Frame off restoration of a classic 2012 Radio Flyer All-Terrain Wagon

Oh man. I’m old now but back in the day growing up we all wanted one of these. Old man Smith had one with an extra pair of chrome bumpers and tail fins that scraped the sky. Sure they got 4 gallons to the mile, but gas was a nickle a tank and these wagons were the coolest.

Now that I’m older, I scouted around the collector sites looking for a low mileage wagon. I kicked the tires on a few, but it wasn’t until I saw this one that I knew I had found the perfect restoration project.

It was a barn find. Another tale of a young kid putting his wagon in the back of a barn and forgetting about it.

It was is perfect condition considering its age, 12 long years. The deck had rotted out, the paint was flaking, all the chrome had been stolen, and the gold lug nuts had been been lost at some point in the past, but the soul of the wagon was still there.

I got to work. I started by first sanding down the frame with 5 grit sandpaper and easing slowly into 1000k grit for a smooth finish. Unfortunately there was not much left but sawdust after this. But it was factory original sawdust.

Once I had smoothed out the frame I brought in to the professionals for an acid bath and finally a blessing at a Shinto temple to ward off evil spirits.

After that the difficult work of assembling a numbers-matching frame-off restoration began.

The dealer sheet says the wagon should’ve come from the factory with the XLG21 Sports package, but after further investigation this was most likely installed afterwards by the dealer and was in fact the GXL20 Sportsman’s package which was a mid year replacement for the popular PLX67 package. The “G” stands for gold. You can tell the difference easily if you still have the gold lug nuts as the former package uses a star pattern while the latter package uses a standard 1 lug pattern. As i did not have the gold lug nuts I could not determine the package. Instead I decided to use the VIN as the guide for this restoration. And that meant no gold lug nuts, no chrome. Just the stock wheels. It would be a sleeper.

A similar vintage Radio Flyer ATW with XLG21 Sports package. Note the gold lug nuts

First thing was to replace the deck. The original was 1/4in plywood, but I only had 1/2inch. The wagon will be sturdier than the day it came from the factory.

Now to put the wheels on…

More reassembly…

She’s looking good.

To really finish this project I just need to apply a five coats of paint and 678 coats of polyurethane. But for now I have my summer driver!

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