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Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 8:15 AM

Being on the big side of 60, I still love Dinky Toys, Triang model trains, an Enya 10cc petrol engine,
Mecanno (well the Australian version with a 25 hole angle vs a flat 25 hole stamping)
and home made pond sailing catamarans carved out of foam with a hot wire.
So what are your best engineered toys, past, present and the future?

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#1

Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/13/2014 9:17 AM

My two favorite toys when I was a kid:

Mr. Machine (c 1962)

-----

My very favorite toy, c 1963. I don't remember what it was called or who made it.

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#3
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Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/13/2014 9:37 AM

The lower item reminds me of a building set I had. It had girders like that with plastic panels that could be attached that looked like walls and windows, like a modern skyscraper.

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#25
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Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/14/2014 10:41 AM

Could that have been "Girders and Panels"? ISTR that name.

(EDIT: I found "Girder and Panel Building Set")

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#28
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Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/14/2014 2:49 PM

Bayko?

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#31
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Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/14/2014 4:25 PM

I can represent myself as a small authority on Bayko, having a fairly comprehensive collection from the prewar Plimpton, postwar Plimpton and Meccano periods. Unfortunately I have to report that the overall engineering quality leaves much to be desired. It takes considerable skill to put the roof on a prewar Bayko building without breaking anything, and it is still not easy on the postwar models. Unless the rods are absolutely straight the building exercise can be one of great frustration.
The original material was Bakelite, not one of the strongest of plastics.

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#32
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Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/14/2014 4:32 PM

Bayko was a rod and plastic brick system not a girder and panel system.

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#37
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Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/15/2014 2:16 AM

Oooooo fight fight

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#2

Re: Best engineered toys, past, present and the future

07/13/2014 9:32 AM

Lionel trains.

Before that, I had an inexpensive set of Brio type trains that I'd spend hours playing with. I had a lot of track (plastic, not wood) that I could arrange in countless variations.

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#4

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 10:07 AM
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#5

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 10:41 AM

For best design I would say yo-yo, hula hoop, army men, erector set, lincoln logs, let's not forget the swingset....also used to play a lot of cowboys and indians, but had no guns or bows, just made the gesture and sound...same with cops and robbers.....cardboard boxes were always a coveted prize, and anything with wheels....A pile of sand was great, we used to get a dumptruck full every year or so for the yard...but I would say most of my time was spent exploring....wandering about....

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#6

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 10:55 AM

Injection molded plastic model cars were what I lived for. You know the ones. They had many of the parts still connected to the "trees" and you had to cut each one off and glue it together.

A bent metal coat hanger made a perfect holder for spray painting the body. Yes, coat hangers used to be metal (wire), not plastic.

I think they were about $2.50 USD back in the 1960's when I got my first real car, a 1955 Ford V-8. No more money for model cars after that.

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#33
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 4:58 PM

About twenty-five bucks these days. Revell has re-released some of their old models from Way Back. Even the boxes come in the original artwork. I'm not a car modeller, but my brother collects original, unopened kits and to date has collected about 300.

My fave models were Estes model rockets. Even launched a fieldmouse in one of their three-stagers, the Farside X, cushioning the payload section with lots of cotton balls. AstroMouse was ecstatic of course. Do you realise how hard it is to find mice with The Right Stuff?

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#7

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 11:10 AM

ALL GREAT MEMORIES ... everyone of them ... even if I didn't see them in my part of the world, I can easily imagine the joy and fun .... and maybe the inspiration to do a bit of engineering in later years. Thankyou!

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#8

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 12:10 PM

I was vacationing in Amarillo about 2 months ago, and was 'dragged' into a number of antique stores.

Some of the toys there brought back some good memories, it may have brought interest to go into engineering,

I always enjoyed 'tinker toys', 'Lincoln logs' and 'Monster factory' where you would make items in an small oven that came with that.... Burnt myself plenty of times on that.

But now-a-days maybe not so much the Best engineered due to child safety.

