Tonka trucks were first manufactured in Mound, Minnesota, in 1947. Made in a metalworks shop, Tonka trucks have a long-standing reputation for being tough, well-built toys. Many features of the Tonka toy trucks can be used to identify the year the truck was manufactured such as logos, grills, fenders, and headlight styles. Later trucks may have subtle changes made to wheels and tires and may possibly have a year stamped on the bottom plate of the vehicle.
Look at the Tonka logo. From 1947 to 1977, changes were made to the logo every few years which makes it an easy identifier for early-edition Tonka trucks.
Identify the colors of the logo. If the Tonka logo shows a blue sea and seagulls, it was likely to be manufactured between 1947 and 1957. From 1958 to 1961, the logo changed to a white, gray and red oval. Starting in 1962, Tonka began using red and gold. Other subtle changes involving text were made between 1962 and 1975. In 1976, the logo was simplified to a red oval with the Tonka name.
Look for the oval shape. In 1978, the logo excluded the trademark oval. As of 2010, no changes have been made to the logo since 1978.
Fender and Light Design Identification
Look at the front grill of the truck. A rounded fender and headlights means the Tonka truck was manufactured between 1955 and 1957.
Identify shape of fender. Starting in 1958, trucks were made with a square-shaped fender and a flatter hood.
Check truck for lack of identifying marks or one-piece grill design. From 1961 until 1964, Tonka trucks were made more "generic," losing some of the resembling features of the Ford truck. Trucks made from 1962 to 1967 returned to the one-piece grill design.
Identify the color of the headlights and check for seats and a steering wheel inside the cab. Single clear headlights were available on trucks from 1968 until 1972. From 1972 to the present, small changes with the wheel and tire assemblies and appearances have been made to the Tonka trucks which can make identification easier.
Check the Tonka Web site for photos of some of the changes to make identification easier.