Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Memories of SSP Racers

When I was a kid, specifically when I was in second grade, there was one toy that all the boys had, and I mean all the boys. I'm specifying because sometimes the class conflicts squooshed their way through the mud to the surface and there were toys that some kids had, and other kids just wished they had. This was different. It was an equalizer. I'm talking about Kenner's SSP Racers.

SSP stood for Super Sonic Power, at least that's what my addled forty-six year-old mind tells me. I'm sure Google could help, but what's the fun in that, right? These were sleek plastic cars (and sometimes motorcycles) anywhere from six to ten inches long that had only one wheel. They might appear to have more than one, but the others were faux. That one wheel was primary in a basic system of gears that could be wound up and spun at high speed by pulling a toothed plastic strip through them. By pulling the 'T-stick' and placing the car on the ground, floor, whatever semi-flat surface - they would take off like, well, like racers.

Kenner must have released dozens of models over the course of a few years and like I said, everybody had 'em, would bring 'em to school and race 'em at recess. You could set up ramps, make 'em do tricks - and even have your own demolition derbys - and this was before Kenner got the hint and made their own special SSP Demolition Derby, but more on that later.

What I remember most is how important the model you had was, whether you picked it out yourself, or your parents did, or it was a gift - you could be identified by your model. It might sound odd, but almost forty years later I can still remember who in second grade class had which SSP Racers. I had a blue Indy Racer, which I wanted, I loved the Indianapolis 500 when I was a kid, and then I also had two Siamese Slingshots, one green and black, and one chromatic copper. That was one of the later waves of SSP Racers, chrome colors.

Of the kids in my second grade class, John P. had the Black Jack (did it only come in black?), John F. had the golden Rail Bird, Mark L. had the Two Much, John M. the Jet Star, Bobby T. the Super Stocker… well, you get the idea. We used to race them across the asphalt and up and down a steep ramp used by the food service. Great fun.

Later Kenner released the SSP Demolition Derby, which came with two different sets, a pick-up truck and a Volkswagen bug, and in the other one, the one I didn't have, a station wagon and I think a sedan. Unlike the futuristic modeling of the regular SSP cars, these actually looked like standard cars, and beat-all-to-hell ones at that. The gimmick was that when the front bumper was impacted, the doors, hoods and trunks would fly off. Cool, right?

But the best part was the set came with two ramps so the cars to collide in mid-air. Those ramps got lots of use, and not just with the Demolition Derby cars. We all used them with the regular SSP Racers as well, and a year or two later when the Evel Knievel rage took over, everyone used those ramps for the Stunt Cycle. No offense to Ideal, but your ramps sucked, Kenner's were the fo' shizzle.

Forty years later, you can find SSP Racers sometimes in stores, usually in generic brands. You see a lot more of them on eBay or on YouTube. Here's a site where people share their memories: click here. One thing's for sure, they won't be forgotten.

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  1. Ah, SSP racers! I can still hear the sound of them crashing into the end of the hallway! But did you ever get the web of your hand caught in the pullstring? Ouch!

  2. Wow, it's like we must have been classmates or something. I am also 46 at the time of this posting. My older brother and I each had a car. (probably around 2nd grade)
    His was the Laker Special and I had the metallic blue G.T. Coupe...both with a flint stone to make sparks as it ran.

    We used to have great fun with these "tough as nails" cars.

    It wasn't until one winter around the 4th grade, that we discovered one of the coolest things ever.

    We ran are cars down the snow and ice packed streets. The results were hilariously awesome. They would race straight for awhile then turn some "donuts", crash into a curb, race straight again, turn some more nuts then off again.

    It was some crazy stuff. It's like we discovered a brand new toy. So we purposely crashed into things to see the reaction of the cars.

    I discovered your blog while researching my old toys from my childhood.

    What a great toy. I have a 7 year old boy and will most certainly buy a couple of cars so that I can pass that joy along to him.

  3. Anonymous5:21 PM

    Memory lane!

  4. Anonymous4:30 AM

    I had a yellow sidewinder, tommy had a blackjack, michael had a super stocker and greg had a railbird. My sidewinder beat them all!!!

  5. Christmas, 1971, my aunt an uncle (the favorites, since they gave toys instead of clothes) gave SSP racers to my cousins, my brother, and me. I had the green Two Much. One of my cousins received the blue dune buggy. I'm afraid I can't remember the other two racers. My grandparents had a sidewalk that ran all the way around their house, and we spent that Christmas afternoon racing our new SSP's.

    And, here is my SSP coincidence; I know the resting place of one of those racers that we received. Decades later, that house became my parents' house. My family and I were visiting and, while going to sleep on Christmas Eve, I thought of that 1971 Christmas where we boys were racing our toys on the sidewalk just outside that bedroom window. After opening presents on Christmas morning, I went tromping through the woods behind the house, and these woods are also behind the house where my cousins lived. That Christmas afternoon, I saw a hint of blue through the leaves that I had never noticed before... and I have spent many afternoons wandering through those woods. It was the SSP dune buggy. After forty-something years in the elements, the plastic is weather-brittled, but it's still recognizable. I'm glad I saved a pic.

  6. My dad, Joe Burck, designed the first two sets of SSPs. He worked for Marvin Glass and Associates at the time. He also designed the Evel Knievel toys and was with Evel's entourage at the famous Snake River Canyon jump. SSPs were, indeed, the best boys' toy of the 1970s.

  7. That's awesome, Adam!

  8. Anonymous8:04 AM

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Like another posted, I found your blog while researching my old toys. My SSP was the Blue Monday dragster. I loved that thing, but not so sure my mom did, as I would race it through the house, usually resulting in a loud crash into a wall somewhere. I think I may need to hit up E-bay and buy one.

  9. Anonymous2:30 PM

    I was lucky; I had a Laker Special. Does anyone remember a comic book featuring SSP racers? Some sort of no-holds-barred race as I recall, the villain driving the Black Widow equipped with a grenade launcher. Gold Key Comics I think.

    1. Folks who are regular readers here know that I'm a big comics guy as well, but I was unable to find anything like this, beyond the SSP ads in the comics. If anyone knows about it, please let us know - I would love to check this out!

  10. I got my first SSP as a Chex cereal promotion I believe.A purple Motorcycle. I was hooked.

  11. I got my first SSP as a Chex cereal promotion I believe.A purple Motorcycle. I was hooked.