It's not easy to think of a toy Jeep that equals the heft, solidity and classic design of the Tonka Jeep of the 1960s. But the large (10.5 inches long) Al-Toy CJ-2As cast in aluminum by Toledo Casting in the 1940's fit the bill, and were also more accurate to the prototype than the Tonkas. There was a similar toy produced by the Oglesby company in Indiana, as well as later castings made by other companies using the Al-Toy molds after they were sold off by Toledo Casting. All of this makes positive identification of the Al-Toys a bit of a challenge.
Many people consider the gem of the Al-Toy line to be the final model, the 1949 CJ-2A Fire Engine (left). It came with a variety of accessories including a fire extinguisher, axes, shovel and hoses.
This clipping from the Toledo Times of 18 July 1945 reveals an interesting fact: the Al-Toy aluminum model of the peacetime Jeep was actually revealed to the public the evening before the real CJ-2A was unveiled to VIP's and the press. Ward M. Canaday (left), Board Chair of Willys-Overland and Charles E. Sorensen (right), President of W-O are shown at a press banquet in the Commodore Perry Hotel in downtown Toledo.
This early appearance of the Al-Toy could also suggest that the initial idea of the model was to promote the CJ-2A by building anticipation of the "Jeep Day" demonstration the following day. Willys-Overland pulled out all the stops for the event, to which hundreds of people were invited, so it's quite possible that they also gave away the models at the banquet.
The model in the photo is the early single-seat Al-Toy, but it appears to be the production version with Harvest Tan paint, orange wheels and riveted construction, rather than the slightly different and apparently earlier "Agrijeep" version seen in Early Al-Toy Jeep.
Charles E. Sorensen was also the owner of "CESOR" Farm in New Hudson, Michigan, where "Jeep Day" was held the next day, Wednesday, 18 July. In this photo courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Sorensen and Canaday are seen striking almost the same pose, this time discussing a harrow pulled behind a full size Jeep.
(Bill Norris has been researching Jeep Day for some time, and presented the full story in the 2015 edition of the Holy Toledo! calendar.)
Collector Glenn Byron says, "The Al-Toy program started in 1945 and went to about 1950, producing slush cast aluminum models of the CJ-2A, Pickup, Jeepster, Station Wagon, and CJ-2A Fire Truck. The 2A Jeeps are most frequently found -- the others are very scarce." Glenn provides more background in his comments on Terry Smith's Al-Toy Jeep Collection on CJ3B.info.
We still don't have complete information on these toys, but they were given as presents to Willys-Overland executives from 1945-49, and some were also given away as promotional models. The October 1946 ad (right) from Toys and Novelties magazine also indicates that Toledo Casting was marketing them as a "popular priced" toy. Thanks to Colin Peabody for the ad.
The company is also sometimes referred to as Central Casting or Toledo Brass. Colin says, "I have been wondering if they were the same company who cast the hood spears and step plates for the wagons and Jeepsters back in '46-'49. It would seem feasible to me that Willys wouldn't go far outside of their suppliers to have these limited toy castings done."
The Al-Toys have "WILLYS" cast above the grille, and "JEEP" below the windshield, neither of which is accurate to the prototype 2A. The center of the wheels is usually painted a contrasting color as on the prototype, but some examples have all-black wheels (50K JPEG). The tires (20K JPEG) usually have "6.00-16" and the Al-Toy name molded into them.
This Al-Toy Jeep was photographed by Mike Punsalan with the old Toledo Casting building at Summit and Locust Sts. in Toledo in the background.
The first casting of Al-Toy 2A's had only a driver's seat (see Fred Coldwell's Early Al-Toy Jeep) but most have two seats. Either version could be considered prototypical, since the passenger seat was an optional extra.
The bottom of the Jeep body casting itself has only a single-digit number, which apparently represents a mold number.
Most recently, Daron Wanberg found an example with a "1", Doug Price has reported a "5" and Gary Keating found a "6" which extends the series of mold numbers. Fred Coldwell's early example has no number on the bottom.
