How to Restore a Tonka

Written by tom becker
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How to Restore a Tonka
(PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Tonka toy vehicles have achieved massive popularity since their introduction in 1947. Many Tonka vehicles have lasted well since those days, but some have become worn with time and use and require restoration. Withe the right tools and technique, you can get a vintage Tonka toy vehicle into like-new shape at home.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Vintage Tonka toy vehicle
  • Rotary tool
  • Screwdriver
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Dish soap
  • Metal polish creme
  • Soft cloth
  • Water
  • Stiff bristle brush
  • Car polishing compound
  • Paint stripper
  • Respirator
  • Newsprint
  • Masking tape
  • Primer
  • Automotive paint
  • 2 self-locking steel fasteners, between 3/16 inch and 17/32 inch
  • Glazing and spot putty

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Remove the grill and bumper by grinding the rivets off the interior side of the vehicle with a rotary tool. Tap the grill and bumper from the inside of the vehicle to knock them loose.

  2. 2

    Remove the tailgate with a needlenose pliers.

  3. 3

    Apply a small amount of liquid soap on a cotton swab where the wheel cover meets the tire. This will lubricate the wheel cover for removal. Repeat for all tires.

  4. 4

    Pry off the wheel cover with a screwdriver. Repeat for all tires.

  5. 5

    Grind down the burr at the end of both axles. This burr will be at one end of both axles and holds the wheels in place.

  6. 6

    Slide the wheels off the axles.

  7. 7

    Remove the Tonka's cab wrap roof assembly by prying up the two tabs behind where the bumper used to be with a screwdriver. Lift the cab wrap up and away from the vehicle.

  8. 8

    Polish all the removed metal parts with metal polish creme applied with a soft cloth.

  9. 9

    Wash all the tires and wheel covers with dish soap and water applied with a stiff bristle brush.

  10. 10

    Add a clear coat to the windows by applying car polishing compound with a soft cloth.

  11. 11

    Put on a respirator.

  12. 12

    Strip all paint from the body of the Tonka vehicle with paint stripper.

  13. 13

    Clean all exposed metal parts of the body with dish soap and water applied with a stiff bristle brush.

  14. 14

    Mask all portions of the vehicle you don't want to paint with newsprint and masking tape.

  15. 15

    Apply a coat of primer to the surface of the vehicle that will be painted. Allow to completely dry, according to manufacturer instructions.

  16. 16

    Apply a coat of automotive paint to the surface of the Tonka vehicle that will be painted. Allow to completely dry, according to manufacturer instructions. Remove the respirator when done applying the automotive paint.

  17. 17

    Remove the newsprint and masking tape from the vehicle.

  18. 18

    Reassemble the cab wrap by inserting the two tabs in their slots and prying them down with a needlenose pliers.

  19. 19

    Reattach the tailgate with a needlenose pliers. Stick one end of the tailgate in its slot and bend the tailgate slightly so the other end can fit in its slot.

  20. 20

    Slide the tires onto the axles and secure them in place with self-locking steel fasteners. Measure the axle width for the correct size; it's usually between 3/16 inch and 17/32 inch.

  21. 21

    Reattach the wheel covers on the tires.

  22. 22

    Reattach the bumper and grill and secure them in place with glazing and spot putty on the inside of the vehicle, where they were held in place by rivets.

Tips and warnings

  • Removing finish and replacing original parts can decrease the value of any antique. Consult a professional vintage toy dealer before restoring your Tonka to determine if this restoration will affect the value of the vehicle. When using paint stripper, work in a well-ventilated area.

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