|One of my favorite vehicles, and certainly Mattel's answer to the Lunar Rover, the Astro Trac is an all-time favorite. Debuting in the 1968 Toyfair catalog, the Astro Trac was powered by one "D" Cell battery. Three things distinguish the Astro Trac from the other vehicles as part of Mattel's Man In Space line: the Astro Trac may be "steered" by setting the pivot point for the front axel; the unusual foam tires; and finally the speed at which the vehicle tackles terrain.
The Astro Trac resembles a seated car, with a large fuel or oxygen tank above the back axle (the battery slipped into the tank and the vehicle was made to move by turning the tank cover). A control column comes up from the front and provides a pod for the astronaut to drive the vehicle. The large foam-rubber back tires provide plenty of gripping action. There is also a trailer hitch pin on the back, to aid in the pulling of items such as the Mobile Launch Pad.
One thing to note is that the back tires are extemely fragile due to their breaking down over time. Exposure to heat and air accelerates this problem. One almost never finds an example with original wheels, and when they are original, they are usually deterioted and refuse to re-form when pressed (mushy comes to mind). There are several solutions for tire replacement, however almost exact replicas may be purchased from Bill Ystrom. Please review the Restoration page in the Resources: Restoration area of the site.
Astro Trac Images:
Side 1 | Side 2 | Top View | Bottom View | Back View | Quarter View
The box is made of corrugated cardboard printed on all sides (in black, white and blue ink), except two sides which have applied a full-color, process-printed label (top and front). The box measures 14 1/4" by 9" by 7". Copyright is 1967. The box reads: "Mighty, mobile planet explorer!...Universal astro-foam traction wheels...Skims dust dunes...Climbs lunar rocks...Circles volcanic moon craters."
Additional Box Images:
Top | Back | End | Bottom | Insert
Mattel #6302-0920 Astro Trac
Mattel Catalog Specifications:
(First appearance: Mattel Toys Fall 1968 "Toy Fair" Catalog Page 15)
New Astro Trac #6302
Rugged mobile explorer with astro-foam traction rear wheels!
Space designed for Major MATT MASON or SGT. STORM.
Battery-powered with front wheels that steer, space labels, instructions. 7" Long.
Std. Pack: 6/12 Doz.
Wt: 12 Lbs.
What strikes me as most unusual about this vehicle is the stock number. Most MMM items were released in the relative order of their stock numbers (when items were released together during the same year, the numbers were mostly grouped together). The fact that the Astro Trac has such an early number suggest another explanation to me. I believe that Mattel originally intended to release the Space Rover as depicted on the cover of the 1967 Toyfair Catalog and in the Starlog Guide to Science Fiction Toys article. For some reason (most likely the mechanics of getting such a heavy toy to successfully climb a string, as it appears was intended for it), the idea was scrapped. I think the toy went through several iterations before becoming the Astro Trac as released. I have a prototype made from a modified Space Rover (it is molded in silver plastic, has obvious cut marks where the body was altered, and lacks the Mattel logo on the control column). This Space Rover has had large wheels applied to the four corners, with the tires covered in old-fashioned hair curlers. The word "Snow Cat" is written on the tank along with the designers' names. The entire vehicle is spray-painted silver. I think that this was the "missing link" between the Space Rover and Astro Trac.
Since the stock number is so early, this supports my theory that the toy was intended for an earlier release, but required some more R&D before ultimately being changed to the released form.
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