Tonka Pickup Restoration Page 2

Step 4-Remove the Cab Wrap Roof Assembly

This step is fairly straight forward. At the very front of the cab wrap, where the bumper used to be, are two tabs that are bent over to hold the chassis to the cab wrap. Using the tool of your choice, pry the tabs up slightly. I use a small wood chisel. You can finish straightening the tabs with your trusty needle nose pliers. Now for the back of the cab wrap. You will notice another tab, that is part of the chassis, inserted into a slot on the cab wrap. Sometimes this tab is bent over, sometimes it is straight. In any event, if it is straight, your cab wrap should just pull forward and off the chassis. If the tab is bent over, pry up with you favorite tool. Once again, I use my trusty wood chisel, tapping lightly with a hammer to get it under the tab, then pry up. You can finish straightening the tab with flat nosed pliers.

Step 5-Remove the Roof

This step varies slightly, depending on year of manufacture. For the 1955-1957 models, keep the roof on the cab wrap. For '58-'67, just work with the front roof posts. Using the needle nose pliers, straighten the barbs at the base of the posts. Now the fun part. The roof can be a little temperamental so take a deep breath and think very positive thoughts. The roof sort of snaps into place so you are going to find yourself grasping the bottom of the front roof posts firmly with your pliers, pushing up and through the slots of the cab wrap. This step is kinda hard to put on paper, much less a web page. Just work with it and REMAIN CALM. After the front posts have been pushed / pulled through the cab wrap, continue to pull the front of the roof up and over toward the bed. The tabs at the rear of the roof will release on their own. As an added bonus, if your pickup still has a windshield, it has already fallen out. Now isn't that special.

Step 6-Take a Break

This is as far as I tear down a pickup. You can go much further if you want to remove the rear fenders from the bed and the bed from the chassis. You can achieve excellent results however, by leaving those parts in place. As you are taking parts off of your truck, put them into one of those re-sealable plastic bags. A two gallon size will hold everything. Also of note, no pun intended, leave a note in your bag as to color of the truck, a description of the door decals and any parts that obviously need to be replaced. Continue to add to your notes as required.UPDATESince this restoration guide was originally published in 2000, cameras have become common place. Utilize the technology that brought you the selfie and take a few pics of your truck before tearing it down to show decal design and placement and paint color. The plastic zip lock bag to hold all of your parts is still recommended.

Step 7-Time for a Trip...

To your favorite auto parts store, like Auto Zone, Checker, O'Reilly, Pep Boys, whatever the name in your part of the country. Take along the truck parts to help you select a paint color. You will find that Dupli-color will be featured at one chain and Plasti-kote at another. I use both brands and each works great. The colors are approximate for the most part. If you don't have the following items around the garage, pick up a 3M Scotch-Brite Finishing Pad for metal, Blue Magic Metal Polish Cream and Turtle Wax Polishing Compound for clear coats while you are at the auto parts store.

Step 8-Salvaging the Plated Parts

OPTION #1. The bumper, grille, wheel covers, chains and axles can be more or less easily salvaged if there is only surface oxidation on the finish. This does not include rust. Use a soft cloth such as an old cotton sock or towel, add a generous dab of Blue Magic Metal Polish Creme and elbow grease. Use a clean soft cloth for a final buffing out. Please note that after 40+ years of service, the majority of plated parts you will find will be beyond the results this step can achieve.

OPTION #2. If your plated parts are beyond the above step and include a small amount of rust, try this. Cut about a 3 inch square piece out of the 3M Scotch-Brite Finishing Pad for metal. Use water to wet the pad and add a BIG dab of Turtle Wax Polishing Compound for clear coats. El bow grease is once again required, but the results will be worth it. Keep your pad and part well moistened. After the light oxidation and rust have been removed, wash in warm soapy water to remove any buffing residue and dry. Buff with a soft clean cotton cloth. Your parts will tend to have a soft satin finish.

OPTION #3. If your parts are more rust than light oxidation, you may want to consider reproduction parts. If the axles are to far gone, and generally they are, sand blast them and paint.

Tip The plating on the parts is not very thick, so don't get carried away with your cleaning efforts.
Tip If you are satisfied with the results of Option #1 and Option #2, as a final step, apply a light coating of your favorite automotive paste wax and buff. The wax will help protect your newly restored finish.

Tip If you want to take the results of Option #1 and #2 to the next level, try this before you paste wax. USE THIS TIP. I purchased a Rotary Tool Cleaning and Polishing Set from Sears. The set includes polishing compound, also known as jeweler's rouge, and all sorts of buffing wheels. This TIP will put a super shine on your clean plated parts. Keep your rotary tool at a its lowest RPM and use light pressure. I even use this TIP on brand new reproduction grilles and bumpers that are not chrome plated. The results are well worth the extra effort.

