I guess it was back in the year 2002 when I found myself acquiring some toys that I either had as a kid or wish that I had. This activity focused on some toys made in the 1960s and were considered “big plastic.” My kids had heard about the toys that I consider to be the greatest toys ever made, and I thought it was time for my kids to see and use these toys first hand. I consider these three toys to be the best ever made from my childhood:
Johnny Express – made by the Topper Toy Company
Switch ‘n’ Go – made by Mattel
Johnny Astro – made by the Topper Toy Company
There are some things written on the Internet to describe the toys above. For a few links, check out the “Links” page on this website.
So I started out by getting a couple of Johnny Express trucks from Ebay and fixed them up and got them to work again. Then I did the same thing for Switch ‘n’ Go and then Johnny Astro. But I found it really hard to get many parts for the toys and, since I wanted to rebuild enough Johnny Express trucks to get the fleet of all six they made, I had to find or develop a source for the parts.
I wanted to restore all six Johnny Express trucks and I found it nearly impossible to locate enough mirrors or exhaust pipes. I did obtain a set of original mirrors from a local collector, but was only able to acquire broken exhaust pipe pieces. Being an engineer by profession, I set out to explore the possibility of getting reproduction parts made in industry. I found out that this would have been extremely expensive to do as the plastics companies I contacted wanted hundreds or thousands of dollars up front for tooling and set ups just to make a single part – and this was (in some cases) without a guarantee of producing any sizable quantities of reproductions. So it was pretty clear to me that the companies simply were not interested in making reproduction parts for my hobby.
Long before I became an engineer, I was a hobbyist and I will always be a hobbyist. So I did what any hobbyist would do – I set out to find out how to make plastic replication parts myself. I saw an ad on Ebay for a reproduction plastic toy part and I sent an Email to the person who had the listing – a guy named Chris who lives out in California and makes reproduction parts. Chris responded back and he set me on my way to learn about mold making and urethane casting…in a short period of time, I began making replication plastic parts myself. See the Smooth-On plastics website at http://www/smooth-on.com for “getting started” kits if you might be interested in trying your hand at plastics. [Please note that this not an inexpensive hobby – see the liquid rubber items that are about $160 per gallon as of this writing.]
Pretty soon toy collectors started sending me plastic parts to replicate and I was able to borrow a “somewhat intact” Johnny Express exhaust pipe and get a machined replication made out of aluminum – and then I molded that to make exhaust pipe replications in plastic. Then I went on to tackle other parts – lug nuts, remote control unit handles, remote control unit bottoms, the liquid tanker accessory parts that were always missing or broken, etc. The work and the learning continued and I was able to restore the fleet of six Johnny Express vehicles to their rightful glory. The pictures on this page are presented side by side, you can “mouse over” any picture on this web page and watch that picture change into another picture. So here goes, enjoy…