How a 1960s Structo toy truck is restored

  • Joe restores vintage toy cars and trucks on his YouTube channel, Joe DIY.
  • He takes us through the process of restoring a rusty Structo airport lift truck.
  • He uses tools including a sandblaster, a pintonka rivet tool, and an ultrasonic cleaner.
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Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: My name is Joe DIY. I restore old toy trucks, and today I’m going to be walking you through the restoration of a 1960s Structo airport lift truck.

These toys are considered pressed-steel toys. That means they take a sheet metal aluminum and they use a hydraulic press to kind of form it into shape. The truck’s pretty rusty. It’s mostly complete, which is good, ’cause they’re hard to find parts for. The only thing that’s really missing was a lot of the lights and mirrors that you’ll see on the roof.

Whenever I take things apart, I always start at the wheels, and then I’ll move on and start taking the body off the chassis and kind of work my way down to the chassis. Usually that’s the last part that will be together. The reason I do this is it’s just easier to work from the outside in. Everything is attached to that chassis, so you need to get off, you know, piece by piece and just work your way down there.

Here I’m using a rotary tool to grind off the end of the rivet. When rivets are put in, they’re kind of mushroomed at the end so that they won’t fall out. So you need to take off that ridge so that you can pull the rivet out and allow the pieces to come off. When I take them apart, I use a lot of different tools. A screwdriver and pliers are the main tools I use. Usually you can use the screwdriver to bend out the tab a little bit, and then once you get it away from the toy, then you can use your pliers to fully bend it out. And those tabs are what’s going to hold a lot of the parts together, so it allows you to get those tabs out and slide the truck apart.

Once the truck’s completely disassembled, I take it over to my sandblasting booth and I try to remove all the paint and rust. Likely, the rust came from, just over time, this toy being played with, probably left outside, it would get beat up, it would get paint chips. So anytime you have exposed steel to air and to moisture in the air and oxygen, that’s when you get rust forming. I’m removing the rust with a sandblaster. It’s a sandblast cabinet, and the media inside of it is spraying out aluminum oxide. So you can think of it like a really abrasive powder that gets shot through the gun. So you get a lot of air behind it, and it’s just blowing it at that toy as hard as it can, and that abrasive material will take off any rust, paint, or anything that’s left on the metal. You have to remove all the rust before you repaint it or powder-coat it. Any rust or oxide that’s left underneath that layer will eventually continue to rust and come through your paint or come through your powder coat, or it may not even stick properly in the first place.

Well, we’re down to bare metal. Now we can go ahead and powder-coat our parts. For powder coating, I use an Eastwood powder coater. Pretty much what this machine does is it takes powdered plastic and it mixes with air and sprays the powder at the parts. And then there’s an electrical charge inside the powder-coating gun, which is going to discharge with the powder in the air and pretty much electrically charge that cloud of powder. That electrified air wants to find the closest ground, and that’s what causes it to stick to the part. So, as you watch it get powder-coated, you’ll see that the cloud of dust just clings to the metal.

After it’s coated, I put it in my little electric oven. It gets up to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. And what that’s going to do is melt down that powder. And that’s where you see it change color. It’ll go from a dull color to a glossy color. That’s called the flow. Once it flows out, then you allow it to cure, and that’s what’s going to harden the color on there. All said and done, powder coating’s very quick. From putting it in the oven till the time you can take it out and handle it, it’s about 15, 20 minutes.

So now I’m going to go ahead and just clean the tires. I’m only washing the black rubber part of the tire, because I’m just going to clean these up and use them as is. I just put this in a solution of Simple Green inside my ultrasonic cleaner, and I’m running it at about 40 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, just vibrating the parts. And all that’s going to do is just remove any of the dirt and crud that’s caught in the crevices and the tread on the tires. So now the white-walled side of the tire is all stained, so I need to get this back to the white color. I put this in a mix of hydrogen peroxide and bleach, and then you want to expose it to UV light. So I usually just put it outside in the sun for a few days, and that bleaches it back to the original white color.

This truck is a little rare because of the moving body on the back. That makes it a little uncommon. I know a lot of people out there seek these kind of operational vehicles, the ones that have a lot of moving parts on them. So the most difficult part of the restoration is definitely going to be putting this thing back together. There are a lot of rivets located underneath the body that need to all be in place so that the body will move up and down properly and everything will function as it should.

Once I have everything cleaned up and painted, I’ll usually start by assembling the cab. I usually do this because it’s got the windshield, and it’s just a nice, easy part that I can just start to assemble before I start moving on to the chassis. So, when I’m putting it back together, I try to use the original style rivets. And then I use a special tool that’ll crimp them in the same style that this would’ve had from the factory. The two main tools I use for reassembling is a clamp tool called the Pintonka tool, and that just crushes the original style rivets. It’s specially designed just for Tonkas and pinball machines. And the other tool is a small brass hammer. One side of the head’s brass, the other side’s nylon, and that allows me to bend the tabs without marring any of the paintwork.

The logos are reproduction stickers I find online. There’s a bunch of reproduction companies out there that make them, and I just get them from there and reapply them. And after all that, it’s fully assembled and ready to be played with again.