Colin Peabody reports a #1 casting that does not have the JEEP name on the windshield casting. Anybody else seen these? His two #3 castings both have the JEEP windshields, one stamped with a 1 and one with a 2.
Although the CJ-2A Fire Engine is very hard to find complete with all its accessories, perhaps the rarest of the Al-Toys is a version of the basic CJ-2A with a polished aluminum finish, green base and red interior, apparently given to some executives at Christmas 1945.
Note: An interesting way to display an Al-Toy with badly worn paint, is bare polished aluminum with the paint removed (220K JPEG, photo courtesy Tom Gallagher.)
Apparently Toledo Casting eventually sold the molds for the Al-Toys, and they were used by at least two other companies. Toys identical to the single-seat Al-Toy Jeeps were produced with tires labelled "WEST-CRAFT" rather than "Al-Toy".
Probably this was the West-Craft Mfg. in Chicago that also sold 1/24 and 1/12-scale Jeep wooden model kits (see Wooden Toy Jeeps on CJ3B.info.
Two-seater versions were also produced in green and red with "Made in Canada" embossed into the rear of the base. The examples shown here are stamped on the base (190K JPEG) with a 4 in the middle and a 2 near the front. Despite having the same numbers, the two castings are different in how the axles are attached.
Colin's example is stamped on the base with a 4 in the middle and a 1 near the front rather than a 2, suggesting more than one mold was used.
Apparently the Jeeps were produced by Lincoln Toys (also called Lincoln Specialties), operated out of Waterville, a suburb of Windsor, Ontario. Colin's research indicates Lincoln was a long-time family business producing mainly stamped steel toys and farm equipment, which was also tied in with a Windsor toymaker named Harry Ellwood, who later bought all the dies from Lincoln when they folded in the mid 1950s.
This wholesale catalogue page indicates the Jeep was distributed by the Toronto firm Progressive Merchandising, and sold in a box which served as a garage. Intereasting specification mentioned: "Sturdy construction will support a 200 pound man."
Thanks to Scott Cummings and Toyshack Antique Toys for the scan.
Colin Peabody points out that the steering column in the Canadian version is mounted at a slightly different angle than on the original Al-Toys, putting the steering wheel closer to the driver's seat.
The rubber wheels have no identification on them, but are painted white in the center. See also a front view photo (170K JPEG).
The Oglesby Jeeps, including this version with "Western Jeep" graphics, 17.5 inches long with trailer, were apparently manufactured in the 1950s in Peru, Indiana. They are similar to the Al-Toys, but the headlights are attached to the hood (20K JPEG), which raises to reveal a cast engine. The front bumper projects further from the body, with details which appear to represent the 275-lb. bumper weight. The word "JEEP" below the windshield is slightly larger than on the Al-Toy. The base of the casting is inscribed "Oglesby, Peru, Indiana."
The Oglesbys usually have smooth rubber wheels with "Willys" cast into the center, but some have tires with military tread -- see the U.S. Air Force version (70K JPEG).
Some Oglesbys also have the word "JEEP" and a D-Day invasion star cast into the hood, although they are seen painted red (60K JPEG) more often than olive drab (20K JPEG). This example is unfinished; it may have had the paint stripped at some point. The snowplow attaches to a hole in the front bumper. A useful note for identifying an Oglesby trailer: a licence plate reading "H52Y" is cast into the tailgate.
Mike Slaight of California built up this collection of large Jeep toys. It includes Oglesby "Western Jeeps" and trailers with both smooth and treaded tires on the left, and Marx Jeeps and a Tonka fire engine in the front row. At right is a Wood Commodities Corp. Jeep, in the second row with the Al-Toy Jeeps. The back row includes two single-seat West-Craft Jeeps and a red invasion-star Oglesby.
In 2005, I heard about a current reproduction casting of the entire Jeep, which like the Oglesby has the engine cast into the body. Drew wrote to say, "The casting is poor, and obviously from a secondary cast. The steering wheel is even cast into the body. Both the jeep and the trailer are freshly painted. The wheel hubs are even painted olive drab. I bought it on eBay. The price was really too good to be true ($75)."
