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Hot Wheels’ Monster Jam

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Earlier this summer I took my 3 year old son to see his (our) first monster truck rally at the county fairgrounds. Nothing fancy, these were mainly local guys crushing cars and doing donuts. It was very awesome. (Check out my five minute video podcast, or go all the way to the bottom of the page)

img_8541So I bought a couple of the Hot Wheels Monster Jam monster trucks for him to play with, and we got hooked. Read my review and tons of pics, below.


I liked how the body was the same 1:64 scale as traditional Hot Wheels, but the super-sized wheels (about the size of a half dollar) made the truck much easier for him to grasp, and at that size, they don’t get lost in between couch cushions. These are around $4 a pop.

img_8571First we picked up the Monster Jam Show-Off Show Down (see my more detailed review of that set) and we would take that everywhere, racing the monster trucks down the ramp, or flattening it to give them some terrain to climb over.  The fold up and go aspect, as well as storing the monster trucks, makes this a good buy in my book. $15 at Target.

img_8542Then we had another breakthrough. I snagged a bag of 20 old scuffed up Hot Wheels (c. 1980s?) at a consignment sale for $3.50.  These old cars were pretty beat up and look perfect for getting run over or jumped over in our pretend arena.

My son and I really bonded over playing with these trucks.

img_8557As a parent, I liked how these toys are portable (monster trucks can run over anything, you don’t need playsets or other losable pieces to have fun with them. You can play with them in the car, at a restaurant, in a waiting room, etc), they didn’t require batteries, they are tough and hard to break, and they are non-violent. Let me clarify that part. I think monster trucks are safely aggressive, in that you’re loudly destroying old cars, but non-violent in that you’re not hurting other people or living things. I think it’s healthy for young boys (and girls) to explore naturally aggressive tendencies, without getting violent towards others. Back in the day, your pop would make you go chop logs, now we have tiny plastic monster trucks.

As a dude, I’m excited that we’re playing with MONSTER TRUCKS. Before it was all cutesy teddy bears and turtles and board books. Here was something AWESOME that we were equally sharing excitement for. I sometimes even play with the trucks when my son is awake.

img_8536Now things started picking up pace. Friends and relatives would give my son the occasional truck, and I’d get excited and pick one up at Toys R Us for him. I found one that looked like a dinosaur, and a pink one we picked up for his mommy.  Christmas came and I got him the Monster Jam World Finals Crash Pack, which comes with some crushed cars and a dirt ramp. We also like the hay bales and traffic cones it comes with. It also features the exclusive World Finals monster truck, and the whole thing was $11.

img_8573But we’ve been having a real blast playing with the Monster Jam Blaze Crash fiery hoop set.  $12 and you get a spring loaded monster truck launcher which launches any of the Monster Jam monster trucks through the air! Totally awesome! You also get a cardboard fiery hoop in which to aim the truck through. You can position the launcher at a variety of angles, and you can pull back the trigger several different notches in which to vary the pitch and velocity of the monster truck. We’ve been having a lot of fun launching the different trucks through the air… and either clearing the hoop, or knocking it down.

Both of these sets were a lot of fun, but they both included “victim” cars… cars to be run over or jumped over. Surprisingly, they were completely different molds (you’d assume that they’d be the same) The Crash Pack came with two old and busted gray cars, and the Blaze Crash came with two red “crash test” cars. Both were molded out of an inflexible plastic and had no moving parts. I really wish these were a soft rubber or a flimsy plastic so you could actually smoosh and damage them, but perhaps that would be a safety concern? Either way, I don’t think Hot Wheels has really found a working solution for victim cars, and I hope they keep working on it. In the meantime, we’ll stick to our yard sale finds.

img_8531I also picked up one of the 1:24 scale cars. It’s pretty hefty and well made, and dwarfs the 1:64 cars easily. At this size, they’re more for collectors, but kids would have a lot of fun using these to run over all manner of things. (Unfortunately I do have some collectible 1:18 scale cars, and don’t want to plant any ideas in my 3 year old son’s mind, so he won’t be playing with this one anytime soon)

img_8567So far there is one major disappointment, and that’s the RC Grave Digger I picked up for $13. It’s just about 1:24 scale and it features “simple operation” to be perfect for 3 and up. As soon as you turn it on, it immediately starts driving in a reverse circle. Press the one button on the remote, and it goes forward. I understand the reverse circle style of RC car driving, but the fact that there is no way to make it stop and it kind of comes straight at you as soon as you put it down, freaked my son out. A lot. He asks that we don’t play with it that much, and that was one of the ones I was most excited about giving him for Christmas. I recommend this for ages 5 & up, or getting something different that has a bit more control anyway.

img_8526My only other complaint is with Mattel, I can’t find a central web site that shows me all of the trucks and playsets available, or where to get them. I find some exclusively at Toys R Us, others exclusively at Target, and then I saw some exclusively at Giant, the supermarket. What? Every time I hit the Monster Truck aisle (I love being able to say that) I’m either seeing something I’ve never even heard of (I stumbled upon the school bus monster truck at Big Lots) or I’m trying in vein to find something specific at the “wrong” store. I’ve covered Toy Fair for ten years, I understand a lot about how distribution works in the industry, but I feel like a lot more information could be available to parents that want to buy these things. Or make an iPhone app to check off which ones you have and get a chance to see what’s out there.

My son and I talk about monster trucks all the time. We’re getting ready to see Monster Jam when it comes to DC, check out the dates on the official site and if it’s heading to a city near you soon.  When we’re driving around, we pretend we’re in a monster truck, and we talk about which cars we’re going to run over. This is particularly funny because I drive a little Nissan cube. But one can dream.

Stay tuned for our coverage of the Monster Jam rally in early February, look our for new trucks shown at the 2011 Toy Fair, and check out my original video podcast below all of these sweet pics.




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