They had chemistry sets that was interesting,

how to refine crude oil, ages over 12, I thought was quite advanced

And chemistry sets, I loved playing with my brothers 'chemistry set'. Looking back on the caustics you would use, and experiment with reactions, making gun powder as well as other things that you would 'experiment' with, the society really sensitize it

Having been raised on a farm, it really showed what can happen with 'cause and effect', chemistry sets seemed to reenforced it.

I think the rapid proto-typing toys that I saw came out a few years ago will may develop an interest. But it is a low resolution so far.

Also lego's, that's replaced my Lincoln logs and tinker toys.

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#9

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 12:14 PM

The Erector set of the 50's-60's; A.C. Gilbert trains; Schwinn bicycles (the ones with the balloon tires and Bendix coaster brake; Marklin train; Lionel trains; Lincoln Logs; American Bricks, Tinker Toy; Lego; Buddy L trains; Chemcraft.

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#10

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 8:57 PM

Anything Heathkit and Ham Radio related...

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#16
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 2:15 AM

Remember the Star Roamer by Knight Kit? $39 from Allied Radio, c 1967.

Crap performance by modern standards but still my favorite because it was my first shortwave radio. Got my ham license many years later.

My elmer was Russ Beams, W8AAL, who kickstarted my electronics career by giving me my first electronics book, a dog-eared, ancient-by-that-time 1956 edition of ARRL's Radio Amateur's Handbook, and who supplied all the parts (including a brand-new 19" rack-mount chassis) for my first electronics project, a 0-400 VDC, 200 mA power supply based on vacuum tubes. Russ has been a Silent Key for about 20 years now.

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#11

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 9:34 PM
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#12
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 9:40 PM

I've got one of these at work:

They're fun.

I didn't think about it until I saw your post.

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#19
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 8:38 AM

I had one from Radioshack called Armatron. I loved that little thing.

I had forgotten about it until I saw your post.

Time to look one up on ebay.

Thanks!

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#23
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 10:00 AM

Yes! That's what I have.

I had one 30 years ago and gave it to my son.

I got one on e-bay about two years ago $45.00 as I recall. It's in my office at work.

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#17
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 5:01 AM

Reminiscent of a Large size Meccano set I once had (they came in sizes).

For me, I guess the description of 'favourite' relates to some stage of childhood, rather than favourite, period.

I had a replica pair of matching Colt 45 Peacemakers (cap guns), inlaid in pressed cardboard, covered in short-pile red velvet, c/w spare cylinders, cleaning kit and bullets.

Envy of the neighbourhood, I can tell you. Also, I was deadly, deadly fast OMG!! I did overdose on Audie Murphy, John Wayne westerns for a while.....but completely ruined by James Coburn's knife-throwing skills in The Magnificent Seven

Then there were the airplane kits (the fly-by-wire/string), made of balsawood and tracing paper, with a crank-start baby-bee motor (Ouch! even the memory stings).

SE, I do so understand your 'start over'....wanna draw ?

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#13

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/13/2014 11:07 PM

I had a bauxite cannon for awhile. Which led to attaching fireworks to balsa wood gliders. I'll say no more.

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#14

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 12:18 AM

Erector Sets; American Flyer train sets; Lincoln Logs; coat hangers, wire cutters and a needle nose plier (only limited by the imagination); taking mechanical and electrical things apart and trying to reassemble them; pouring lead for the plates, handling the acid/water, making and experimenting with lead-acid batteries; my own set of 2x4 blocks that were not the bought ones (I cut them); and anything in my fathers work shop or garage (the best were the ones I wasn't allowed to touch)

When I was about 5 y.o. my father, the EE, designed and built our first television set. He made the audio first and I would sit by his work bench looking at an oscilloscope connected to the audio and pretend it was the video of the tv to be as he was working on it.

