Beginning early in the 21st century, there seemed to have been an increased interest in what could arguably be referred to as Tonka's premier series, the Mighty Tonka. Blame the increased interest on the internet, eBay in particular. Interest level and availability of various models is now gauged on a world wide scale, not limited to area toy shows. Models that were considered rare, today....not so much. Along with the increased awareness of available models, was a decrease in prices paid by collectors and enthusiasts. The law of supply and demand works. Welcome to what is becoming the go to Mighty Tonka resource on the web.
First there was the Tonka Regular series of trucks beginning in 1949 followed by the Mini Tonka series in 1963. The small and medium sized categories were pretty well covered. What Tonka needed was a series of trucks that screamed I'M BIG____I'M TOUGH____I'M A TONKA. Charles Groschen, at the time Tonka's Vice President of Manufacturing, is given credit as the creative mind behind the development of the Mighty Tonka Dump that in turn was the stepping stone for an entire Mighty series. Mighty Tonka trucks are very collectible, especially the first generation Mightys, 1964-1972. Keep in mind that Tonka has, over the years, manufactured millions of Mighty Tonka models. However, there are some models that were only around for a couple of years or produced in limited quantities. Because of the lower manufactured quantities, certain models can command higher prices in the collector market.
The first Mighty Tonka was introduced at Toy Fair in New York in early 1964. It was assigned model #900 and named Mighty Dump. In fact, the new Mighty Dump was initially assigned to Tonka's Regular series. The first Mighty rolled off the assembly line in March 1964. In 1965, the Mighty Dump, now model #2900, was one of three trucks assigned to the newly created Mighty series being joined by model #2905 Mighty Clam and #2940 Mighty Mobile Crane.
As the series aged, new models were developed and added and older models were deleted. In 1973, the look of the original design changed when the SCUFF-GUARD front bumper, grille and headlight bezels were all formed in a single chunk of plastic replacing the individual components. Not only did the Mighty series continue to grow in the mid 1970's to early 1980's, it seemed like most any toy manufactured by Tonka was a sure hit. The manufacturing and warehousing facilities in Mound expanded to meet the demand. But all was not as rosy as it may have appeared to most Tonka employees. In the early 1980's, Tonka needed to do something to remain competitive. That something was to reduce labor costs and to that end manufacturing and warehousing was moved from the midwest to the southwest. El Paso, Texas would be the new home for the Mighty series, Regular series and Compact series. Juarez, Mexico would take care of smaller series like the Mini Tonka.
In 1982, prior to shuttering the Mound manufacturing plant however, they began running the next generation Mighty Dump. It was slightly smaller and had a more updated, modern look. In an article written in September 2007 for Toy Trucker & Contractor magazine, Tonka historian Lloyd Laumann noted that in 1982, "The Mound plant manufactured 78,495 of the old style (Mighty) dump." He continues, "The Tonka Mound plant conducted a pilot production run of 44,162 of the new downsized Mighty dumps prior to transferring production activities to the El Paso plant."
Tonka's move from Mound, MN to El Paso, TX was a blow to the well trained workforce at Tonka Mound. Was the company going to be able to maintain their high quality, workmanship and in general, insure that the knowledge of toy truck manufacturing would not be lost? Tonka El Paso could not miss a beat. The answer was to move key employees from Tonka Mound to Tonka El Paso. 14 employees, highly knowledgeable in their disciplines, transferred to El Paso while Tonka Mound was still in truck production. They were in random order with their area of responsibility: Leif Sundlie - steel stamping; Frank Whittaker - inventory control; Virgil Pehle (deceased) - steel subassembly; Gary Quast - finished goods distribution; Ben Harder (deceased) - truck driver; Roy Larson (deceased) - truck driver; Verne Larson - plant manager; Ron Eikanis - plant maintenance; Miles Thayer - production control; Sally Swanson - raw materials buyer; Melinda Johnson - final assembly; George Hill (deceased) - plant maintenance; Art Rognass - injection and blow molding; Keith Baillif - injection and blow molding.
Once production lines in Mound stopped running, 6 additional Mound employees transferred to El Paso. They were: Betsy Wetzel - bill of material maintenance; Dick Stefanic - final assembly; Jim Fisher - raw material planning; Tom Murphy - buyer (steel); Nancy Quast - material information system and Janette Rognass - material information system. With key personnel in place, the hiring and training of the Tonka El Paso workforce began.
After initial start up jitters subsided, Mighty production soon maxed out. The demand for all of the new downsized Mightys was such that manufacturing could not keep up with demand. Departments like injection molding, blow molding, paint and final assembly were working 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The Mighty series did not get revised graphics for 6 years, in part because Tonka was selling everything they put in the distribution center. Why change a good thing?
