- Written by eric
Haltom City, Texas – January 4, 2024 – The DFW Elite Toy Museum in Haltom City, Texas is spotlighting the only known 1950s Atom Jet Racer complete with its original box in its “Robots and Space Toys” exhibit. The recently opened exhibit gives visitors a rare glimpse into mid-20th century space toy history.
According to Museum Director Brian Sturgeon, the Atom Jet Racer is likely the most popular toy in the museum’s collection. The scarcity of the Atom Jet Racer makes it highly prized by collectors of large tin toys, and as a result, one of the museum’s most treasured pieces. When American Pickers host Mike Wolfe visited the museum in 2021, this one immediately caught his eye, in the segment titled Fort Knox of Toys.
“If I had to choose my favorite toy at the DFW Elite Toy Museum, without hesitation I would choose the Atom Jet Racer,” Sturgeon said. “It’s truly marvelous. When Atom Jet Racers first came out, they were fairly affordable tin toys. Because of that, they were popular and well-loved, which sometimes resulted in the toys incurring damage, or worse, destruction. That’s the main reason very few are in existence today,” he added.
The 27-inch-long Atom Jet Racer was made in the mid-1950s by Japanese manufacturer Yonezawa, and very few are known to have survived. Displayed with its original box, this toy was produced for just a very short period of time. The scarcity of the Atom Jet has made it even more highly sought after by collectors of big tin toys.
The futuristic Atom Jet Racer was one of the last large-scale tin friction-propelled toys ever made. Light sea foam green in color, this car was designed originally as a racer-jet hybrid. The friction motor generates a loud roaring noise vaguely reminiscent of a jet engine.
Atom Jet’s highly detailed workmanship is simply impeccable. Exceptional lithograph images are vibrant and extensive on all surfaces, including rivets, and even appear underneath the vehicle on its chassis. The company later discontinued this highly unusual detail as a cost-cutting measure, and the chassis was simply painted black in later toy lines.
The tiny, goggle-wearing driver sits confidently in his transparent plastic cockpit bubble, protected by a nickel-plated, enclosed cage frame. Fabricated of lithographed tin, this little guy has the word “Dream” emblazoned across his chest, and he certainly looks ready to propel his vehicle to infinity and beyond.
Inside the body of the Atom Jet Racer, sparklers with flints shoot sparks from the back of the vehicle as it rolls. Other features include red front headlights, chrome-plated hubcaps with the word “Atom” stamped into them, large 3 ¼-inch hard rubber tires, eight exhaust fans, and a built-in siren. The front grill is quite large, and contains three cut-out stars on the top. Three red cone-shaped tail jets simulate “flames” on the rear, while a large dorsal fin lends a look of sleek elegance.
The DFW Elite Toy Museum is the brainchild of businessman Ron Sturgeon, who first started collecting toy Mercedes cars more than 40 years ago. Sturgeon expanded his interests to include rare and vintage automobile themed items such as race cars and scale models. As the years progressed, Sturgeon’s interests expanded to include vintage toys, unique signs, automotive memorabilia, and other rare and historic collectibles. As his burgeoning collection grew, Sturgeon hatched a plan to open the DFW Elite Toy Museum, home to the current special exhibit, “Robots and Space Toys.” This exhibit runs through March 2024, and contains a plethora of robots and space toys from the mid-20th century, including Gumbo the Robot Italian Gumball Dispenser, the full set of incredibly rare Gang of Five robots, and the unusual Volkswagen Beetle Space Patrol Car.
About DFW Elite Toy Museum
Rare cars, dog antiques, collectible toys, and hard-to-find memorabilia are featured at the DFW Elite Toy Museum, which contains more than 3,000 pieces collected by serial entrepreneur and real estate developer Ron Sturgeon. Admission is free to the dog-friendly museum, which is located at 5940 Eden Drive in Haltom City, Texas. On display now at the museum is a special “Robots and Space Toys” exhibit, featuring some unique and hard-to-find robots. The exhibit, which can be seen during the museum’s regular hours, allows visitors to experience mid-20th century space toy history in person. Sturgeon owns the only two museums in Haltom City, a suburb of Fort Worth, the toy museum and the salon and spa museum.
Featured in the popular book “100 Things to Do in Dallas-Fort Worth Before You Die,” the toy museum is open to the public, and hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, and most Saturdays. Special events and groups are welcome with advance notice. View this video to discover how Sturgeon started his collection more than 40 years ago, and how that led to opening the museum. Learn more by visiting the website at dfwelitetoymuseum.com. You can also follow the museum’s Facebook page.