Summertime, Drive-Ins & Ice Cream: Experiencing America Close to Home - Adventure in an Electric Car...Written by James Zahn
There's something very American about the internal combustion engine. We equate it with many things, from going places and getting the job done to horsepower, octane and speed. During the summer months, there's adventure that goes with it as families embark on the Great American Roadtrip to see the country by car. As habits, tastes and technology have changed, gas-power has started to make way for electric, and while there's something to be said about the rumble under the hood, the case for electric is an increasingly appealing one, and the old limits of cost, range and lack of style are getting tossed aside. Adventure? Yes, you can have adventure in an electric car, and the Chevrolet Bolt EV is a prime example of just how far things have come.
Hot Wheels are something that I've written about regularly here on The Rock Father™ Magazine for the better part of a decade. This year, Mattel's iconic diecast vehicles are celebrating a milestone - their 50th Anniversary - and we were able to take part. Earlier this month, a crew from NBC News paid a visit to Rock Father HQ not to meet with me... but to interview our girls, The Rock Daughters™. Addie and Finley have a Hot Wheels collection that far eclipses what i had as a kid, and little Finley is the proud owner of one of the rarest Hot Wheels products ever made - The Rock Daughter™ Edition Hot Wheels Bed, created three years ago in collaboration between Mattel, yours truly and The Step2 Company. On June 5, 2018, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt aired the Hot Wheels special feature as the NBC Nightly Snapshot. If you missed it, here's the video in its entirety...
The Hess Toy Truck has been a holiday tradition since 1964, but in 1998 the vehicles spawned something... smaller. 2018 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Hess Toy Truck Mini Collection, launched in 1998 as a way to pay tribute to the holiday Hess Toy Trucks from the past. Of course, the Hess Toy Truck isn't always a "truck," but sometimes a different type of vehicle or a hauler of some type. To celebrate two decades of the minis, the 2018 Mini Collection is a limited-production set of three highly detailed, small-scale versions of classic holiday Hess Toy Trucks – the 1970 Hess Toy Fire Truck, the 1977 Hess Fuel Oil Tanker, and the 1988 Hess Toy Truck and Racer. Thanks to the folks at the Hess Corporation, we got our hands on a set early to have some play time and a photo shoot here at Rock Father HQ. Let's take a look...
Part of a series of features from The Rock Father™ celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hot Wheels.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Hot Wheels, Mattel is throwing things back to where it all began... to May of 1968 when a 1:64-scale Spectraflame blue Chevrolet Camaro first hit stores. Elliot Handler, who co-founded Mattel with his wife, Ruth, wanted to do something big. He wanted to create a toy car that was better than anything else out there at the time. It had to look cooler. It had to perform better. And, with a rocket scientist and the help of Harry Bentley Bradley, a designer plucked from General Motors, an icon was born. Famously stating "Those are some hot wheels!," the "fastest metal cars in the world" now had a name and 15 more would join that blue Camaro to become known as the original "Sweet 16." These rides have become highly sought-after, so for Hot Wheels official birthday (May 18), Mattel has unleashed the Hot Wheels 50th Originals Collection. The assortment includes replicas of five Hot Wheels from the Sweet 16, each presented with legacy graphics, detailed Spectraflame paint, Redline wheels, and just like the originals, they come with a collectible button packed alongside the car on reproduction blister packs that look just like they did back in 1968!
The first in a series of features from The Rock Father™ celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hot Wheels.
Since the launch of Mattel's Hot Wheels back in 1968, there have been hundreds (perhaps thousands) of playsets released, each providing an environment for generations of children to enjoy countless hours of high-octane imaginative play. At the center of that, the ever-updated range of garages has always been the pinnacle (we love our Ultimate Garage), but those were seldom portable - which is where the Sto & Go collection came in. Launched in 1979, the Hot Wheels Sto & Go Playsets perfectly reflected their name, packing big fun into a set that could quickly be flipped into a briefcase form that's ready to go wherever the family might be headed. Perhaps the most famous of the sets is the one that I had - the Hot Wheels Sto & Go Service Center, but there were several others, including the Sto & Go City, Construction Site, Car Wash & Service Station and lesser-known versions like the "Trucks & Trains" Railroad Freight Yard, Alpine Mountain Adventure military-themed "Action Command" Sto & Go Base. The line ran into the 90s before going dormant for a bit, but in 2016 it returned as part of the Hot Wheels Retro Style Series. Available exclusively at Target, the modern Hot Wheels Sto & Go Playset is not a direct copy of any of the vintage sets, but rather inspired by the best features of what came before it - largely pulling from the Service Center and City Sets. Check out the music video below to see this set in-action!
