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Tuesday, April 18 2017 23:18

Mini Hess Toy Trucks are Making a Comeback!

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I've written a lot about the Hess Toy Truck over the years, and while that remains a Christmas tradition, I don't think I've ever said much about their summer tradition - the Hess Mini Truck. For 17 years, Hess released a mini version of their iconic holiday toy truck - most recently offered for sale in 2014. Funny enough, that's the only Mini we have in our collection here at Rock Father HQ, as we picked one up at a Hess Express in Pennsylvania while in the midst of an epic road trip.  In the three years since, fans have been demanding a relaunch of the Mini Hess Toy Truck, and today the Hess Corporation answered the call. Not only is Hess bringing back the Mini Hess Toy Truck, but they’re doing it as a special release on an exclusive basis in a way they never have before.

Star Wars 40th AnniversaryMattel's ever-expanding line of Star Wars-inspired toys has been a big favorite here at Rock Father HQ, both with our family and readers of the site alike. Leading the charge has been the Star Wars Hot Wheels Character Cars (checklist here), and as promised last year, the 2017 Star Wars Celebration Orlando will be the place to get the exclusive Biggs Darklighter car - the winner of a fan's choice poll. As I'm not attending Celebration in-person, this one might be tough to get (I missed out on the previous Celebration-exclusive Boba Fett as well), but it's definitely something to see. Check out the image below, as debuted by Yahoo! this morning.

When it comes to the blockbuster films of 1977, if you're like me, the one that comes to mind is an out-of-nowhere film from a galaxy far, far away. Indeed, it was May 25, 1977 when STAR WARS first hit theater screens, but just two days later came the release of the year's second-biggest grosser - and another movie very near and dear to me: Hal Needham's SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. This May, TCM Big Screen Classics and Fathom Events will bring SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT back to theaters, as it races into cinemas for a special two-night 40th Anniversary Event, May 21 & May 24!

The Rock Father™ has collaborated with Goodyear Auto Service for this #SpringCarCare feature.

To some extent you could say it was a “mild” winter here in Northern Illinois, though a more accurate appraisal would be that it was “largely snowless.” Despite a couple big snowstorms that were followed by relatively quick melts, it was still cold, and still icy, even though people made a big deal about the lack of powder. As early warmth arrived in February, bringing with it a quick emergence of sprouts that should’ve still been hidden, Jack Frost quickly struck back, sweeping in with one final arctic blast - as if to serve as a reminder of what winter can do. One thing winter is great at is trashing your vehicle, and with April being National Car Care Month, there’s no better time than now to get ready to rock the road once more.

Wednesday, March 22 2017 23:54

Racing into San Francisco for the Cars 3 Event...

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The Rock Father™ is collaborating with Disney Pixar for the #Cars3Event

Over the course of four decades, I've had some adventures. In fact, some have been so unique, that I fully expect to one day become that white-haired old grandpa, who sits and spins tales so elaborate that younger generations don't know whether to believe them or not. As a grown-up, I've explored many career paths, my interests casting a wide net, quite possibly inspired by my own lineage. Even as a child, there were some uncommon experiences, and those adventures helped shape who I am today, though certain interests have gone dormant at times, only to be reignited somewhere later down the road. A love of cars and racing is a prime example, something once fueled by my dad's 70's/80's gig as a track announcer for UARA and World of Outlaw Midgets, and later doing NASCAR at the legendary (and sadly, closed) Santa Fe Speedway. As my adult life veered me toward exploits in music, television, film and writing, it was the birth of our daughters that brought all-things automotive back to the forefront. What we think really did it was Disney•Pixar's Cars... specifically, 2011's Cars 2. Addie was absolutely enamored by Lightning McQueen and Holley Shiftwell, and that ignited an octane-obsession that led to an impressive collection of Hot Wheels. I thought she loved cars... but her little sister has a passion that's even bigger. Those girls are responsible for "Rock Father Rides" even existing, and it's completely exciting how everything has all come together. Next week, I'll be at Pixar Animation Studios, stepping into the world of Cars 3! Indeed, The Rock Daughters™ are bummed that they can't come with for this one.

Wednesday, March 15 2017 20:09

Disney•Pixar Cars 3: Easter Cars are on the Way!

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We have a tradition here at Rock Father HQ that every Spring, the Easter Bunny leaves the girls the new collection of Easter Hot Wheels - a set available in super-limited quantities at Walmart every year. While the Bunny has yet to find the 2017 set (I've spoken to him, and he's actively hunting), this year there's something else that Mattel has for the season, and it comes from the ever-growing world of Disney•Pixar's Cars. Available for a limited time, the Easter Cars assortment features vehicles and coordinating baskets that are based on the 2012 book, Mater and the Easter Buggy. Easter Lightning McQueen, Easter Mater, Easter Ramone, and yes, The Easter Buggy are all hopping into town... but the real trick is gonna be finding them.

