Sunday, April 19, 2009

Maisto's Gas Caps

Since my husband was working on Friday, I decided to take Kaz for a ride on the trolley to visit Daddy at work. On our walk to the trolley station, we made all kinds of fun stops in stores along the way. One of the stores we stopped in at was Marshalls. We don't normally go in there, but I thought it would be interesting to check out what toy assortment they had going on. In terms of their car selection, they had some larger Hot Wheels big rigs, which were pretty cool, but not nearly as captivating as the Maisto Gas Caps. Having never seen the Gas Caps series, I was immediately impressed.

First off, I noticed that Gas Caps are made by Maisto. Most non-car enthusiasts may have never heard of Maisto, but this company is definitely worth taking a look at. I only discovered Maisto recently because they have an affordable line to compete with Hot Wheels and Matchbox. Instead of selling for $1, they sell on average for $.70-$.80. You might be wary of the product at that price, but the Maisto cars are actually even sturdier feeling than many Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. Also, my husband and I were very surprised to learn that Maisto makes many Tonka cars and trucks now. Tonka, which is known for being toddler tough employs Maisto to do its work? Just that fact alone says a lot.

Returning to the Gas Caps, I couldn't resist buying one ($3.99) for Kaz because I loved the unique and cute design. The 3" cars have faces much as Pixar's Cars cars do, but these faces are street tough. Just check out that mug above? And, talk about a front grill!

The model that Kaz liked the most was an '09 GC Elegante. Besides looking cool from the front, this ride is equally impressive from the side. Check out the sparkling rims. And, notice the signature "GC" Gas Cap above the rear tire, which is what unlocks the final threat of the car. Watch the video below to see how the car goes from simply cool to bumpin' when you press the Gas Cap.

I'm hoping that the battery on this car lasts a while, because I love the music and how it makes Kaz nod his head to the beat. The other night, Kaz brought the car with him when my husband and I took him for a walk in his stroller. Kaz was addicted to pushing the Gas Cap button and so we had nonstop musical accompaniment for our walk. Plus, we were pretty surprised to see that the blinking red lights of the eyes reflected off cars nearly a block away from us!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fisher-Price Imaginext Adventures Castle

My husband and I love finding toys at thrift and resale stores. One of our all time favorite finds was this Imaginext Castle that we found at a thift store for about $5 (I don't remember the exact amount now). Although the castle did not come with figures or other accompanying small parts, it is plenty of fun as is and it is of high quality construction.

Look at how awesome looking this castle is! Although you cannot tell from the picture, the plastic is not at all flimsy. It is very rugged and has held up well to all of the abuses of Kaz and his pals. We have not had any pieces break off or get bent in the months that we've been playing with it--believe us, that is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

Here is a view of the castle from the back. This is the side that we most often play from.

While the castle can be set up to be pretty impressive in size, it is also very easy to store since it folds up so well. It has an amazingly small footprint!

It doesn't really matter that the castle didn't come with figures, because Kaz likes to put his cars on it most of all. He loves to stick cars on the lookout tower or make them park in the king's quarters.

As if the castle weren't cool enough with its many nooks and crannies, it goes to the next level with its many movable parts.

These are the front doors to the castle that can open and close.

This is an interior door that can collapse into the floor.

Look how well that door tucks away!

There are also 6 special feet-controlled actions that can be performed. (1) Notice the red disc in the picture above. When you place a figure in the footprints of the red disc and twist the figure, you "unlock" an action. Although we're missing the figures to do this, it works just as well to use our fingers to turn the discs. In the picture above, you can open and close the sliding green door when twisting the disc.

(2) Turning the red disc next to the moat releases the drawbridge to be lowered over the moat. (3) There is also a red disc behind the black grating above the drawbridge that raises and lowers the grating. If you make the grating go up and down, you can make it look like the castle is talking!

