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Toy Jeeps by Marx


Louis MarxAn overview of all the toy Jeeps produced by Louis Marx & Co. from the 1940's to the 1970's, is a major project that has been on the back burner at CJ3B.info for a long time. The Marx stamped-steel Jeep based on the CJ-2A was an influential toy, and the company also made a variety of other metal and plastic Jeeps over the years. But Jeeps in fact represented only a tiny fraction of the output of this huge company, originally founded by Louis Marx in 1918. Marx was reportedly manufacturing some 20% of all the toys sold in North America by December 1955, when Louis Marx and Santa Claus were together on the cover of Time magazine.

Other than Bart McNeil's article on the Early Marx Jeeps, the research for a thorough history of the Marx Jeeps has not been done. However, I have been collecting photos which I thought we should have online for reference. So here's our gallery of Marx Jeeps. -- Derek Redmond

The Marx CJ-2A went into production in the 1940's, more than a decade before the Tonka Jeep which it likely helped inspire. It's about an inch longer than the Tonka, and is also distinguished by an opening hood. Some versions had a D-cell battery under the hood for operating headlights! See also the instructions (50K JPEGs).

The original Marx Jeep had an all-metal interior, rather than plastic as on the Tonka. Early versions even had all-metal wheels and tires. See three examples (60K JPEG) showing metal wheels painted black, metal wheels lithographed with white details, and finally rubber wheels marked "LUMAR" (another trade name for Louis Marx and Co.)

Maybe the most famous of the many configurations of the Marx toy were the ones pulling a searchlight trailer, including one of the few examples of a toy Navy Jeep. See also the instructions (25K JPEGs).

Marx was always looking for ways to sell a trailer with their Jeeps, and for ways to exploit the cold-war era fascination with military technology, space exploration and robots.

A hand-sewn canvas top on some Jeeps required bow holders stamped into the body. Many of the brightly-colored civilian Jeeps also came with a trailer, but rather than a Bantam Jeep trailer it was a stepside pickup-style design. See an early red and blue example with metal wheels (30K JPEG).

The Marx grille is stamped but not perforated, and the flat windshield is vulnerable to damage. See the top, bottom, rear and trailer (50K JPEGs) of this nice mint-in-box example. The tires are labelled "Lumar" which was an abbreviation of "Louis Marx" and sometimes used as a brand name.

The most deluxe variation was the "Fix-All" Jeep with "four-way speed wrench" and "heavy-duty screw jack" which allowed removing the wheels and the hood. It also had electric lights and horn (a buzzer under the hood, 50K JPEG.) See also the left side and the bottom (50K JPEGs).

I'm not sure what year this ad dates from. $4.98 in the mid-1950s would be about $35.00 in 2008 -- not a bad price for a toy of this size and play value. There was also a smaller plastic Fix-All Jeep for $1.79; see the ad and the toy (20K JPEGs).

In the 1960s Marx responded to Tonka's 6-inch sandbox Jeep (right) with a slightly larger (6.5-inch) but almost identical toy (left). Its hood had squarer contours (40K JPEG) and it lacked the plastic headlights of the Tonka. Both toys came in a variety of colors and styles.

A 1968 version of the 6.5-inch Jeep was included in the "Mighty Marx" series of vehicles. See also top, bottom and rear view photos (50K JPEGs). Like the Tonka, it looks a lot like a CJ-3B.

This very early postwar toy is really only identifiable as a jeep because of its "Jumpin Jeep" label (50K JPEG). Similar toys were made with other drivers such as a fireman or a clown. The version of the Marx logo with the X in the center of the circle has often been misinterpreted as "Mar Toys."

The "Marx Toys" logo (30K JPEG) on this fanciful Jeep with hood-mounted cannon, identifies it as being marketed by the company, although it is otherwise a generic example of Japanese tinplate. Marx products were manufactured in three U.S. plants as well as a number of overseas facilities.

When plastic became a stable and economical alternative material in the late 1950s and 60's, Marx adopted it for vehicles as well as playsets and other toys. The one-piece molding typically meant the same color for exterior and interior.

The plastic mechanical Jeepster toys were powered by a reliable windup motor. See a front view and the molded logo (30K JPEGs).

The plastic "Tricky Action Jeep" was battery operated, and changed direction when it ran into an obstacle.

I haven't found a complete example of this simple plastic, unpowered Marx Jeep (see the logo, 40K JPEG). But I had to include it here since the shape of the grille and the Willys name on the hood clearly indicate it's a CJ-3B.

Thanks to Mike Boyink, Sam McKay, Steve Norse, Jeff Williams, Mike WInchester and others I am probably forgetting who sent me photos. Further contributions, as well as corrections or additional information, are welcome. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 14 December 2008 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond