Childhood Revisited: 1979 GMC Honka Tonka

Long ago, when this nation valued people who worked with their hands, kids were given toys that allowed them to pretend to do adult jobs.  And these toys were really cool.  Fire trucks, backhoes, tractors, semis, trains, and all manner of trucks filled toy boxes and littered bedroom floors across America.  The youth of this country actually went outside (gasp!) and played in sand boxes, dirt, or, believe it or not, real, honest to goodness mud.  One of the biggest and most influential toymakers was Tonka, and they were known for toys that were not perfect replicas, but for work style toys that had parts that were exaggerated in size, like the tires, fenders, and smoke stacks.  Well, it looks like being a grownup,  and having the neat set of toys that comes with that phase of life, has allowed some Tonka fans to make an adult size Tonka truck.  This 1979 GMC C6000, which has been given the name of “Honka Tonka,” is being offered here on craigslist for $7,500.  While at first glance, this unique project truck, residing in Franklin, Indiana, looks rather than unusual, I’ll bet your inner child is going bananas!

The whole inate lust for all things Tonka must be a thing now.  In previous articles, I discussed the “brodozer” craze, where large pickup trucks, usually diesels, are jacked up and shod with big wheels and low profile tires that will never see a mile of dirt in their lifetimes.  The purpose of these trucks is to cruise around and impress members of the opposite sex with their ridiculous ride height, miles of neon, huge sound systems blasting out “hick-hop” music, and, the coup de grace, an erupting volcano of black smoke known as “rolling coal.”  All in good fun, of course.  There is nothing wrong with modifying your vehicle to suit your tastes and hidden desires.  Just remember that your vehicle is also a reflection of you.

While this builder didn’t seem to have a lot in the way of credit cards and 84 month financing, they have made up for by using what was available in a creative way.  The Honka Tonka is made from a 1979 GMC C6000, and has been bobbed to allow for the installation of a one ton Chevy dually pickup bed.  In addition, this modern day Dr. Frankenstein has installed a heavy duty hitch, a set of rims with new tires, and a really cool dual stack exhaust system.  What seems to be a fair amount of money has been spent on the mechanicals, including bearings, brakes, a new clutch and pressure plate, a new radiator, and an auxiliary electric cooling fan to supplement the engine driven one.

Another aspect of this unique creation is the liberal use of diamond plate inside and out.  The builder must have had access to a good plasma cutter and a whopper of a metal brake to come up with some of the diamond plate additions that this truck boasts.  The bumpers and running boards look great, but I cannot say I am a fan of the front end treatment or the dash work.  Added to this cornucopia of diamond plate are LED lights in various patterns.  If the ones below the grill area were meant to substitute for headlights, they must have been insufficient.  A set of bolt on headlights have been added to the front fenders, and while they don’t look like they were part of the plan, they are cool in a Bugeye Sprite sort of way.

Inside, we see more of the creator’s creative handiwork.  The original dash was cracked and assumedly not very beautiful, so it was removed.  While a new dash pad would be a nice touch, it seems that funds were spent on adding a diamond plate dash plate with digital instruments from Intellitronix.  In addition, a large screen for a back up camera is also present, and is surely a welcome tool when backing this beast up in a parking lot.

The seller also tells us that a new carpet has been added, but the cab otherwise remains rather Spartan. Anyone who purchases the truck might consider adding a radio and air conditioning, which are not currently present.  The steering wheel, which has the circumference of a small moon, does seem to have a small crack in it that would need to be addressed rather soon.  The center cap, however, would look great if you polished and then painted the depressed areas the color of the truck when the owner decides what that color will be.

Under the hood is the ubiquitous small block Chevrolet V-8, and it packs just 350 cubic inches for this heavy duty application.  I would have thought that this truck would be diesel, or at least equipped with a 454 cubic inch big block, neither of these are riding between the fenders.  While this engine is surely adequate for moving the truck down the road, this is a heavy truck.  Perhaps the lack of grunt isn’t as noticeable here, as the engine is backed up by a four speed manual transmission and a two speed rear end.  One can make up for a lack of horsepower with gearing, but that fellow had better plan on packing a lunch for the trip.