(4) The red disc in this picture fans out the blue spiral staircase. As a kid, I always loved the idea of hidden passageways and this one definitely rates high in that regard. When I make the staircase appear or disappear, it makes me feel like I'm inside Clue, a childhood movie that I liked most of all because of the cool hidden passageways.

(5) The red disc by the king's throne unlocks another secret means of escape. If you turn it, the wall behind the chair turns so that the king disappears. This one reminds me of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. One moment, you find yourself in the midst of danger...

And the next moment? You've disappeared behind the wall to safety!

(6) The last feet-controlled action is perhaps the one Kaz has the most fun with, perhaps because it is the most dramatic...or perhaps because it is the most sadistic. See this figure just chilling on top of the castle?

The yellow disc got turned and now the poor guy has found that the floor has disappeared beneath him! Down, down, down he goes!

The guy falls several stories, ending up quite bruised and broken up in prison.

If you have any fear of heights, just take a look at the drop and you'll have some sympathy for the poor guys (or more likely cars) that Kaz finds delight in sending down this chute.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Vicious Vette

Every time that we go to visit my in-laws, Kaz loves to go and explore our now 16 year old niece's "toy room." He is always sure to find some treasure of sorts, whether it's old plastic dinosaurs, an echo mic, or...some never finished die-cast model kit. Several times now, he has pulled out the Vicious Vette box pictured below and then continued to examine all of the small parts inside. He would lovingly grip the loose rubber tires in his hands and bounce around in excitement. Although the car was already halfway put together, there were still many small parts floating around and so I wasn't sure that we would be able to put it together without missing at least some little piece.

The box was pretty beat up and looked like it had been sitting for quite some time. My mother-in-law doesn't even remember when they got it or why. In any case, I was inspired to finally finish putting it together on Easter Sunday since we had some time to just hang out.

Here is the finished product! Amazingly, there were NO parts missing. It is quite a beauty and I think Kaz likes the fact that it's so big. At a 1:24 scale, it is much larger than the regular Matchbox cars that Kaz is used to playing with.

The hood and doors open up, much to Kaz's delight. Unfortunately, Kaz didn't quite have the patience to let the glue fully dry and so we may have to reglue some of the pieces later.

Here's the view from behind. Let me just say that I can fully appreciate how people get hooked on putting together models. It is really fun. I especially liked the fact that this one didn't involve painting, though. There is no way it would have ever turned out so nice looking if I had had to paint it myself, especially since I had a two year old "assistant" helping out the whole time. I think it's safe a bet that Kaz will be running straight for this Vicious Vette the next time we visit my in-laws!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kazuo's Easter Windfall

Kazuo got an embarassing number of cars for Easter! Fortunately, most of them were under a dollar a piece since they were purchased at the Kmart in Ramona where they had a big sale on their die cast cars. Here's the quick run down:

99 Cents Only Store Wooden Toys:

Hot Wheels: I don't always like all of the crazy Hot Wheels designs, but I thought these ones were cool.

Hyper Mite, 2008 All Stars (Asst. L2593 M6922, 2000) - Here's info from the back of the packaging: Born 2001 in El Segundo, CA, the "mighty Hyper Mite can go where no car has gone before. Fitted with handlebar steering and seating for one, it's small enough to venture where other cars can't. Powered by two V-twin motorcycle engines, it goes fast enough to make an impression. Try it and you just "mite" like it!" First, I find it hilarious that Hot Wheels cars have a birth year and place. Second, what's up with the use of horrible puns? In any case, I think this car is pretty cute and weird.

OCC Splitback, 09/42 - (Asst. L2593 N4012) - Here's info from the back of the packaging: Born 2008 in Newburgh, NY and apparently designed by the Orange County Choppers. Crazy! "With a V-Twin engine and hardtail suspension, this custom-built chopper was made for lane splitting along the open road." I have no idea what a V-Twin engine or hardtail suspension is, but I think this bike is pretty awesome. The back tire is extra wide and so it can stand up all on its own.