Tonka celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Mighty Dump in 1990 with a special "Silver" edition. In early May 1991 Hasbro bought Tonka for $516 million. A bargain considering Tonka paid $622 million 4 years prior for Kenner Parker Toys. Hasbro scored a big '2 fer' the price of one. Seems Tonka was having a hard time paying all the bills, including the Kenner Parker debt. Even into the 1990's, Mighty production was at times over 1 million Mighty Dumps alone a year but it wasn't enough to stave off the inevitable. On November 17, 1997, Hasbro announced that the Tonka El Paso facility was going to shut down and all production would move to Tijuana, Mexico and "other places". In the first quarter of 1998, all production,including the Mighty series, was moved out of the U. S. A. "Other places" included China where Hasbro wanted to take advantage of very cheap labor. In late 1998, the first "Made in China" Mightys began rolling of the assembly line.
The Mighty Tonka trucks featured on this website were manufactured in the U.S.A. from 1964 to 1997. Mighty Tonka trucks were also assembled in Canada for distribution to the Canadian and European markets in the 1960's and 1970's. And as noted previously, in the late 1990's, China took over all Mighty Tonka productions. NOTE: The Mighty trucks assembled in Canada in a given year were mostly identical to their U.S.A. counterparts except for a different decal and, in at least one instance, a color change. This website will feature the "Made in the U.S.A" variety.
Mighty Tonka trucks manufactured from 1964 to 1997: Mighty Dump, Mighty Mobile Crane, Mighty Clam, Mighty Shovel, Mighty Loader, Mighty Scraper, Mighty Earth Mover, Mighty Car Carrier, Mighty Bulldozer, Mighty Dozer, Mighty Wrecker, Mighty Construction Set, Mighty Roller, Mighty Hydraulic Dump, Mighty Bottom Dump, Mighty Grader, Mighty Loadmaster, Mighty Backhoe, Mighty Winnebago, Mighty Camper, Mighty Rescue Vehicle, Mighty Para-Medic Unit, Mighty Para-Medic Rescue Team, Mighty School Bus, Mighty Forklift, Mighty Custom Van, Mighty Adventure Buggy, Mighty Off-Road Adventure Buggy, Mighty Fashion Buggy, Mighty Utility Truck, Mighty Bell Telephone Truck, Mighty Bell Telephone Service Truck, Mighty Bell System Service Truck, Mighty Roughneck Pickup, Mighty Blue Velvet Pickup, Mighty Construction Pickup, Mighty Fire Truck.
Mighty Tonka truck model numbers from 1964 to 1997: 900, 2900, 3900, 3901, 93901, 2940, 3940, 3925, 3926, 93926, 2905, 2930, 3930, 2920, 3920, 93920, 2935, 3935, 2990, 3990, 3991, 5202, 3906, 3907, 3908, 93908, 4000, 4005, 3915, 3910, 3902, 3984, 3950, 3905, 93905, 3938, 4002, 3945,3885, 3875, 3954, 3965, 3953, 3956, 3800, 3810, 3820, 3903, 3931, 93931, 3909, 93909, 93935, 90219
After you finish researching Mighty Tonka on what I hope will be the first of many visits, there are 3 companion websites that were developed that cover other areas of Tonka collector / enthusiast interests. The premier website, established in 2000 and still going strong is www.NEATOLDTOYS.com. The website features over 100 Tonka ads, Tonka history, Tonka ID guide (how to tell year of production), Tonka U.S.A. look books (1953 to mid 1970's), Tonka Canada look books, Tonka New Zealand look books, Tonka trucks in their box, restoration tips and more.
Online since 2011, www.TONKAGASTURBINE.com has information on the popular regular series Tonka Gas Turbine trucks that were new in 1965 and manufactured into the 1980's.
Online since 2011, www.TONKATOYSTRUCKS.com features DeSalle Tonka collectibles, custom regular series trucks, private label regular series trucks and more.
|A comprehensive reference book was authored by Mark A. Vaught and published in 2008 detailing the 1964-1983 Mighty Tonka series. The book was rather pricey at almost $50 US but did sell out and will not be republished. However, there is a less expensive alternative. I have been authorized by Mark Vaught to sell the book in CD form. Clicking the image of the book and CD cover to the left will take you to the FOR SALE PAGE on companion website www.NEATOLDTOYS.com where you can place your order. The information on the CD is much, much more detailed than what you will find on this or any other website.|
Special thanks to Bill Darr, Lloyd Laumann and his series of articles in "Toy Trucker and Contractor" magazine, to Dennis David & Lloyd Laumann for their reference book Tonka and Mark Vaught for his reference book "A Collector's Guide to Classic Mighty Tonkas (1964-1983)." These guys know Mighty Tonka.
This website created and owned by G.T. Kitchen. © 2012-2016. All rights reserved. All content (text & images) are the property of the website owner unless otherwise noted. "Tonka" and the Tonka logo are registered trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. © 2016. All other trademarks found on this website are used exclusively for identification purposes only.