Gary Keating reported in 2006, "I recently bought an Al-Toy 2-seater CJ . This particular toy has several things that appear 'wrong' or at the least not noted anywhere. The underside (80K JPEG) is stamped with a 6 or 9. The windshield (50K JPEG) is engraved 'JEEP', not raised letters as on other models. The windshield is cast aluminum, but is more squared-off at the edges with a slightly thicker center rib. The steering wheel (40K JPEG) and column is plastic with a nut holding it on the underside of the Jeep body. Is the windshield a repro? Is the steering wheel?"
As noted above, several other Jeep vehicles were also cast in the Al-Toy series by Toledo Brass, and presented as Christmas gifts to Willys-Overland VIPs and high-volume dealers: a Jeep pickup truck, station wagon, and VJ Jeepster.
Glenn Byron's table at the 2016 Willys Rally showed Al-Toys at prices ranging from $200 for a CJ-2A, to $500 for the pickup truck, $1000 for the station wagon and $1400 for the Jeepster.
Prices do range widely depending on condition, and they also reflect the rarity of the three larger models, of which there were only a few hundred made, compared to thousands of the CJ-2A castings.
A display of cast aluminum models (30K JPEG) at the Spring Willys Reunion in Wausau, Wisconsin in May 2001 was photographed by Bill Wheeler. Alongside the large Al-Toys are the smaller Banthrico and Comet castings including Forward Control and M715 trucks, and DJ-3A Surrey.
Willys-Overland planned to release their new 4x2 and 4x4 truck models in early 1947, so they had the Al-Toy truck made as a 1946 Christmas gift to executives.
Like the CJ-2A, the pickup was a simple, rugged model, accurately proportioned but without a great deal of detail. It's usually seen in a maroon paint, but it does occasionally show up in a green that appears to be original.
Al-Toy's next model was a nicely detailed Luzon Red 1948 VJ Jeepster, as the 1947 Willys-Overland Christmas gift.
The model has a number of added detail parts making it relatively fragile, including the front bumper, which is available in reproduction form (45K JPEG). It also has hand-painted whitewall tires (130K JPEG)
See a bottom view (140K JPEG), and a rear view photo (30K JPEG) of an example Joe Campbell found in an attic.
The Al-Toy Willys Jeep Station Wagon dates from Christmas 1948, anticipating the introduction of the 4WD wagon in 1949. It's about 14" long and weighs over 6 pounds. The blue and yellow license plate reads "WO-1949". There are decals on either side of the hood which say "Jeep Station Wagon". The vent window dividers and door handles are wire.
Colin Peabody purchased this example, possibly the only one in existence still in its original dated cardboard box, in 2008. Colin says, "The toy is perfect save for some minor rubbing of the cardboard box on the roof of the toy from 60 years of storing it inside. The plastic windows have yellowed and shrunk with age and heat, but otherwise it is perfect."
For Christmas 1949, Al-Toy did their final model, the Jeep Fire Engine. The aluminum CJ-2A received the additional rear bodywork, extended front and rear bumpers, pump, bell, ladder rack and a large collection of accessories. There were probably less than a hundred of these made, and it's very rare to find an example complete with all of those details.
A few examples have been found of a Cast Aluminum M-274 Mule and there was speculation it might have been produced by Toledo Casting for Willys when the M-274 was being tested in the late 1940's. It is of similar size to the Al-Toys, but does not have the Al-Toy name on the tires, and it has been determined this mystery model was actually produced by Banthrico of Chicago.
Thanks to Mike Slaight for the photos from his collection. Also Joe Campbell, Glenn Byron, Colin Peabody, Robert Wooley and Mike Punsalan. -- Derek Redmond
See mint examples of Al-Toys including the pickup truck and fire engine, in Terry Smith's Al-Toy Jeep Collection.
Also on CJ3B.info, see an Early Al-Toy Jeep and some Sandbox Jeeps of the 1950s.
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