Sunday, February 28, 2010

Motorific Tractor - Trailer

I still have one of my favorite childhood toys, my Motorific cars and truck. While the cars are commonplace on the the toy collector scene, it appears that the tractor-trailer, (or Articulated Lorry, as our British friends would call it), is quite rare. My guess is that few are even aware what a cleverly engineered toy this is.  That is why I consider the Motorific Semi-Truck "blog-worthy" While the Motorific cars went forward only, (one variant had a clever two-speed transmission- perhaps a subject for a future blog), the Semi could back up and unhitch it's trailer.  Then you could have it return, back up and hitch the trailer, then drive away. All in all, an innovative bit of engineering that deserves to be remembered. 
The loading dock has a series of guide grooves and levers which started, stopped, and reversed the truck; released or hitched the trailer, and switched the truck into the appropriate groove for loading/unloading; or simply passing by.
Step one:
Truck enters loading dock track.
Pressing Lever #1 will direct truck into dock area.

Step two:

Truck enters dock and advances towards the reversing trip.

Step three:

Truck hits trip and begins to back up.
Tractor's reverse guide pin drops into slot.

 Step 4:

Truck backs up.
Note how trailers wheels are steerable.
An ingenious design which made the whole idea possible.

Step 5:    Truck parks and shuts off.
Step 6:   Lever #1 releases trailer.
Step 7:   Lever #2 starts truck.  Truck leaves loading dock,
               resetting trips for next time.

Here are some inside views of the works.
The chassis was compact, and unfortunately, a bit fragile.  Mine has a few cracks, which I glued years ago.  But I played with it a lot back then. Look closely and you will see tire marks on the tracks and chrome worn thin from handling.
The chassis had to fit a gear reduction drive, reversing mechanism, steerable front wheels and retractable reversing guide pin, a long with 2 AA batteries and a motor in a very small space.

Bottom view:  Forward/Off/Reverse switch visible, along with front and rear guide pins, and trailer hitch/steering mechanism.

I remember paying $20 for the whole set back in 1970, after the Motorific line was discontinued and the set was relegated to the discount rack.  A recent Ebay search revealed no sets for sale, but one person wanted $69 for the bare tractor chassis alone. I would venture to say that my $20 was not a bad investment.
Sadly, not just the Motorific line, but the Ideal Toy Company itself, has passed into history.


  1. Nice article! I also have an Action Highway set...the 101 with this exact tractor trailer!

  2. I really enjoyed the getting info on the trucks, I had no idea they were so neat. Keep them rolling!

  3. Fantastic!!! I still have my truck too, missing son parts but still wonderful, thanks for posting!

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