Modern Dystopia

Struts – The Lost Construction Toy

A collection of Struts blocks with instructions

Ever remember something from your childhood that no one else knows? Struts is a bit like that.

Struts is a plastic construction toy that was manufactured in South Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Billed as an educational toy, Struts won a number of design awards including 1978 Australian Toy of the Year, 1981 Australian Toy of the Year and 1982 Australian Toy of the Year. However despite Struts’ critical acclaim, the toy seems to have vanished from the collective consciousness. Lists of construction toys include lego, Mechano, Fischertechnic and many others, but Struts is always missing.

It seems likely that it’s limited Australian market and short lifespan mean that the toy probably never reached America or Europe in any quantity, and so languishes forgotten in boxes and sheds of Australia. Until now! This page contains all the information you’ve ever wanted on Struts educational toy, and probably a bit more. Sourced from images found on auction sites and from original booklets I think I can answer pretty much all your questions.

If you’ve found this post you’re probably a construction toy enthusiast, or Australian child of the 70’s and 80’s like myself. Like me you probably searched Google, trawled through Wikipedia and hunted on Ebay in the hope that just maybe, someone else remembered a favourite childhood toy. Did it exist? What happened to it all?

I can assure you it did indeed exist. Struts educational toy was a big part of my childhood. In fact, the company that manufactured Struts (Motley Manufacturing) bought my father’s business when I was a kid. Myself and couple of other employees children were used as the models for the box sets. Yes, that’s right, I actually appear on a box of Struts. Sadly my mint empty boxes that I was given as a kid have disappeared, victim of many moves and teenage disinterest. The toys themselves probably went at a garage sale or as a donation at some point. So now I’m seeking them out again.

In the gallery below are the only photos I’ve been able to find of this toy. Including some photos from Cosmichobo whose post on an Apple forum caught my eye. He has amazingly been able to find an unopened box, still in it’s shrinkwrap and generously photographed it for this post. The child on that box is not me, that hunt continues. Update – I’ve now been able to find and purchase a small number of struts pieces and amongst those was an original booklet. In that booklet is a picture of the author as a young child! The gallery has now been updated with new photos showing struts in detail.



So, what awards did Struts win? According to the box Struts won the following design awards:

  • 1978 Best Educational Toy
  • 1978 Best Designed Toy
  • 1978 Australian Toy of the Year
  • 1980 Best Plastic Toy
  • 1981 Best Plastic Toy
  • 1981 Australian Toy of the Year
  • 1982 Best Plastic Toy
  • 1982 Australian Toy of the Year

These awards were awarded by the Australian Toy Manufacturers Association. The Industrial Design Council of Australia also awarded and Australian Design Award.

What happened to the Struts name and Trademark?

According to Trademarkia the Struts trademark was cancelled in 1988.

On Thursday, October 19, 1978,  a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for STRUTS by Motley Manufacturing Agencies Pty. Ltd., Parkside. The USPTO has given the STRUTS trademark serial number of 73189909. The current federal status of this trademark filing is CANCELLED – SECTION 8. The correspondent listed for STRUTS is Oldham, Oldham, Hudak & Weber of 627 First National Tower Bldg., Akron OH 44308, . The STRUTS trademark is filed in the category of Toys and Sporting Goods Products . The description provided to the USPTO for STRUTS is Toys Specifically Multitudinal Part Assembly or Construction Toys.

But what WAS Struts?

Struts was building blocks. About the size of traditional wooden block, but hard plastic cubes and rectangles. These had grooves down each side which thin plastic ‘Struts’ could be slid into, allowing the blocks to lock together. Special connectors also allowed wheel blocks to be used, and these could spin freely. In fact two types of wheel blocks were included. Smooth wheels, and slotted wheels which really looked like plastic pineapple slices. Struts also sold a motorised block! This rather large blue plastic slab was about the size of a thick paperback and had a fairly powerful electric motor in it which could be slotted into any other block.

From memory, here’s my list of parts. Updated with a couple of blocks I’ve spotted in the photos but had forgotten. If you remember any others please comment on the article and let us know. and another update, after speaking with my father and looking at more photos I can add rubber ‘tyres’ to the list and brown axles.

  • Large Block (multiple colours)
  • Small Block (multiple colours)
  • Slotted Wheel (multiple colours)
  • Rubber tyres for slotted wheels (Like a thin ridged rubber belt)
  • Smooth Wheel (multiple colours)
  • Brown Flexible Strips, Short and long
  • White Rigid strips, Short and long
  • White ‘right angle’ connectors
  • Brown ‘right angle’ connectors
  • White Wheel hubs
  • Brown wheel hubs
  • White Center Axles
  • Flat Blocks (multiple colours)
  • Long Slotted Girders (multiple colours)
  • Short Slotted Girders (multiple colours)
  • Blue Motor Box
  • Flat Sheets (Flexible sheets about the size of a paperback)
  • Crystal Disks (same dimensions as the wheels but a slotted disk)

The contents of ‘Box 2’ can be seen in this picture.