Last month, while the folks at Mazda USA were in Southern California doing an unveiling of some of their upcoming rides for 2017, I was here in Northern Illinois enjoying one of their most recent releases - the 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD. Now, I think a lot of readers might not be familiar with a mid-model-year update, as it's far less common these days as it used to be. Quite simply, the CX-5 received some updates to carry the '16 into '17, and hence the 2016.5 moniker. Thanks to the unseasonably warm temperatures and some suburbs-to-city adventures I had planned (the Nintendo Switch launch, for one), I was able to spend a solid week with the car, giving it a hands-on evaluation in several conditions. More importantly, I got some real family time in this one, using one of its Mazda siblings (and one of my favorite cars of the past year) for some comparison... the CX-9.

It's been a long time coming, but today Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has unveiled a seminal new concept in luxury - one hand-crafted for one very special customer, St Richard's Hospital Pediatric Day Surgery Unit in the auto maker's home town of Chichester, West Sussex, England. The Rolls-Royce SRH will allow children awaiting surgery to drive themselves to the operating theatre, through the Pediatric Unit corridors which are lined with 'traffic signs'. The experience of 'self-drive to theatre' aims to reduce child patient stress. See video of the car and the team behind it...

We just got an "extended look" at Disney•Pixar's Cars 3 last month, but with the DAYTONA 500 having been run today, and with a big Cars presence, another look has arrived. This "Next Generation" clip focuses on some of the new talent hitting the track alongside Lightning McQueen this summer - a field that promises "more speed, more horsepower, more everything." The next cars have less drag, more downforce, and offer a few percentage points more in terms of speed. They say that Lightning can't turn back the clock, but he "can wind it up again." Check this out...

Tuesday, February 14 2017 08:05

Hot Wheels 2017 Holiday Racers - Valentine's Day

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If you happen to take a peek at the selection in your local retailer's aisle of toy cars, there just might be a holiday surprise hidden within the mainline Hot Wheels (the ones that are priced around $1). One sub-collection this year is the 2017 Holiday Racers - a series of five cars, four of which have been revealed. There's Halloween (Poppa Wheelie), Christmas (16 Angels), New Year's (Poppa Wheelie) and the one that I'm sharing since it's Valentine's Day: Rodger Dodger. This classic Hot Wheels ride was originally issued back in 1974 and has been done in many variations since, but for 2017 it's presented in candy apple red with gold accents to celebrate Cupid's favorite day.

2017 CAS LogoAs The LEGO Batman Movie soars into theaters this weekend, it's pretty appropriate that The Batmobile is in the Windy City. After all, Chicago doubled for Gotham City back when Christopher Nolan was crafting his Dark Knight Trilogy. Thing is, this Batmobile is a much different beast. The 2017 LEGO Batmobile from Chevrolet made its official debut in Detroit last month, a life-sized replica of "The Speedwagon" driven by LEGO Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) in the new film. Now, that ride, crafted from a total of 344,187 LEGO bricks supported by a square-tube aluminum frame, is sitting in McCormick Place, the result of 222 hours of design time, and 1,833 hours of construction by LEGO Master Builders. For it's appearance at The Chicago Auto Show, the LEGO Batmobile sits in front of a brick wall illuminated by moving Bat (and Chevy) signals, each zeroing in on LEGO Batman himself! As a bonus, kids can take part in their very own LEGO Batmobile mini-build, available for free to take home! We had a chance to check out the full display during the Media Preview - take a look...

2017 CAS LogoIn putting together my annual preview coverage of the Chicago Auto Show this year, I decided it was time to mix things up a bit and get even more of the family involved. After all, the Chicago Auto Show touts itself as a family-friendly event, and as someone who grew up attending the show and now takes his own kids, handing over coverage to a pair of younger eyes seemed like an obvious thing to do. It's no secret that The Rock Daughters™ are well-versed in four-wheeled, fun - a pair of girls with more Hot Wheels than I ever had as a kid, semi-skilled drivers (of Power Wheels and the like) themselves, and a fixture in my coverage of "grownup" rides. In fact, whenever a press fleet vehicle arrives here at Rock Father HQ, if the girls are home, they'll go outside with me to greet the driver. So, for 2017, a plan came together for our oldest daughter, Addie, to attend one of the pre-show "Media Preview" days with me, armed with a camera to capture the show through the eyes of a child. In an age where what and "who" constitutes "media" is evolving, websites and YouTube Channels are helping drive the age of reporters to a much younger level, as a new generation of auto lovers prepares to take the torch and run with it into the future - a concept that might even be threatening for some.* Here's a look at Addie's photos, along with some Rock Father Picks for family activities at this year's Chicago Auto Show!

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