As announced back in April, the iconic Hess Toy Truck will be hitting the road once more, and for 2018 the lineup is expanded. In addition to the traditional holiday Hess Toy Truck, there's also some kind of ultra-limited anniversary vehicle arriving this fall, and the Minis will be back again with their second 3-pack hitting the streets on June 1. For the Mini collection, two of the three have been revealed - the first on April 30 (an original tanker), while the curtain dropped on the second one for Mother's Day - a new fire truck. Take a look at the first two reveals below, then ponder what the third high-octane vehicle will be!
Automoblox have been around for nearly 15 years (the original idea goes back to the early 90s), but it wasn't until PlayMonster picked them up a couple of years back that they really started picking up steam. Touted as "A Real Car Brand For Kids," these rides are a modern reinvention of the classic wooden car - but with some stellar upgrades and construction that's built to last. The precision design of each vehicle is broken into sections that become mix-and-match pieces (with hidden connectors), allowing kids to enjoy them right out of the box - or to use their imagination to create fresh new vehicles. You can swap bodies, wheels, tires, windows and more, and the vehicles have some real weight to them. While the original Automoblox are fantastic, I think the Mini range is the stand-out element of the whole collection.
Spring unofficially marks the start of cleaning season as people across the country will tidy up their nests and celebrate the incoming warm weather. Though it’s late, it appears that spring has finally arrived in the Midwest, so we need to be sure that our vehicles are prepared to adjust to the changing weather and conditions.
I've been out in Los Angeles for the past few days, working with The Walt Disney Company on a few things, but most importantly to attend the World Premiere of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War (film reviewed here). Today, however, I had an unexpected detour - a brief meeting with the folks at Disney Consumer Products & Interactive, specifically to check out the latest offerings from Marvel and Lucasfilm ahead of Avengers and Solo: A Star Wars Story. While many of the items have been seen before, there's some additional product in the pipeline, and I'm pleased to reveal a couple of new cars from Mattel's Hot Wheels Star Wars Character Cars Collection. I've been writing about that line for four years (see my checklist here), and with Solo there's new offerings, including Qi'Ra and the Imperial Range Trooper. These were photographed with permission in a private showroom this morning...
The Hess Toy Truck is a tradition that I've written about many times over the years, and after last year saw the return of the summer Mini Collection (pictured top), news has arrived that the lineup for 2018 will be even bigger! Hess Corporation has announced plans to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the company's founding with three separate toy releases this year, each available exclusively at www.hesstoytruck.com. Of course the annual holiday Hess is always the big one, but this year there's something really special. Take a look...
I write about KNIGHT RIDER a lot. It's 100% true that in my office you will find a small collection of Knight Rider memorabilia, plus an autographed photo of David Hasselhoff that that my friends at Disney were kind enough to send me when he was making the rounds for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last year. It should be no surprise that the The Greatest Television Series of All-Time™ still has a massive following, and at the center of that is the Knight Industries Two Thousand, K.I.T.T. - KITT if you prefer. Over the years, KITT replicas have become a big thing, and I've seen a ton of them from absolutely beautiful to completely disappointing garbage. What you don't see very often is an actual, screen-used car that was involved in the series production from 1982-1986. They're rare, but a few exist, including one owned by the Knight Rider Historians - a group dedicated to sharing and preserving the history of the series. Earlier this month their car was featured in an episode of Jay Leno's Garage on YouTube and today I'm sharing that with you. In fairness, it's not even the best-looking K.I.T.T. out there (KITT Blasius may have that title right now), but because this car has history both during and after the series, this is a well-worth a watch. Check it out!
One of my favorite toys of 2018 thus far is one that's perfect largely because of just how simple it is. The Simplay3 Carry & Go Track Table is a one-piece, 2-in-1 play space for cars, trucks and trains. The first side is an off-road race course that's filled with hills, valleys, curves, ramps and straightaways. Flip it over and you have a train table with built-in universal tracks, a figure-8 layout and a lake and quarry in the middle. With its lightweight plastic construction and molded-in handle, kids can easily carry this themselves, and because it's only 4" tall, the design is truly space-saving - easily stored underneath a bed or in a closet. I caught this on-display at the 115th North American International Toy Fair in NYC back in February, after which we received one for review in The Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father HQ. Check out the video below to see this in-action!