The Green Machine

The Green Machine

In the late Sixties, the toy company Marx introduced the Big Wheel to the world. It was a compact three-wheeled wonder that would ultimately become iconic. Every kid wanted one.

Including me.

Less than a decade later, Marx would up the ante by creating a new type of wheeled wonder. While it still relied on a big wheel to drive it forward, it was different in almost every way. It was low to the ground with two handles for steering that controlled two widely set rear tires.

It was The Green Machine.

As you can see from this add that ran in comics in Seventies, the design and feature set was impressive. You had:

  • Adjustable Bucket Seat
  • Swivel-Action Rear Wheels
  • Racing Sick Tires
  • Hug the Road Top-Proof Design
  • Direct-Drive Pedal System
  • Super Size Mag Style Wheel
  • Stick-Shift Control.

It was mind-blowingly different and it was not at all what I wanted.

Everyone in my neighborhood had a Big Wheel. Heck, some of the kids had already moved on to bicycles when the Green Machine showed up under my Christmas Tree.

Getting a Green Machine was a real surprise. Not just because I didn’t ask for it, that was not unusual for gifts in our house. It was a surprise because the Green Machine was more expensive than the big wheel.

As you can see in this sales ad from 1977, a good deal pricier for what you would think most parents thought was the exact same thing.

Oddly enough, not my parents. I would later find out that the reason was simple, my Mom thought the Green Machine was cooler.

Go Mom!

An interesting thing in the above ad is the available color options on the Green Machine. It says available in green or black. I have looked far and wide trying to find a black Green Machine, but have so far come up empty-handed. So either this is an error or I am missing something.

I would love the have owned a “Black Machine.” I was not able to mock one up, but here is what a “Purple Machine” might have looked like.

I do know of two variations on the Green Machine. The blue and yellow “Blue Max Machine” by Empire.

And the amazing 1977 Sears exclusive Batman Machine.

Retroist Contributor Rob O’Hara had one and it looked like it was all sorts of amazing.

It would be months before it was clear enough outside to take it for a spin. In retrospect, you would think seeing this dazzling green trike cruising down the street would draw all sorts of positive attention. It did not.

Instead, it became a source of mockery. The reason? It was different. So the kids in my town didn’t know how to process it. They could only focus on its one major flaw. The width of the Swivel-Action Rear Wheels was too wide for our sidewalks.

I was crushed and defeated until one day the full power of the big wheel was revealed. It was a warm spring day and I had taken my Green Machine down the street to race against two friends. I didn’t win the race, but as I crossed the street boundary that was the finish line I decided to try and spin out by pulling the steering levers in different directions. This resulted in just about a 180 degree spin.

Time stopped.

At this point in the story, the full potential of the Green Machine was instantly realized. Now this green monster was no longer something to be joked about, it was a toy everyone wanted.

That summer was the last one my friends and I were small enough to ride trike style toys. So I would be the only one in our group to ever have a Green Machine. We raced hundreds of times that year and a few times I might have crossed the finish line first. But no matter what place I was in, I always ended the race with dramatic spin, and in the eyes of my jealous friends, this always made me a winner.

If you need to be sold further on the merits of the Green Machine, here is a commercial that shows it in action.

Two things I want to point out after repeated watching of this ad. First, because the Green Machine is now made by Huffy. A lot of vintage commercials and ads attribute the original Green Machine to Huffy. Secondly, they really lean into their slightly too wordy slogan:

For guys 8, 9, 10 years old who really know how to ride.

While I don’t disagree with this, I think they really missed an opportunity here to market this to gals as well.

My girl cousins who lived across the street from me could get this thing going and pull nearly a 360. Which was something to behold.

They loved the Green Machine and while nothing was preventing them from getting one, it was not being pushed on them so overtly.

Amazing that the limitations of the time could prevent a company from possibly reaping even larger profits.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. I *loved* my Green Machine because it was different, it almost had a sci-fi feel to it.

  2. It was like nothing else around at the time. I would like to say I saw its full potential right away, but it took me a bit. I was just lucky enough to get one.

  3. I didn’t know about this as a kid. I had a big wheel and a power wheels motortrike. Both very enjoyable. Funny enough when my kids were little (mid 2000s) I got all three of them one. There was one that was more sturdy I bought for my oldest. They all had a great time with them, mainly spinning out. As you stated, that seemed to be the real draw. I want to say later on in the 80s or maybe 90s there was a big wheel you could pull a lever on to spin out.

    1. Yes, the side brake! We had some of those around the neighborhood. You really had to dig it in to get what came easy with the Green Machine.

  4. Wow, this sounds so much like my experience. Cool in theory, but in reality hindered by its inability to work on the sidewalks – which is where all the other kids were. I should’ve appreciated it more.

    1. Until I sat down to write this, I had forgotten exactly what the main problem with the green machine was. I was very lucky that we had some street that we were relatively safe to ride in as kids.

      1. I’ve been thinking of writing some more articles for the site. But there doesn’t seem to be a submission link anymore. Is there an email I can send stuff to ?

  5. Great article. Never had one but loved my big wheel. Jumped ramps and all with it. Then moved on to a chopper bike with extended forks and a shifter on the bar in front of the seat.

    1. Jumping ramps with the big wheel was a bold move. Also demonstrates just how resilient kids can be.

  6. Yes. No elbow pads, helmets or over protective soccer moms.

    1. I miss those days and I am always a bit sad that kids won’t get to experience it.

  7. I always wanted one of these. I DID have a Big Wheel, though.

    1. A Big Wheel was superior in so many ways and at times I still wanted one. But looking back the Green Machine made some great memories.

  8. My friend had the Green Machine and it was so crazy trying to figure out how to steer that thing with those levers instead of the traditional steering wheel. In the end, we all had fun taking it down hills in my neighbors back yard. Totally forgot about this thing! Thanks for jogging those great memories from the 80s!

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