Struts Box Contents

The contents of Box 2 as shown on the back of the box.

The booklet that came with some sets of Struts shows a number of different ‘packs’ that were available. The Beginners Pack, Pack 1 (That’s me in that photo!), Bucket Pack 2, Pack 3, and Bucket Pack 4. The booklet also shows a selection of spare parts that could be purchased and has the following blurb:

Struts is a new construction toy manufactured for the world market. It has tremendous scope when compared with other construction toys currently on the market as it caters for a wider age range. It does not require a high degree of co-ordination or precision skill to assemble, yet has more flexibility since it has literally an infinite number of configurations. The only limitations are the imagination and ingenuity of the user. Whilst Struts can be used to create the more conventional artifacts in our environment, such as cars, planes and windmills, etc., it can also reproduce curves and construct geometrical figures. The plastics used have high strength properties, their surfaces resist scratching and use completely safe non-toxic organic pigment colouring. All parts of the toy are virtually ‘unbreakable’ and may be moulded in any colour. Each part is designed such that either a child or an adult may grasp it comfortably.

Struts Educational Toy was also marketed and sold in New Zealand where is may have been manufactured under licence. It was sold by Target in Auckland for Bing Harris Sargood LTD.

And that’s about it for now. That’s pretty much all the information I’ve been able to gather about Struts. I hope this article proves useful for someone who has a box at home and is wondering just what it is and where it has gone.

36 Comments

  1. Kieron

    We just found an illustrated kids book called “Stephens Useless Design” which presents the story of struts invention!

    Reply
  2. leanne Sharp

    I started teaching in 1077 and the following year bought a Bucket of Stuts for my class. I have used this ever since and ready to retire soon. I have a 6 month old grandson so I know who will be playing with it next. Its the most amazing toy and loved by all. It also has never been broken, not one bit bever wrecked. Amazing when you think of how many children have pl,ayed with it over the years.

    Reply
  3. leanne Sharp

    I started teaching in 1997 and the following year bought a Bucket of Stuts for my class. I have used this ever since and ready to retire soon. I have a 6 month old grandson so I know who will be playing with it next. Its the most amazing toy and loved by all. It also has never been broken, not one bit bever wrecked. Amazing when you think of how many children have pl,ayed with it over the years.

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      I thought the original date you had of 1077 was more spectacular! Thanks for your comment, it’s pretty cool that it’s still in use after 20 years.

      Reply
  4. Rob

    I have a box full of these that i want to sell, can someone give me an idea of price??
    Thanks Rob

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Hi Rob, I think the best thing is to put them on Ebay and see what they bring. Roughly how many pieces in your box?

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    My mother has just unearthed our ‘Struts’ from the early 80’s for my little boy! They’re in a bucket that she’d stuck the cardboard package on (figure you must be one of the 2 boys photographed on it!)

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      I could well be!

      Reply
  6. Kim

    Hi..I’ve just read your blog on Struts..after my tireless search on the internet trying to find any information on them. I can’t find anything! I have a set that were mine when I was little and I’m trying to find out what they’d be worth and where I should sell them.I’ve held on to them for so long as they were my favourite and then my son played with them also. My son is 23 lol so its time I let them go. Any ideas for me on how and where I go about selling them to a possible collector?? If so can you email me? They’re in perfect condition.
    Thanks,
    Kim ☺

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Hi Kim,

      I’m not sure they’re worth a great deal. I’ve seen sets go completely unsold for a steal. However, if you have them in box, and its the one I’m on the cover of.. I’d be willing to pay up a little for it.

      Reply
  7. caroline

    I have just found a box of these if you are still looking? 😊

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Sorry for the slow reponse… I am sure my nephews would LOVE a few more Struts!

      Reply
  8. Pamela Lang

    We originally bought a Struts set for our daughter in 1978 when she was three (now 40 ) – many years of fun was had by her and our son 5 years later (now 33) Just last Christmas I found the tray of Struts we bought 27 years ago – unfortunately no box. It brought back many memories for all. Last weekend when garage sailing as I often do I came across a bargain – No Box – but a section of the instruction sheet that would have been with the set originally and the grey tray and many pieces of Struts – more than would fit in the tray so I would think they were from several sets. A bargain for $5 . I am looking forward to my grandchildren now experiencing the wonders of ” Struts ” and will keep the look out for more Strut bargains at garage sales etc.

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Great story, and nice garage sale find!

      Reply
  9. Jules

    I have a huge tub of over 200 pieces unfortunately l’m not a fan and can’t even give them away. Both the local school and Kinder was not interested.

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Hi, I’d be interested in those for my young nephews. What state are you in? I’m not sure postage would be economical, but if you’re nearby maybe something can be worked out.

