SSP Racers

SSP Racers

The zippiest, funnest model cars in existence had to be SSP Racers. It was all in the name – Super Sonic Powered. The cars got their boost of speed from a plastic zip cord pulled through a slot in the chassis that made the wheels spin like the dickens. That’s all the innovation it took to turn these little speed demons into a classic toy that remains beloved to this day.

SSP Racers were introduced in the early 70s and came in an endless variety of real car models, like Formula 1 racecars, Volkswagen Beetles, Corvettes and El Caminos. After most every kid got one or more SSP Racer for Christmas, the neighborhood streets – not to mention parking lots, school grounds, driveways, kitchen floors – were filled with racers competing for fame and glory.

The acknowledged king among Racers was the Laker Special that outperformed most other models. Of course, it also helped if you didn’t have spindly, pre-pubescent arms that pulled the zip cord with all the power of a wet noodle: older kids definitely had the advantage over younger ones. Still, no matter your age, there were plenty of possibilities beyond mere racing, such as sending them towards each other for the mother of all collisions. Kenner took note of this universal desire for destruction and followed up with a very well-received playset.

Combining speed with demolition derby, Kenner introduced Smash-Up Derby that featured ramps, tracks and obstacles eager to put your Racers through hell. The spectacular collisions would send specially-designed breakaway parts flying in every direction. The Derby, however, wasn’t the only playset available for SSP Racers. Fans of pure speed could prove their car’s fitness on the Time Trial Set that provided the ability to conduct your own drag races, courtesy of a starter light and timing clock. There were also Tune-Up kits that let you fiddle with your hot rods, transforming them into sleek, chromed-out beauties.

SSP Racers were popular throughout the 70s but no toy can stay on top forever. Still, the use of zip cords was too cool a device to disappear completely and other companies released their own zip-fueled vehicles, like Tomy with their Tron Light Cycles. To this day, nothing compares with the feel and sound of pulling that zip cord good and hard (provided you didn’t catch your tender young fingers in the zipper). And, the whiny screech of a half-dozen zip cords pulled simultaneously is something one’s ears don’t soon forget, even decades later.

If you had a few SSP Racers back in the day, perhaps a playset or two, we’d love for you to share your memories of these beloved toys in our comments section. Meanwhile, we tip our collective hats to a true classic, still fondly remembered by anyone who ever gave a zip cord a tug.

15 Responses to “SSP Racers”

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  1. Janice Phillips says:

    I am looking for a replacement zip pull cord. Anybody know where I can find one? Please email, thank you!

  2. Natalie Munford says:

    My brother had just about everyone, but I enjoyed them just as much as he did.. I’d love to see them released again. Toys of this caliber don’t exist anymore.I’d love to purchase some and share them with my brother, since I was the only female he allowed to touch his collection(smile).

    • John Valdez says:

      You had a cool brother. I remember these and when I got one back in elementary school–I couldn’t believe what great toy it was. I’d love to have one now, it was so fun.

  3. I had three SSP racers in the 70s and my friends and I raced them jumped them, crashed them, and never broke them. I’ll bet these were the most durable toys ever made (except for maybe pet rocks).

    I feel sad that today’s kids don’t have toys which will last for a year, let along a generation.

  4. Does anyone know when they added “Sonic Sound”? Some SSPs were silent (other than the sound of the gyro), and others had a little plastic strip that made noise against the wheel teeth.


  5. martin says:

    I had an SSP motorcycle, it was orange with a rider and maybe a black or brown faring. I took the rider off he was too unstable for a really fast run. When it rained, instead of PE they locked us in the gym/cafeteria and there would always be dozen boys who brought them to school anticipating that rainy day, and I can attest to the toughness of that toy as well, because an 8 or 9 year old boy shows not an ounce of mercy to certain of his toy’s, and for me it was the SSP motorcycle that received uncertain mercy. We raced them across the cafeteria floor, and at the end of the race they would slam into the cinder block wall; none to good for the rider… There were a few anal retentive’s who got together and placed jackets and coats at the end of the race, they were in the minority, however. Love it, great fun that toy was well balanced and fast! Nearly indestructable! Mine worked for several years.

  6. Steven Corbo says:

    This was the best toy ever. My brother and I had 2 each. We raced all the time the we’re built well and lots of fun. Those are the type of toys we need to bring back.

  7. J says:

    I had the derby set and they were a blast. They lasted forever.

  8. bo says:

    I had so many iterations of the his toy and loved everyone. My LEAST favorite was the Mad Marvin. Basically a red helmeted, teeth gritted, jumpsuited characted with a wheel through is midsection.

    I have two lakers and multiple rip cords acquired over time just waiting for my 4 year to get old enough to enjoy!

  9. SteveD says:

    I and 2 brothers each had Laker Specials around 1970-71. We each had a different color, and I noticed the body was made up of upper and lower shells screwed together, so I took them apart and re-assembled them so that each car had a 2-color body, making ours unique from anyone else’s Laker Sp.

    Unfortunately, the T-handles always stripped out in short time, making the car worthless to a kid. Even a 10 year old child (me) was too much for it. Said rip cords needed to be stronger. Maybe that’s why so may cars are available today in great condition, but sans the T-handle.

  10. BigE says:

    I had a green one that had what looked like a jet engine on each side which added to stability. It also had a low front end and could not be beat when you faced each other and sent them in to crash with one another. What a fun toy, wish I still had it. Now I have the knowledge to use alternatives to the zip cord. I remember playing for quite a while with a 2 inch piece of my broken zip cord, was still a blast…

  11. BigE says:

    The sidewinder, that was it! Great car!

  12. Jas says:

    AwesOme toy line…these were the Great Toy days…had a few .
    Just bought a Smash Up Derby set 2 days ago…being a vintage toy collector these are a GreaT addition to my ever growing Toy collection…Truck and VW set bought ..cost 5.00 cdn dollars in box.
    Still Looking for more plus parts .

    Have FUn with your toys …but best of all the Memories !!


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