Monday, December 3, 2012

The Santanator

I found this Ho Ho Hobo laying on the basement floor of the estate sale where I bought the box of arrowheads I blogged about last Spring.  People were stepping over him, but I could see he was an early Japanese battery-operated toy.  I looked beyond his filth and brought him home for $1.

He reminded me of Art Carney in The Twilight Zone episode "Night of the Meek".

He wasn't working and clearly needed a cleaning, so I began the process of breaking him down.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear!  This thing looked like The Terminator underneath!

After a little work on the wiring to his early LED eyes, The Santanator became self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th, 1997...

After disabling him, I continued taking him apart. 

I greased and oiled his gears and fixed his battery contacts which had corroded from old batteries.

Inside I found something I've observed in other Japanese toys of the 1950's -- recycled tin cans.  Post-war Japan experienced a shortage of materials and scrap metal was put into use for such mundane items as toys. The last time I saw this was in some noisemakers I blogged about here.  The odd thing was the can appeared to be double labeled.  Once as Budweiser and again as Piels Beer.  Piels was a Brooklyn brewery unrelated to Anheuser-Busch, so I'm not sure how that would have happened.

The feet were made from an orange juice can:

and a Pepsi can with what appears to be Urdu writing:

Standing before you in all his glory:

I found the manufacturer on the motor.  It was made by the unfortunately-named KKK Toys of Japan.

My long-suffering wife washed his clothes for me.

He needed a replacement beard, but the newer synthetic materials didn't look right.  I needed an older sacrificial Santa and I found him at another estate sale.

Stripped of his beard, I found a creepy flesh-colored, moulded beard underneath:

After the beard transplant:

I also used a bit of the beard to recreate the ball on Santa's hat.  Here he is reassembled.

In operation:

I'll be back.


  1. i'm so behind on commenting on your posts! busy december is busy.

    HORRIFYING. how do you keep from having nightmares about it?

    great teardown & rebuild. i had no idea they reused aluminum in toys from japan back in the day. the inside is even more fascinating than the outside of this... thing.

  2. What is the self aware date? Is that from the movie?

  3. Quote from The Terminator. Skynet became self-aware on that date. Looks like it's running a little behind according to my watch.

  4. Nicely restored, those lights sure are bright, I'm told it's best to use weaker batteries (dollar store) in the old stuff as newer alkalines can burn them out! The donor beard santa resembles Burl Ives once you swiped his beard!

  5. @jimm: I definitely see the resemblence! Maybe I'll just paint his beard white and go with that.

  6. A true work of art and craftsmanship.


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