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Wednesday, August 26 2015 20:08

The Mystery of the Topper Toys Johnny Express Truck...

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Update: Sold the truck, and what a miserable experience it has been. Buyer turned out to be a seller at toy shows, and decided to send me harassing messages since I can't mystically control the USPS shipping process - despite having a tracking number available that showed transit progress.

Last week, the girls and I did something that we rarely do - we stopped at a garage sale. Truth be told, we actually turned around to go back to a garage sale we'd already passed, just because I'd spotted some big, old TONKA Trucks sitting out there. The sale was actually at a construction company, so it was pretty perfect that they'd have toy construction gear, but most of the TONKA stuff (some dating back to the 60s) was in pretty rough shape - except for one. With the sandbox in mind, the girls and I selected a completely working 1991 TONKA Mighty Crane that still has a lot of play left in it. As I put it in the trunk, the guy came over and pointed out the shell of an old Buddy L truck, and something I'd never seen before... a flatbed truck labeled "Johnny Express." I wasn't really interested at first, but when he showed me a box of parts for it, I figured it was worth a shot - again with the sandbox/outdoor play in-mind. I had no idea I was purchasing a legend.

Turns out the Johnny Express Trucks were a big deal back in 1965, a creation of Topper Toys (a label of the Deluxe Reading Company of New Jersey) - the same folks behind the eventual Hot Wheels competitor, Johnny Lightning (which would launch in 1969). For some reason, Topper Toys was "Johnny" obsessed - slapping the name on everything from blasters (Johnny Seven OMA - One Man Army) to spacecraft (Johnny Spacemobile X-7) and everything in between.  Here's what made kids want these way back when...

The Johnny Express was one of the first remote controlled trucks of the day - a control box wired to the cab for a full range of play. When I learned of this, I hadn't even turned ours over, but when I did - broken wires and no control box. Digging deeper, I found that there's a bunch of missing and/or broken pieces, and that this really isn't something to play with alongside my girls, but a potential treasure for someone that might be looking for it. Turns out there's a pretty solid group of Johnny Express enthusiasts out there - folks that repair and restore these mighty trucks for play and collectibility. Even in it's rough shape, our truck would make a nice display piece, but it would just be here in my office or garage, not with someone who may have had one of these the first time around. This could be restored on its own, or perhaps parts from this truck could be used to complete another project. 

Johnny Express Truck by Topper Toys

This morning, I took the Johnny Express outside and did a little "Toyography" with it in front of the house. Then I made note of what I knew were condition issues and listed the truck for sale on eBay.  It's up for auction for the next ten days, and I'll update this post to let you know the outcome. 

Want a shot at owning our Johnny Express? Head on over to eBay to take a look!

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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