Mattel Switch 'N Go



At-a-glance information:

Item  Switch 'N Go
Manufacturer Mattel Incorporated.
Location Hawthorne, CA
Manufactured 1965-1967


I believe Switch 'N Go to be one of the most cleverly designed toys ever made.

What is especially nice about these is that, like train sets, there is an appeal to the young and old alike. It takes a little skill to get them to work exactly right, but kids can set up basic layouts in a matter of moments. Like the packages say, there are infinite layout possibilities.

When you read about these sets, uninformed people think that the various Switch 'N Go vehicles are air powered. This is simply not the case. They are battery operated.

Air is used, however, to actuate various switches to change the direction of the vehicles. The vehicle's track is non other than very thin flexible tubing. The tubing is of course hollow, allowing air to pass through. There are silvery colored switches that allow a straight course through, or upon applying air to the 'track circuit' if you will, they change the course of the vehicle. The entire track layout is pressurized when actuated in this manner.

I have also had great fun stringing bulk telephone cable around the living room, and the vehicles of course, follow along the crazy pattern. You could, if you wanted, use sections of such cable for very long lengths (provided you have the room) and sections of the pressure-izable Mattel tubing for switching areas. Simply butt the two cords against each other. Each vehicle stays on the track my means of a swiveling, grooved wheel.

I believe that Mattel stopped the production of these sets to make room for the launch of Hot Wheels in 1967/1968.

The Vehicles

Mattel made a series of really neat vehicles for these sets.

1) The GT Racer

This unit came in either Red or Blue. I have seen alot more of the Blue in the Sets, and more Red ones in the individual car packs. Chrome accessories and decals were put on by the new owner. Each car had the adjustable 'gears', and a hidden flip mechanism. This spring loaded mechanism, when tripped, would cause the car to flip off the track!

2) The Dump Truck

This wonderfully designed truck is just full of engineering. The bed is sculptured, so when tipped, marbles efficiently come out the back, and then the bed comes back to normal position. Tipping is achieved by special standoffs that catch the bed and tip it.

On the back, a hitch with a spring load retainer will allow the matching trailer to hook on, and also be released, again by air activated switches.


Click on the truck picture to see the Dump Loader Super Contruction Set in action!



3) Trailer

You will love this trailer. You can see it ready to hook up to the hitch on the back of the truck. It is the same color, wheel type, etc. It tips marbles also, and notice the extended tail gate trip handle. Trailers are often found in original packages, unopened!!!!






4) Tanks

Tanks were available in the sets and individually, in either dark grey or olive. Individually packed tanks came with two missles. One tank came with the Military Set, two, one of each color, with the Battle Set.

Here is a picture of both types of tanks. Notice the turret which is manually rotated. You can see it better on the olive one, without the missile loaded. Each missile is spring loaded and individually tripped by triggers underneath the tank, via an air powered switch. The square panel at the back is the target of each tank. When hit, the tank 'explodes', that is, a spring loaded mechanism makes the tank jump off the track and disabled!

The tanks are made of the type of plastic that is so durable, I am sure the bodies will still be intact in the year 2500!

We believe that the space vehicle in the Lost-in-Space set is based on the tank, but this needs to be substantiated. Another interesting aspect of the tank is that there are no front wheels. There are rear driving wheels, and the swiveling tracking wheel, but no front axle and wheels, although, the hold-downs are there!!! Also important, the front wheels are non-functional in ALL vehicles!


How they Work

The vehicles use a transverse mounted motor, located at the rear of each vehicle. From the motor, two drive shafts protrude. When the car is set down, its own weight forces the shafts to directly contact both rear wheels. When power is applied, this direct drive system moves the car forward. On some vehicles, two little two-stepped adapters are provided to slip over the shafts, and effectively change the gear ratio, if you will, depending on what step is against the wheel. This will allow for a choice of either higher speed, or more hill-climbing ability. All vehicles use one D battery.

The Sets

In 1965 there were four sets. They were:

The GT Car Set--The Twin GT Car Set--The Military Tank Set--The Battle Set

Here are descriptions and parts lists:

Here is the outside of the battle set box! This is great, because two people can control individual air controllers. Your turret mounted missile could be used to fire on the card board targets that you set up on easels, and the horizontal missiles can be fired onto the back of the opposing tanks to make it explode!

There is also a pillbox unit that fires its missile at you! The set is the largest one ever made.

This illustration also shows very nicely the air switches, in silver, and the Y switches, in yellow.

All sets use the same kind of tubing.


In 1966, additional sets were added:

The Dump Truck Set--The Dump Loader Super Construction Set--The Construction Company Set


Here is the actual tag that originally hung from the handle of the Constuction Company Set, and mine had never been




Here is the folded and closed set. It opens as shown to the left. A great set!!!

Here are the typical components to the set. The yellow tubing originally comes as one long piece, cut as per the instructions. Plugs will terminate the air flow, and similar looking red extensions will continue the linear track. The yellow Y-switch allows that for multiple tracks to join into one. The silver units are Y Air Switches, and a red portion will rise in the middle of the switch, and cause track changes.

The rectangular item is the air pump, squeezing it pressurizes the track. There is another model of this pump, with an accordian shape, and it can be seen below in the GT Car Set.


There were also two character based sets.

Lost 'N Space--Batman







The most common of all sets is the GT Car Set. You will see these in vintage toy stores, on EBAY, very common, and not expensive. Also, wierdly, there are always ones floating around that were never opened and played with. You explain. I have one, mint, never used, decals never applied. Take a look:


All I did was place the GT racer and the manual into zip bags. Notice that the chrome accessories were never fitted to the car, nor the decals. You can see the wire tie holding the bridge to the carton.




The Twin GT car set is more rare, but you get the fun of a red and a blue car, and the Automatic Gate Crossing.

The Military Set is relatively easy to find, but the twin-tank Battle Set is tougher.

The Dump Truck Set is rare, the Dump Loader Super Construction Set is very hard to find, and the Construction Company Set is somewhere in between the two in scarcity.

The Batman sets are out there, but very expensive.

The Lost-in-Space sets are extremely rare and getting way out of hand in price. Plus, that styrofoam Jupiter ship is often kind of dirty and dingy, and you can't clean styrofoam. People will buy them though. Just not for me, until maybe I get just a little more nutty.


The above photo is from the Sears 1967 Wishbook Catalog. Photo courtesy Shane Johnson.


Note: If any reader has one of the Batman or Lost in Space sets, please send a picture in. You will get a photo credit, and I will profile your set!


Things to Look For

I have had great fun with Switch 'N Go. However, I have had to do restoration on alot of the vehicles but at least I have gotten very competent with their repair. The dump trucks break easily. The rear section is under-engineered, and usually you find these trucks with the whole back end falling off, or about to. That back portion is under stress from the friction fit of the motor, and the hinge of the dump bed. I have two trucks that were both broken this way, and I have repaired them to a point where you can't really tell they were broken.

Many of the battery holders are corroded. These need to be carefully cleaned. Also, the plastic of the vehicles is really sensitive to battery corrosion, so be ready to refabricate pieces if the unit sat with battery acid on it.

The most durable of all the vehicles are the tanks.


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