Mad Propz, 04/10 (Asst. L2593 P2440, 2004) - Here's info from the back of the packaging: Born 2004 in El Segundo, CA, "This low-wing stunt plane is a flight club favorite. Made for barrel rolls and super loops, Mad Propz is all about mad fun." Again, Hot Wheels comes through with a tacky pun and finishes it off with a "z" instead of an "s"--that is something that just grates on me! I couldn't resist the cute design, though, and Kaz is really into "airplane" now.

Pixar Cars cars: I might feature these again at a later date, because they are so awesome. These are a little more expensive than Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, costing about $3 a piece. The extra price, however, is made up in the cars being a little larger and sturdily built of metal. To top it off, they are adorable!

Hank "Halloween" Murphy - I especially love the well-crafted details including the hood ornament, side view mirrors, brake lights, and spare tire with license plate #S962. This was a must-get for our collection since my husband and I love Halloween so much we were even married on that day!

Fillmore - I love this Hippy car! The paint job is simply incredible. There are numerous bumper stickers that say things like "Drink organic oil," "Save 2D Animation," and "I brake for jackalopes." The stickers are so small that I can barely read them--this makes the paint job all the more impressive. I love how the wheels match, too!

Matchbox: All of the rest of the cars that Kaz got for Easter are Matchbox. The first five came in a 5-pack of "Ocean Research" vehicles and the rest of them came individually.

Hovercraft (A39, 2000) - This "Ocean Research" hovercraft #519 has the awesome graphics of a wave and dolphin silhouette. The missile-launching-looking thing also rotates. Since this is an ocean research vessel and not some military vessel, it's probably not a missile-launcher, but I'm not sure what it is.

International CXT, 1:89 (MB687, 2005) - Again, this vehicle has a great dolphin silhouette for the "Ocean Research" team. I love the particular details of the loading steps, the back hitch, the exhaust pipe (at least I'm guessing that's what the silver cylinder is), and the covered bed. Interestingly, this same model truck has been made with different paint jobs and so doubles as a construction truck, a "Mountain Rescue" truck, and a "Grant's Organic Farms" truck.

Jeep Grand Cherokee, 1:58 (1999) - This "Official Vehicle" of the "Ocean Research" team is hauling around a raft-like boat. Notice the great detail inside of the boat. There are two oars, a life jacket, binoculars, some luggage, and a rope and anchor.

Rescue Boat (A39, 2000) - This "Ocean Research" boat #518 rolls around on 4 wheels, but it is smooth sailing in Kaz's imagination.

Dune Buggy, 1:61 (1998) - The "Ocean Research" dune buggy #429 is the last of the ocean-themed 5-pack. It comes equipped with plenty of rope, a shovel, an axe, and a booty-kickin' antenna. As I know nothing about dune buggies, could someone explain why they need antennae?

DAF XF95 Space Cab, M5339 City Action 10/12, 1:86 (MB702, A45, 2005) - This "Courier Transport" cab #702 looks like it could actually haul something. I wonder if there is some attachment that you can add to it? I love the painted on warnings "WATCH YOUR STEP" and "IN EMERGENCY CHECK FOR DRIVER IN REAR COMPARTMENT."

2006 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U300, M5326 Construction 5/7, 1:84 (MB728, A45, 2006) - I had no idea that Mercedes-Benz made construction vehicles! This "Cargo Couriers" vehicle #728 is apparently intended for "Rentals - For all your construction mess." Even though it is yet another truck for our collection, I like that it's got a pretty unique bed.

Volkswagen Beetle 4X4, M5348 All Terrain 4/13, 1:57 (MB723, A44, 2006) - This Beetle is pretty trippy with the large all-terrain wheels. Interestingly, the platic interior is detailed enough to show a gas can in the back seat and yet there is no steering wheel that I can find.

1974 Volkswagen Type 181, P2973 Outdoor Sportsman 5/12, 1:59 (MB738, D06, 2007) - The thing that cracks me up about this Volkswagen is that it has a sassy personalized license plate "74 THING" and that it obviously follows that the car must be from California. It also has a Thai elephant.

