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Tonka Toy Restoration: Watch Antique Trucks Get Second Lives

Abracadabra! How to de-rust and restore classic Tonka trucks.

Some folks are skilled in art, some are skilled in carving, some are skilled in tattooing, and as we see this time, some are skilled in restoring antique Tonka trucks. Those of us without these abilities, of course, are left watching in awe on the sidelines. Kids big and small love to bash, thrash, and love the heck outta Tonka trucks, but that means most examples are far from factory fresh.

Enter toy fans and collectors like those in these videos, which show how to restore Tonka trucks. It's both fascinating and therapeutic to see the transformation. While there are countless examples of these restos on YouTube, we've chosen three such sessions to highlight below.

Restoring All That's Broken

In this brand-new video that's already gained a staggering 6.5 million views, MW Restoration brings a very rusty and old mid-'70s Tonka pickup truck back to life. He explains that he acquired the dilapidated treasure on eBay for roughly 11 bucks. He takes us through the tedious process: disassembling, sandblasting, powder coating, wheel and tire restoration, riveting, mounting the steering wheel, restoring the grille, cleaning the seats, restoring the windshield, and final assembly. In about 20 minutes, he covers about 25 hours of restoration work. We don't know much about MW Restoration, but the seemingly Germany-based restorer uses various techniques to revitalize all that's old and broken, from toys to complex machines.

Built to Last

Rescue & Restore, which has a YouTube channel with more than 1 million subscribers, overhauls a '60s Tonka Tow Truck AA Wrecker. The hook assembly in the bed of the truck makes for a complex restoration process, but the final result is well worth the effort. The spunkified AA Wrecker even tows a flat fender Jeep at the end. The veiled man behind Rescue & Restore—who could be described as an adult antique collector, vintage enthusiast, or general hobbyist—invites us to relax and enjoy the show (everyone needs that sometimes) as he utilizes modern tools and techniques to breathe life back to vintage classics and antiques.

Old 'n' Weathered Ain't a Problem

The final toy restoration video example comes from TRG Restoration and features a Tiffany Blue 1967 Jeep Wagoneer, which is definitely a different type of Tonka truck project. He describes the Tonka Jeep Wagoneer as "the workhorse of the 9.5-inch 'Mini-Tonka' line." In addition to family life duty, the Wagoneer could be deployed for professional use in the police, fire, and rescue fields. The man behind TRG Restoration jokes that the little kid in him still wants toys like Tonka trucks, but that like him, these toys are now old and weathered (but can be made good as new, of course).