Re­mem­ber those old Tonka trucks that you used to play with as a child? Toy­ota Aus­tralia re­cently used the Tonka brand as in­spi­ra­tion to cre­ate a Hilux that’ll ex­cite chil­dren of all ages.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - DOWN&DIRTY -

TTrucks is one of the ubiq­ui­tous brands that have be­come part of our cul­ture. Just about ev­ery­one knows what a Tonka truck is. Sadly, Tonka doesn’t have much of a pres­ence in South Africa these days, but there are plenty of im­i­ta­tors around. When you close your eyes and con­jure up an im­age of a toy truck, it’s a Tonka that you’re see­ing.

Of course, Tonka doesn’t just make trucks and other com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles. These still ex­ist, but the toy line has been ex­panded to also in­clude bakkies and SUVs. So, when Toy­ota Aus­tralia re­cently de­cided to cel­e­brate the fact that the Hilux had been named the best-sell­ing Aus­tralian ve­hi­cle for 2016, it de­cided to part­ner with Tonka to cre­ate the ul­ti­mate off-road toy.

The new con­cept was de­signed, as­sem­bled and tested by de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers from Toy­ota Aus­tralia’s 150-strong prod­uct plan­ning and devel­op­ment divi­sion. Prod­uct de­sign chief Ni­co­las Ho­gios said the ex­treme style and ca­pa­bil­ity of the Hilux Tonka Con­cept was cre­ated to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of kids and adults alike.

“We have taken Tonka out of the sand­pit and rein­vented Hilux from top to bot­tom and from nose to tail,” he said. “In­spired by the Tonka trucks that kids play with in their back­yards, it goes way be­yond the al­ready huge abil­i­ties of Hilux to tra­verse rocks and other rugged ter­rain. It is also dra­matic ev­i­dence that our lo­cal team loves to have fun, we’re keen to ex­plore new ideas and we’re al­ways look­ing to push the bound­aries of what’s pos­si­ble.”

Un­der­neath the dra­matic black-and-yel­low liv­ery is a top-of-the-range pro­duc­tion Hilux: a dou­ble cab with a pow­er­ful 2.8-litre turbo-diesel en­gine. The ex­ten­sive makeover starts with sub­stan­tially higher ground clear­ance, an in­crease in ride height of 150mm. Com­bined with a high-rid­ing axle, heavy-duty sus­pen­sion and 35-inch di­am­e­ter tyres, the Hilux Tonka Con­cept is equipped to power over rugged ter­rain that would be off-lim­its to many con­ven­tional off-road­ers.

A new front bar is com­pat­i­ble with the ve­hi­cle’s safety sys­tems, while the bon­net has a car­bon­fi­bre skin and fea­tures a “power bulge” and air scoops. High­per­for­mance off-road LED light­ing in the bar and roof pod pro­vide ex­tra night vi­sion for of­froad trails, while a rugged bash plate made from 6mm-thick al­loy guards the sump and other vi­tal parts. Tubu­lar side rails pro­tect the body and chas­sis.

Be­hind the cabin, the trans­for­ma­tion in­cludes a new car­bon fi­bre-wrapped tail­gate (re­leased by a light­weight strap rather than han­dle), with an in­te­grated spoiler and air vents. In the load bay, a re­mov­able tubu­lar frame keeps all the gear in place – in­clud­ing fuel cans – while stor­age boxes house the re­cov­ery gear needed for ex­treme off-road driv­ing. A fire ex­tin­guisher, axe, shovel and high-lift jack are also fit­ted.

While the Hilux Tonka Con­cept won’t make it to show­rooms around the world, it of­fers a glimpse of what is pos­si­ble when a great team of en­gi­neers and de­sign­ers put their heads to­gether. The un­veil­ing co­in­cides with the re­lease of Toy­ota GB’s se­ries of short films which show Hilux go­ing head to head with its tiny Tamiya ra­dio­con­trolled model coun­ter­part in a se­ries of off-road and per­for­mance chal­lenges. You can find these en­ter­tain­ing videos on YouTube.

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