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#15

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 2:12 AM

Plasticine

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#18

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 6:39 AM

To answer the headline question, the best engineered toy of the past and present has to be Meccano. There were other construction toys before Frank Hornby's invention of 1898, but his was the first true system. There were innumerable imitators, almost all copying the 1/2" hole spacing and Whitworth 5/32'" screw thread, including even the Stokys construction sets from Switzerland.
The Erector sets first appeared in 1913, coexisting with Meccano in the US for many years. i have no idea as to whether the early Erector sets were better engineered, but the brand name was eventually taken over by Meccano in 2000.
When I was a boy, I occasionally visited my father's laboratory. He was a government metallurgist, and the lab had a large Meccano collection for building small prototypes of sieves and crushers.
There is, of course, the argument that Lego, which in the Technics form has largely supplanted Meccano, is better engineered. Having experimented with both, I still find the Meccano concept more versatile, with the Lego system being based on an irritatingly large number of tiny pieces. Admittedly, Lego is the only way to go if you require pneumatics or electronics in the construction.

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#20

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 8:48 AM

This was miy favorite then a TRS-80 u-build kit(sorry no pic)

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#27
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 12:13 PM

sorry it was a sinclair zx-81 kit....had a trs-80 too. Good times...foggy memories.

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#21

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 8:54 AM

So if we were to consider what might be part of the best engineered toys in the future ... what would you like to see included? Do I guess that SolarEagle will have a nuc component in there somewhere?

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#22

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 9:53 AM

My personal favorite:

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#24

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 10:09 AM

I must say what a great idea for a blog, brilliant!!

My favorite was I managed to save enough pocket money to buy several "things" in the 50's in DIY kit form.

One of them was a single channel 27MHZ control system for boats and planes. Rudder and engine control only at first.

Then later "Galloping Ghost" using same transmitter and receiver....

Both kits together cost less than 5 UK Pounds. Were valve (Tubes) and need an HT and an LT Battery....expensive, but it worked.....built several aircraft to fly it with.

I modified the TX in the early 60s to change it into a Flight Link Analog proportional control system, that was published in an early UK RCM&E magazine (they are still going!). It had features that are still not "standard" on modern equipment....

I was the first for many years in my area with full proportional radio control system!! As to buy was HUGELY expensive and doing it yourself was the only method I could afford!!

A new Transistorized receiver using MAT100 and MAT101 transistors. You had to buy twice as many as you needed and test them as some would not work at 27 MHZ....

No pcbs available, sheets of plastic/phenol(?) with holes drilled through to hold components and solder wired on the back.....it worked....Built my own servos (Analog!!) from mighty midget motors....

I also built early glass fiber fishing rods (solid) from kits in the 50's, still have one of them somewhere...caught some good fish on those....sea and freshwater.

I made several steam engines, including an extremely simple (no valving) 4 cylinder steam engine that was self starting, amazed a few kids!! Copied off an old single cylinder Mamod traction engine basically and added three more cylinders.......for a 13 year old with NO metalwork instruction or help, 100% self taught!!! I bought the cylinders and pistons from Mamod as spares for very little money.....

It looked a bit like an old aircraft piston engine, 4 cylinders, except I believe they always start with 5 or more cylinders for proper aircraft!!!

I never put it in anything as I was soon in the RN with little spare time...it would have driven a large ship model quite well if I had spent the time making a reversing system.....my best there idea was to have two, one for fwd and one for backward on each shaft.....that would have worked!! But I never bothered...

I was lucky in that we had an old metal lathe in the woodwork shop at school that I was allowed to use without any guidance.....that would not happen today, too many regulations...

Happy days!!!

