with in the dirt and sand this summer. Ultimately, the broken pieces would just get broken again, so screw 'em, as long as there are no sharp edges you don't need a grill on a work truck. Or a windshield...there's not even a real driver. D'uh!
So I took it apart using a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, channel locks, and vise grips. These damn things are put together for real. Remember when things were made to last? Fortunately the metal screws, end caps, etc. were located at the local hardware store. Remember those? Small joint downtown where as soon as you walk in the door someone says, "What can we help you with?" And then they have it? Not pre-packaged, but as many or as few as you need in a little drawer in one of those cabinets. This may be the last one, but they were the standard back when things were made to last.
After much judicious use of a wire brush and sandpaper and more wire brushing and finally just saying to hell with it, I decided it was good enough. It's amazing how much pleasure can be derived by just saying "good enough." A complete and thorough wash in hot soapy water with additional judicious use of a cleaning brush, and it was ready to paint. I used Rust-Oleum for maximum protection from the elements. I couldn't get the bed off of the frame with out drilling out the rivets and since I've never assembled anything with rivets, I decided to leave it alone. However, this necessitated painting the black frame with a brush after I'd spray painted everything else. It's not professional, but then neither am I. Long story short...oops way too late for that. But I'm leaving out the painting story as this is already unreasonably long. Let me just say, RustOleum doesn't dry in 15 minutes and reading the can before use is probably not the worst idea you could have. Anyway, this is what the finished product looks like now.
Better, right? I thought I had a bottle of white model paint for the headlights, but if I did it's gone now. I'll get one next time I'm in a town where it's available and touch up the lights then. For now, I'm plenty happy with it.
It was all worth it when Mini Tornado was here next and I brought it out. She did what every kid who ever had a Mighty Dump Truck has done. Put one hand on each side of the bed, took off down the hall running full blast, and started loading up her toys. Yep, it's a work truck.