Wisconsin man builds life-size Tonka truck

7:48 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
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MENOMONIE, Wis. (KARE 11) -- To own a towing service is to covet trucks like a skinned-kneed boy.

Brad Doane's family has spent three generations playing with Freightliners, Kenworths and Chevys, but it took 66 years for the boys at Irvington Garage Towing to finally make it official and welcome to their fleet -- an actual tow toy.

"You can't mistake what it is," smiles Brad. "'Dang, that looks like a Tonka truck.'"

It looks like a Tonka truck, because in essence it is. It's a 16 foot long, 10 foot tall, two ton life-size fabrication of a Tonka Mighty Wrecker. Brad rolled it out of the shop earlier this year and has been turning heads ever since.

That Brad would venture down this road came as no surprise to his mother.

"He had every Tonka there ever was," said Lonna Doane about her 40-year-old son.

Lonna gets credit for putting the bug in Brad's ear when she brought home to the shop a well-used toy Tonka tow truck she purchased at a charity auction.

"He said, 'Mom, I want to build the Tonka."

Brad found a drive train in an 1984 Chevy pickup he purchased along a roadside for $700. He then spent a year cutting, bending and welding steel into a shape that mirrors the original Tonka, only at 12 times the size.

"When you're driving down the road and you meet people, it's not like they give a double take; it's like a triple take," says Brad.

Though the truck is fully functional and a registered vehicle, it won't be towing many cars. Like the toy it's based on, its winch has a hand crank.

"I had to keep it true to the little guy you know," Brad laughs.

Lonna describes her son's dedication to the project as a complete "labor of love for him." Brad plans to share the love by bringing the truck to community parades and festivals.

On Saturday, the truck will be going back to its roots, when Brad will drive it in the Spirit of the Lakes parade in Mound, the birthplace of Tonka Toys.

Brad understands people's fascination with the truck, including his own.

"Everybody can recognize it and it brings them back to the day when they had a truck -- a Tonka truck."

But only Brad Doane can go back to the days of his childhood toys, inside one.

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