Sunday, October 25, 2015

#604 RICO / TONKA - HOT ROD (Around 1977)

Tonka is another great toy company from the U.S.A. They were founded in the 40s and, even today, the name is still being used by current toy manufacturers. The original company does not exist anymore, though. As it usually happen, the original company did not manufcature toys at the time of its foundation, but at some point they saw some bussiness there, and changed the production to toys.

Mound Metalcraft was founded in 1946 in Mound, Minnesota, with the intention of making and selling garden appliances. Their first products were two tie-rack models. The founders were: Lynn Everett Baker, Avery F. Crounse, and Alvin F. Tesch. At some point in 1947, they thought it would be a good idea to include a few toys in their portfolio, and manufactured the first Tonka trucks. By then, the company already had a new logo and a new name: Tonka, a variation of the Dakota Sioux word for "big" or "great".

Taken from

Toys became the main source of incomes for the company, so in 1955 Mound Metalcraft changed its name to Tonka Toys. During that first year, 37,000 metal trucks were manufactured, counting two models: a steam shovel and a crane.

Like every other company those years, they mostly used metal parts, that were later replaced with plastic parts from the late 70s on. The toys are characterized for being very sturdy.

The company Tonka bought Kenner Parker in 1987 and was later acquired by Hasbro in 1991. Currently, the Tonka brand is property of Maisto, that has a line of 1:64 trucks sold under this brand/series.

Information up to this point: mostly Wikipedia

But since I am from Spain, and this blog deals with many Spanish toys, my interest to Tonka is related to the licenses Tonka gave to other toy manufacturers around the world. In the particular case of Spain, it was Rico that manufactured many Tonka-licensed toys for the Spanish market. Toys are recognisable because Tonka always gave to its toys an unique, sturdy, bulky look.

One of the most famous lines back then was the "Sansón" trucks (Engl. Samson, like the Biblical character of enormous strength) That I would like to comment in this blog soon. Other series was "Diablos", and I am sure there were some more series available.

The Hot Rod shown in this entry is not a genuine Tonka, note that the brand TONKA is marked in the rubber tyres and the front grill, but this car is actually a Rico product, manufactured with the original casts by Tonka. It was sold under the line "Autos Locos", which roughly translates as "Crazy Cars". The name is probably not randomly chosen, since the TV series "Wacky Races" was also dubbed to Spanish as "Autos Locos", so maybe this name was appealing to the audience of the TV show.

I must say I have seen this line for the first time today, so now I am thinking that the "Old Cars" by Playtoy might be an attempt to copy this particular Rico series. Note that the reference 503 of the "Old Cars" is very similar to this model presented here.

  • Scale: Maybe 1:24
  • Year: Around 1977
  • Company: Rico (Spain) / Tonka (U.S.A.)
  • Size: approx. 12 cm


  1. Bonito coche de una serie guapísima... Enhorabuena

    1. Gracias por el comentario, es un juguete que seguramente utilice mi hijo dentro de poco. Es sólido y seguro que resiste mucho juego que le vamos a dar. Los Hot Rods tienen algo especial.

  2. The U.S.-manufactured version of these cars were called "Crazy A's" because they are "souped-up model A's" based on the Ford Model A. It looks like "Crazy A's" was translated to "Autos Locos". There were sold individually or in sets of four. Here's a picture of one of the sets of 4. In other sets, different plastic colors were used on some parts of the car.

    1. Many thanks for that comment Giancarlo! really interesting information! I didn't find anything like that when I wrote the article, so with this comment it is more complete.

    2. No problem! I found your blog very interesting. Regarding the Tonka-Rico relationship, I've heard from some U.S. Tonka collectors that Rico originally did not have a license to create the Tonka-style Sanson trucks, but were taken to court for patent infringement, after which Tonka worked with Rico to some degree in designing and labeling them as "Tonka Rico". If you know anything about this history, there are a number of people in the U.S. that would be very interested! I have also seen some Rico Sanson toys that look like they were made in the 1990s (?) long after Tonka stopped with this design. Here's an example:

    3. Thanks! Glad you like my blog.
      Regarding the patent infringement, I think it is possible, there is not a lot of information on toy manufacturers from Spain available, not even in Spanish, and the information available from the original sources (like the book presented in #308) usually hide these kind of things that might spoil the good name of the company. If there was such a treat, it never came to trial. I checked the newspapers library online, and there is not a single reference to Tonka Toys. I guess if there had been a trial, a lawsuit or some other lega action aganst Rico, it would have been published in the newspapers, so, if that ever happened, it would have been more like a threat from Tonka: "sign this or we'll sue you".
      I have some original boxes from the time in which these toys were labelles only Rico, but I don't know if these are older or newer than the others in which the Tonka brand is clearly specified.
      Example 1 (No Tonka reference):
      Example 2 (Tonka referenced):

      And about Rico using the Sanson trademark after Tonka had stopped making trucks, yes, but these designs are original from Rico, they were just trying to make their toy more attractive by using a well known brand, with a long history behind it. They also had the "Sansonito", which is an own design, the only thing in common with the Mini Sansons, is that both are trucks.

      Next time, if you wish, you can write your comments in Spanish. I will join your blog, to check what you sow there. I still have some Mini-Sansons to show, but it will take long, since I need to photograph them first.

      Thanks and see you!

    4. Muchas gracias! Gary Fiedtkou mantiene, pero trato de contribuir cuando puedo. Es probable que no hubo un juicio entre Tonka y Rico (probablemente sólo abogados hablando)! Esta es una interesante, misteriosa relación, pero con algunos juguetes agradables producido.

    5. ¡Perdón por el retraso! Efectivamente, esa es mi teoría también, y si es cierto, sólo podría ser corroborada por algún antiguo trabajador de alguna de las dos empresas. Si descubro algo nuevo te avisaré para que lo sepas, y ahora me paso por esa web que me comentas. ¡Gracias!

  3. This is very interesting. I collect the Tonka Crazy A's and this is close to the Mod Rod and Smart Car Models. I'm mainly a Redline HW collector,so I know of the relationship with Mukys,and CIPSAs,and Regal GrandPrix cars, actually made from the old Mattel HW molds. Thanks for this info! Frank

    1. Excellent! Glad that you liked the entry and that you found some new information here. Thanks to you for the comment!


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