      Reply
    2. Jennie McNiven

      Mules do you still have these. I would be interested in buying them if you would like to email me.
      Thanks

      Reply
  10. Lee

    My husband just returned from our local ‘tip shop’ with a crate full of an unknown building toy which he picked up for our four year old son. Not knowing what it was we looked on the side of one of the pieces and it said ‘Struts’. We looked it up online and came across your blog. We have read all the lovely stories about people’s encounters with Struts and the history of the toy. Very happy to be a part of the underground Strut community.

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Great story thanks for sharing and sorry I didnt see it earlier. These are a toy that is almost indestructable and really has stood the test of time. Hope your son is still enjoying them.

      Reply
  11. Shelley

    I had struts when I was younger and they where passed on to a friends little boy as we grew older. I have just had a son and would like to try and find a set for him to grow up with. Anyone know where I could get a set?

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      They’re like a blast from the past arent they! My nephews love the sets i’ve found for them. Try ebay is my suggestion, they dont come up often, but they do still from time to time.

      Reply
  12. Paul Campbell

    Hello. Similar to Pamela, these have just been bought out of storage for out kids after years and years. Kids love them
    If anyone is looking to sell please let me know

    Kind regards

    Paul

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan
  13. BHamilton

    Are they really over priced? What is $120 these days? Possibly one meal at a restaurant for a family versus a construction toy that has lasted in perfect condition since 1978 and will probably outlast us. What price do you put on child’s play/ happiness and happy memories?

    Reply
  14. Daniel

    Thanks for the article. As a Melbourne kid from the 70s, I thought I was making it up. No one in America has heard of them. Best toy ever. I can still remember the commercials.

    Reply
  15. Phil from West Hill

    I just bought a bag of assorted building blocks from a local thrift store here in Toronto Canada. It was full of Lego, Duplo, Tyco and what I have now discovered to be STRUTS.
    Thanks for your site.

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Wow, what a find. I’m amazed to hear they made it around the world, previously I thought they may have been Australia/New Zealand only.

      Reply
  16. Stijn Geldof

    They seem to be manufactured in Belgium also, as seen on an excellent set I sell on Etsy:

    https://www.etsy.com/nl/listing/469569991/struts-made-in-zichem-belgium-1982

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Manufactured in Belgium? Can you post a photo of where it says that on the box?

      Nevermind, I saw it in your auction! That’s really cool, something new I have learnt.

      Reply
  17. Stijn Geldof

    The fourth photo of Struts in my Etsy-shop: ‘Made in Belgium’. Zichem is a Belgian town.

    Reply
  18. Carol McCormack

    I would be most interested in buying a set of Struts for my 4 yr old grandson, he loves playing with the set I bought for my kids many years ago (they weren’t very interested!) Wish I could remember where and when I bought it – somewhere in Queensland Australia in the 1980s I guess, but my interest has lain dormant for too long and the details are gone.

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      The best place to find Struts these days is garage sales, or Ebay. It doesn’t come up all that often, however I bought a big original tub of Struts on Ebay this week for 3 and 5 year old nephews. The fantastic thing is that although its almost 40 years old, this tub of blocks will last them and their upcoming sibling at least the next 10 years and then they can be passed on to another generation.

      Reply
  19. Jaime childs

    I just brought a big tub of these strut connector things and my 5 year old girl made some wonderful things with them. Great for imagination. Never new how old they were. Only cost me $3 for the massive container. Bargin.

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      That’s fantastic! You got a real bargain, the last tub I bought cost me over $80 delivered! I’m sure your girl will get a lot of fun out of them, I know my nephews do.

      Reply
  20. Sam williamson

    Hey – that’s an amazing story; I was searching for the product on the web and found this page; as it happens I was also a part of the same photo shoot for the marketing / boxing as my father was the principal photographer on the shoot back in the day for Ballantyne partners. Unfortunately I didn’t make the final cut as one of the partners for the product preferred the other kid (maybe yourself!) – in any case I think dad has some stills from the shoot – I’ll see if I can get him to dig them up.

    As I recall I think he said that one of the partners in the company that produced the toy was also a sporting personality and car dealership owner (I want to say cornes but I could be wrong) – again will ask dad to clarify this.

    I really miss the old set and as a parting gift I got 3 deluxe sets in a massive plastic bag.. at my age then that was just amazing!! Too bad I think we donated them at some point – maybe mum was sick of all the bits around the place – but now I have kids of my own I regret not hanging onto them.

    Will let you know if I have any luck with the images etc

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Bigglesan

      Incredible what stories the internet brings back to life! I’d love to see any pictures if you find them. I have very very vague memories of the day, and I know there was at least one other boy and a girl in the shoot. The box/tub labels I’ve seen so far aren’t the ones with me on, but I know they must exist somewhere as I used to actually have the boxes!

      Thanks for posting!

      Reply

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