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#44
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/17/2014 7:15 PM

You remind me of my own childhood. Based on the 50's, I would guess you are my age. I grew up in New York City in the 40's and kids really didn't have many toys to play with, other than the ones listed. We had to explore what was available and improvise a lot. In the big city, bicycles, skates, sleds were not suitable. The kids who were into sports (I wasn't one of them), were into baseball, so gloves and bats were their thing. The other kids (me included), were into trains, chemistry, electronics and later on high fidelity sound and of course cars. When I was 10 (I think), I got a Delta drill press. I also was into short wave radios and test equipment. Much time was spent going through tool, chemical and electronics catalogs (A lot can be learned from catalogs). I had a whole library of just about every tool maker and electronics company in existence. My true love was model trains. I went from Lionel to HO scale to the present 1-1/2 scale ride-on trains. Many would say I wasted a whole lifetime pursuing my train passion. Maybe I could have been a millionaire instead, but somehow I think I made the right choice. I am 80; have everything I need and am happy with my wife, children and grand children. I feel I am blessed with my life choices. I don't think I would want to change any of it. Excuse me if I got off track. Toys have molded who we are, at least some of us.

Toys have played a bigger part in our development than we realize. Kids today don't have that to fall back on. Fifty years from now, I wonder what my grand kids will be doing. It's kind of frightening to ponder upon.

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#45
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/17/2014 9:31 PM

Yesterday, I spent time with a 4 and 2 year old. Their favourite toys are their self made timber semi-trailer trucks and planes of offcut 1" square aluminium tubing and linking knuckles. Some might imagine them as 'messy' but they know them to have twin engines and freight carrying capability.
The same wheels were used in a community model car event. See my little website www.catracing.net Like your experience, who knows where it may all go?!

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#26

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 11:50 AM

Another Australian construction block treasure of the 1950's .... Playmate's Builda-Brix.
The following is taken from a web search.
"Bilda-brix, the 1950s Australian plastic brick construction outfit, manufactured by Playmate,
moulded by Moulded Products (Australasia) Limited.
Also incorrectly known as Buildabrix, Bildabrix, Buildabricks and Bildabricks.

BILDA-BRIX
."For GOOD Girls and Boys"
The 1950s Australian construction outfit
Sold under the PLAYMATE Toys logo in Australia..
Updated 17th July, 2013
American Plastic Bricks, etc. David's site.
Size comparison with Tri-ang Arkitex
Freelance models | Set no.2 and LETTERS
Other PLAYMATE Toys
Date of availability New
TRI-ANG TRAINS | CB&M Entry

Manufactured by Moulded Products (Australasia) Ltd and Downs & Poole Ltd, Merton St, Trentham, New Zealand

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#46
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/18/2014 2:37 PM

The American bricks I remember (I think they were called American Bricks) looked like the Bilda-Brix, but were rough textured like a real brick. This was around the mid 40's.

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#47
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/18/2014 2:55 PM

Update: I found the bricks on E-Bay. They were made by Halsam of a wood/composite material. The texture gave them a more realistic look.

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#48
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/19/2014 3:54 AM

Some common thinking out there. Bilda-Brix had a '3 brick look' edge texture.
The square half brick shows 1 1/2 brick markings on the exposed side.
There was a half brick white capping.
The cardboard windows with top & bottom tabs fit into the small slits on the edge of bricks.

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#29

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 3:01 PM

For a modern day erector set, look at 80/20 aluminum extrusions. The electro/mechanical breadboard kits from Berg are also interesting.Although not toys as such, they are toys for engineers.

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#30

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 3:32 PM

I hardly ever got any toys as a kid. Seems we were poor & I never knew it. But one xmas I did get a Daisy BB gun when I was about 10 (50+ yrs ago) That was & still is my best childhood toy. (Still have it & it still works) Now my favorites toys are real guns. I especially love shooting clays!!

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#38
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/15/2014 1:32 PM

Ahhh the BB gun.....I do hope the bird population has recovered....and the've fixed those streetlights.....and that neighbor forgives me....not that I'm admitting to anything mind you....

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#34

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 5:08 PM

This thread made my week. Five Stars!

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#35

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 6:56 PM

My favorite toys were marbles and blocks of wood. Would 'engineer' the blocks of wood into wonderful boats and others great stuff. I also like giant boxes and old oil barrels, used for barrel races :) Had to really have good balance to stay on them.

