Ford F-150 Tonka truck being made in Elkhart

By: Frank Waugh Email
By: Frank Waugh Email

Elkhart, Ind. It's a brand as iconic as slinkies and stretch arm strong.

The Tonka truck has been a sandbox staple for over 65 years and today you can drive your very own.

“The sand box just got bigger.”

That's the slogan for this toy dream come true, a limited edition, Ford F150 made by Tuscany in Elkhart.

Tonka is more than just a toy and a brand, it’s a right of passage for all kids across America

And that was Mike Graber's inspiration for the project. Take that classic yellow truck from the toy box and put it on the road.

“It really starts with a concept in our head and then we take it to a piece of paper and then to a computer and then to clay modeling,” Graber said.

Clay eventually gives way to plastic, add a lift kit and some chrome and this stock Ford F150 Larriat really begins to take shape.

“We want it to be more aggressive,” Graber explained. ”What we have to do first is raise the body, we raise it 6 inches, that allows us to give it an aggressive off road stance. Which also allows us to put larger wheels and tires on it, and then we put step bars and cladding, cladding kind of makes the truck look a little wider. We put wide fender flares, fender flares also make it a more aggressive stance, we change how ford does their grill application in the front, we change the hood, we put a taller hood on it.”

Also new are rear dual exhaust, a Tonneau cover and carpeted bed. Custom head rests, floor mats and Tonka badges add a little extra flair to the interior.

“It is an iconic color, it is truly the Tonka color,” he said. “When this vehicle drives down the road you can't miss it.”

From the sandbox to the showroom, all the modifications to this truck are made right here in Elkhart, and the parts that go on it are from the area as well.

“A lot of these plastic parts you see on this table come from Bremen, Ind., a company called Charleston Inc. The floor mats are made down the street, the headrest with the stitching is literally made down the street.”

“We want to support the people in our backyard and our proud to do that ... For the most part we want to work with people we know and people that we go to church with, live with, hang out with and see on the streets and i think that is very important to us.“

It’s those strong local partnerships that make this new version as rock solid as the origional.

“We are fortunate to work on a great product.... We have a great brand in the Ford F150, a great brand in tonka that is a household name that is recognized and very proud of this project and it is going very well.”

The trucks are limited.

Tuscany is creating 500 of the 2013 model and will make an additional 500 of the 2014 model.

The trucks will be distributed to Ford dealers all over the U.S., and if you are wondering about the price tag.

Graber tells us the stock truck's suggested retail price is around $50,000 and after it has had the Tonka treatment it retails between $60-70,000.

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