Volkswagen Concept 1 Beetle Convertible, M5321 Metro Rides 7/7, 1:61 (A45, 1999) - This Beetle got some extra attention with some details such as a center console that includes the gear shift, hand brake, AND cup holder. Another bonus is that the front head lights are actually made out of plastic rather than the usual painted-on ones.

Golf V GTI, M5291 Metro Rides 3/7, 1:59 (MB684, A45, 2005) - A fourth Volkswagen in a row? I guess I think that they make some pretty cute cars. I almost didn't buy this Golf since it looks very similar to the Honda Civic that you will see below. But, I couldn't pass it up since it is a "GTI" and my husband loves the PS3 game GTI Club Plus. What exactly does GTI mean?

Smart Cabrio Fortwo Coupe, P2919 Metro Rides 5/9, 1:52 (A45, 2001) - Although it would not be practical space-wise for us to buy a smart car in real life, I was excited to buy a toy version. I think these are cars are always fun looking when I see them on the road and this toy car is no less adorable. One cool detail is that the driver's seat is pulled forward more than the passenger's seat.

Scion xB, M5310 Metro Rides 6/7, 1:54 (MB665, 2004) - I had to get the Scion since it is one of the cars that I would consider buying the next time I get a new car. I love the whole "crossover" genre of cars that has sprung up and Scion is a brand that my mechanic brother has actually suggested I consider.

2008 Honda Civic Type R, M2630 Metro Rides 1/7, 1:61 (MB753, A45, 2008) - Since I'm Asian, I had to live up to the stereotype and get this Honda Civic. It turns out that the car truly is intended to be authentically Japanese since it has its steering wheel on the right side of the car. As a bonus, it is another car with a Thai elephant.

1978 Dodge Monaco Police Car, N5443 Emergency Response 1/8, 1:71 (MB762, B06, 2008) - I figured that it would be logical to follow the Honda Civic with a police car. I love the old school style of this Unit No. 7 vehicle #132762 that has an advertised "Commitment To Service!" My only disappointment is that there is no caging or window between the front and back seats. It makes up for it by having a Thai elephant, though.

Pierce Dash Fire Engine, M2629 Emergency 6/6, 1:123 (MB755, 2008) - I was drawn to this El Segundo fire department truck, because it looks so realistic. We had previously gotten Kaz a Hot Wheels fire engine, but it is neon orange and not nearly as genuine looking. This one looks like the real thing. It also has a Thai elephant.

City Bus, M5329 City Action 6/12 (MB662, A45, 2004) - This City of Everett bus has been "At Your Service Since 1893." It has a "Welcome Aboard" sign and is even handicap accessible. Inside the bus, the seats on the right side are lined up with their backs against the side of the bus whereas the seats on the right side are arranged in 2-seat rows. Pretty neat!

MBX Motor Home, M2632 Outdoor Adventure 2/12 (MB756, A45, 2008) - Last, but certainly not least, is this awesome motor home. You can easily see all of the great exterior details in the first photo above. I had to highlight some of the interior details, too, though. Check out the second picture. Looking through the sun roof, you can make out a table with 2 cups and a slice of pie on it. Although not pictured, there is also a sink and a sofa inside. And, it has a Thai elephant!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wind-Up Toy Video

In order to showcase the awesome Easter wind-up toys in action, I decided to make a short video. My two favorite wind-ups are the T-Rex, whose mouth opens and closes as it teeters around, and the butterfly with wings that flap as it flies away with a quickness.

Flattest Cars Ever

I got these cars a while ago at the 99 Cents Only store. They came in a 2-pack and are amazingly sturdy for the price--the bodies are even made of metal! I wish that I had picked up more colors since I don't know if I'll ever see more like this again. It is such a unique design and Kaz loves them. Since the packaging is long gone, I have no idea about what they were called or who made them. My guess is that it is some unknown generic brand, though. The only information about them on the bottom is that they're made in China.