Tip It may be me but when I am restoring a truck, there is no room for dents and creases in the grille and bumper. They are a distraction and totally take away from the restoration. Reproduction parts are available.

Tip I wear disposable latex gloves while cleaning the plated parts. If you don't, be prepared to spend a lot of time trying to clean the by products of the cleaning process from your hands and under your nails. It's a smart, time saving investment. Real men (and women) do wear latex gloves when working on their Tonkas!

Step 9-Salvaging the Tires and Whitewalls

Tires were made of rubber from 1949 through 1964. Tonka's first use of an all rubber tire (without the steel wheel) took place in 1953. These tires have long since become rock hard and dirty. If the tire is complete and not cracked, a good cleaning and a little preservation might bring it back to "show" quality. I just use liquid dish washing soap and a stiff bristle brush. An old hard bristle tooth brush will do the job. After a through cleaning and time to dry, I'll treat with 2001 Protectant. Cover the tire surfaces and place in a small plastic bag. Don't worry about the excess protectant at this time. You can remove the excess with a clean dry cloth just prior to reassembly on your finished pickup. If your tires do not respond to the cleaning and protectant, reproduction parts are available.

Now for the whitewalls. I use a product called Soft Scrub. You can find it at the grocery beside other household cleaning supplies. It has a bleaching agent and a light abrasive that will help turn dirty whitewalls white. Use a stiff bristle brush or that old tooth brush again. I've also been known to leave whitewalls in a small dish of diluted bleach for days. I have been successful salvaging whitewalls with both of these methods more times than not. Once you are satisfied with the results, dry and spray with 2001 Protectant, to help moisturize the dry rubber, and store with your tires. If this step is not successful because the whitewalls are discolored from UV exposure or they are cracked and dry rotted, the old whitewalls may be candidates for your old Tonka parts museum. Reproduction parts are available.

Tip Feedback from many restorers suggest an alterative to 2001 Protectant be used to freshen the look of the tire after it has been throughly cleaned. The concern is that the silicone component in the 2001 Protectant could migrate from the tires to any other surface. Silicone can keep paint and glue from adhering and leave unsightly finger prints on any surface. Lonnie Schnakenberg offers the following option. "In looking for an alternative to Armor All [2001 Protectant] I came across Mothers - Back-to-Black. I have never been really happy with the results using Armor All. Most times there is an oily residue that results no matter how well you clean and buff after treating a Tonka tire. After running the original tires through the dishwasher to clean and whiten the tires and white walls I tried Mothers. I was really impressed with the results. The tires are bright with a satin/gloss appearance....."

Tip Beginning in 1965, injection molded plastic replaced rubber in the tires and sidewalls used on Regular series trucks. Plastic won't dry rot but it can become brittle and discolor. Also, over time, plastic tires develop a wear pattern (rash) on the tread area of tires on well loved trucks. If not acknowledged, this rash can be very unsightly and detract from the overall restored appearance of the truck. Try this. Clean the tires using previously described methods. Dry throughly. Apply black paste wax shoe polish to the tread area of the tire. The polish will not only darken the rash, it also fill in the voids and present a more as new look. After the polish dries, buff with a soft rag. I prefer a more glossy or wet look on the tires. I use a product called SUPER SHINE made by Meltonian (available from Amazon). It's a clear, gloss shoe shine in an aerosol can. I get the shine without the silicone. Also works great on rubber tires if you want the wet look.

Step 10-Salvaging the Windshield

Grab another old cotton sports sock or towel for use in this step. If you are the owner of a 1955-1957 pickup, forget this step. Owners of 1958 to 1967, listen up! Yellowed, cracked or broken windshields, should just be replaced. Reproductions are available for just the windshield or the full "glass" bubble as used on the 1965 through 1967 models. If, however, the windshield has very light scratches and hazing, try this to minimize the damage. Moisten your cloth with water and apply a generous dab of Turtle Wax Polishing Compound for clear coat. Rub and rub some more onto the surface areas of the windshield using light pressure. Don't let your polishing mixture dry out or you will do more harm than good. This is not a five minute job. Rinse the windshield with water from time to time to check the progress. Continue to work the polishing compound until you can see no further changes in the appearance of the windshield. Remember, this step will not remove all of the scratches, but overall, the windshield will tend to clear. Store in a clean plastic bag.

Step 11-Time to Order Replacement Parts

By this step, I'm far enough along in the restoration to be able to identify the parts that are going to be replaced. I do my shopping at a number of places. Those I would recommend are Tonka Town, Sandbox Toys and Thomas Toys for reproduction parts and Rick's Toy Box for decals. Contact information can be found on the LINKS page. Reproduction parts can be a little pricey and since this article was initially written, prices have increased from time to time. Order your parts now so they will be on hand for reassembly.

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