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#36
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/14/2014 8:02 PM

You reminded me... Some of my most favorite toys were a rock and a stick..... Or anything we had on the farms what I would call 'bone yard'

The bone yard, was older out dated, or worn out equipment. My brothers and I had a lot of war games there also..... It got a little rough when we got BB guns, another great toy..... Fortunately no one put out their eye

Or playing with our GI Joes which we would also make parachutes and throw them off the silo and try to hit the cow tank, that is if we weren't losing them playing in the sawdust pile or making forts from the slab wood pile from our saw mill, not going to say what the GI Joes went through around the 4th of July, but some of our Joes lost limbs.

We would also make forts Out of hay bales.

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#39

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/15/2014 2:04 PM

When my folks would buy anything that came in a large cardboard box (a mattress or whatever) my brothers and I would pop the ends open get inside and crawl over the brier patch. The idea was to crawl until the thing started skidding on an especially tall bush then stand up inside it and fall forward over the bush and keep crawling. We would emerge on the other side of what was otherwise an impenetrable thicket of brambles. Great fun; we called the thus transformed box a tank tread.

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#40
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Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/16/2014 2:08 AM

Great post, captures the joy of childhood. Makes me want to and get a big box and try it!

Del

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#41

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/16/2014 6:14 AM

Lots of favourites mentioned, Mecanno, Lego, Bayco all of which I enjoyed in my youth. Some others to add, Scalextric car racing (got me into 24th scale model car racing) & Jetex rocket powered cars.

The other thing that entertained me for hours was taking apart any mechanism, principally old clocks although I was never as good at putting them back together.

A great thread, thanks.

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#42

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/16/2014 1:28 PM

A bent straight pin in the shape of a hook, a piece of string, a small branch about two feet long and a slice of bread kept me busy for hours catching minnows at the creek.

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#43

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/17/2014 8:23 AM

I had lots of fun with my Radio Shack 150-in-one electronic set.

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#49

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/19/2014 4:20 PM

When I was a kid (hell, what am I saying? I still am!) I always headed to the Electrical/Plumbing section whenever mum took us to the store. Never went to the Toy Department. Why? Those were toys, whereas I wanted to play with the Real McCoy.

One of my favorite 60s TV series was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, especially that really impressive control panel with all those flashing lights that moved in unison (the same one that later appeared in The Time Tunnel). I thought it was coolest thing since sliced bread, and so I set out to build my own after a fashion.

Our local grocery stored their wooden vegetable crates out behind the store for trash pickup. I purloined two of them, spray-painted them and outfit them with switches, outlets, pilot lights and plugged in two of those blue, rectangular electroluminescent night lights as radar screens. In one of the crates I put a crystal radio I'd built a few months earlier. The 'desk' in my room was a huge wooden shipping crate dad brought home from work. Inside it I placed a rug, pillows and my control panels. It was a 'spaceship!' Loads of fun!

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#50

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/19/2014 4:48 PM

This "Space Shuttle" wasn't well engineered, but it was well used after we had the fun of putting it together. There was just enough room for all 3 boys.

Cost about $5.00 USD.

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#51
In reply to #50

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/20/2014 1:00 AM

I have to agree, the best toys is when you put your own personal time in it.

http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/12567/DIY-Peddle-Tractors

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#52

Re: Best Engineered Toys, Past, Present and the Future

07/21/2014 12:44 AM

I also got crossed up in the "poof it's gone" and "stirring up the tigers" but in the interests of simple engineered toy fun, and sharing time with the younger folk, I thought I would wait and then add this simple postscript. Oh yes, I have enjoyed ALL the posts!
The following is a simple pond boat with 2 water bottles, painted cardboard to extend its life and a fishing line to retrieve and reset sail/rudder settings etc. Enjoy the racing with multiple boats. (Add a little water to the bottles for stability when breeze is high).

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