When you look at the sum of the parts here, it is obvious that the builder had close to $7500 in it, and that is if they did all of the work themselves.  It would help if the Honka Tonka were a bit more aesthetically appealing, especially in the front, and if the primer and that suspiciously familiar orange paint were replaced with a full paint job.   Customs are always hard to sell, as things that look great to a seller can be repulsive to a buyer.  However, it is unique, and it could be quite neat to drive when finished.  If you always wanted a Tonka truck, but are afraid your relatives will commit you to a place with padded walls if you start playing in the mud with toy trucks, then this could be your new ride.

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Comments

  1. 86 Vette Convertible

    To each his own, and that’s not mine.

  2. Madmatt

    Looks like a fun project.
    This would be very handy with snow tires,right now in Ohio!
    Now I know why the local Home Depot is out of diamond plate aluminum!LOL.

  3. grant

    Holy crap. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you gave a meth head a welder and a few issues of Truckin’ Magazine, here you go. Just say no, kids!!!

  4. boxdin

    Bouncy or what? Tape a pillow to the ceiling for when you go north violently.

  5. Mike

    Ladies, the line starts right over there.

  6. geomechs geomechs Member

    I like what the guy has done although I’m not fussy about the grill. I had a couple of customers who drove short wheelbased C-40s as regular work transportation. One ran a Detroit 4-53T and he used it as his main tool carrier/service truck for his water well business. The other got tired of ordinary 1-ton dualies falling apart underneath his welder (usually frames breaking) so he upgraded to a C-40 with 350/5spd. and drove and drove. He got almost 200K miles out of the first engine and the second one was still doing well when he retired and sold the truck. The new owner pulled the welding deck and converted it to a deck/5th wheel and used it to pull an enclosed car trailer. Both trucks rode like pogo sticks when empty but weren’t at all bad when they got loaded up.

  7. PeterK

    to each his own, I’m wondering where the original diesel engine went?

  8. Stu

    Not for me. I’d always be watchful for that giant hand descending from the heavens.

  9. boxdin

    My Mom sure didn’t like the ruts I made in the living room carpet with my Tonka.

  10. Mike H. MikeH

    Lots of extra lighting with lots of extra visible wiring with nary a relay to be seen. Speaks to the quality of the build overall, I’d say.

  11. Dutch 1960

    I guess engine cooling is not much of a thing with this one.

  12. CanuckCarGuy

    Conceptually, a very cool truck…with the number of scrapped GM trucks out there for parts, the execution could have been more classic and less Mad Max. All things considered, bravo to the builder for creativity.

  13. michael h streuly

    Nothing to see here. Move Along Move Along.

  14. Keith

    The side shot has some appeal. In particular, the height and wheelbase are more to my liking than many of these >1T pickup conversions.

    But the mouse motor screams “amateur hour” almost as loudly as the tasteless custom-diamond-plated… everything. (I could almost live with the front bumper. Almost. The rest is just ugg-lee.)

    Put (back?) on the correct grille, lights, mirrors, interior components, etc. Drop in a big block (or an appropriate diesel, if you’re feeling ambitious). Pick out some reasonable gears. THEN you might have something.

    I’ve seen Chevy/GMC trucks like this with 4WD on rare occasions. Now *that* would be a rig worth converting!

  15. half cab

    Can you say Bob the Builder lol

  16. Rube Goldberg Member

    This is nothing more than “My unit is bigger than yours” deal, and this truck, as equipped, serves no real purpose. With the Hummers and other “Ultimate Behemoths” that surfaced, all the trucks could be had like this. I’ve seen Ford’s and Internationals set up like this. As boxdin sez, this thing will ride terrible, single digit mileage, hard to get around, BUT, and most importantly ( to some), it’s the biggest dang pickup we could find.

  17. Mike2

    I thought for sure this would have bowling ball sized Truck Nutz.

  18. Chris In Australia

    What! No checker plate horn button? Surely there would have been enough offcuts.

  19. Nick G.

    This truck would have been 20x better if the owner had avoided some of the “custom” work and left the frontend and dash stock. The money for those stupid digital gauges could have bought a new dash pad.
    No one wants to see rpms in digital numbers!
    This thing looks great from the side… with its vintage making up from and bro-ism but it goes downhill on either end.
    If it were a little cheaper, it’d be worth de-customizing the bad parts.

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