Back when Barbie first started "moving in" here at Rock Father HQ a few years back, one of the first vehicles we bought the girls for their dolls was a "remote controlled" Barbie Corvette. For whatever reason, that car, along with nearly every RC car we've ever found made specifically for dolls has been what's known as "simple RC" - they go forward, but they only turn in reverse. Now comes what I believe is the first-ever full-function RC to be an official Barbie product. Created by Toy State under license from Mattel, the Barbie Cruisin' Convertible Corvette is available exclusively at Toys 'R' Us this holiday season, and is a featured pick in my 2016 Holiday Wish Guide!

When it comes to R/C vehicles, Nikko's been in the game for a long time... since 1958, landing on kids' wish lists (including my own) for decades. One of their newest offerings to come since becoming a unit of Toy State is the "Elite Trucks"line, and with their all-new Ford F-150 SVT Raptor hitting the streets for the holidays, we were excited to receive one for review here in the Toy Testing Facility at Rock Father HQ.

When it comes to family adventures, road trips are great, and getting great gas mileage is even better. Over the past few years, hybrids have come down in price, while also becoming quite stylish - style being something that was seriously lacking in the early generations. At the forefront of the movement, Toyota has been a pioneer in the field, with their Prius becoming synonymous with the "hybrid" name, that technology eventually rolling into other models, expanding their offerings to a full nine vehicles for 2017. Among them, the 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid is set to be one of their most popular, and there's some solid reasons as to why.

The Toy Insider - Parent Panelist"Dream Big, Princess" - that's a message that little ones have heard often this year as part of Disney's mission to inspire girls and kids around the world to dream big, and to unlock their full potential. Being a modern-day princess brings with it a spirit of adventure that accompanies a passion for friendship and kindness, and there's no better way to seek adventure with friends than to hit the open road... or in this case, sidewalk. The term "horseless carriage" has new meaning with the release of the 24-volt Disney Princess Carriage Ride-on vehicle from Dynacraft - almost unanimously-chosen as one of 2016's Hottest Holiday Toys, and a featured pick in both my 2016 Holiday Wish Guide™ on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine™ and the The Toy Insider's 2016 Hot Holiday Toy Guide!

While we're still not among their ranks as an owner, there is no other automotive brand on the road that my wife and I tend to like across-the-board more than Kia. There's certainly some specific models that I love from other makers, but when we're talking about consistency from top to bottom, over the past few years, Kia has positioned themselves to have their entire family of vehicles feel like the truly belong together - from the entry-level Rio to the K900 Luxury Sedan. Toward the middle of the pack are the crossovers, and in that "compact SUV" scale lies the 2017 Kia Sportage - recently named a 2017 "Best Buy Award Winner" by my friends at Kelley Blue Book, and a "Rock Father Pick" among them. If you're in the market for a solid crossover that wins on many levels, it's time to give the Sportage a look.

I'm at home near Chicago right now, but if I was in Los Angeles (my most-visited city away from home), I'd want to be at the Los Angeles Auto Show (LA Auto Show®) - which kicks-off this weekend, running November 18-27. With the press preview having just-wrapped (showcasing debuts like Nissan's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story edition of their popular Rogue crossover, the Kia Soul Turbo, and Mazda's new RT-24P race car), the doors are about to open with family-friendly activities and all the best in vehicles and technology from all the top makers. Here's some highlights...

Thursday, November 17 2016 15:27

Holiday Wish Guide: 2016 Hess Toy Truck & Dragster

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I do love classic traditions, and one that was previously an East Coast thing first landed firmly on my radar about five years ago, when I started writing about the Hess Toy Truck during the Holiday Season. 2016 marks the 52nd year for the annual toy, and it's the third year (and fourth truck) that the folks at the Hess Corporation have graciously sent to Rock Father HQ for review. As the story goes, Leon Hess wanted to offer an affordable, yet exceptionally high-quality toy for customers of his Hess Gas Stations, and in 1964, the first Hess Toy Truck was released. Over the years, the "truck" wasn't always just a truck, but often a hauler paired with a secondary, complimentary vehicle - sans a few years where the "truck" was actually something totally different - like an oil tanker. Over the past few years, the vehicles have been made to include an impressive array of action features that rival even the biggest of toy makers, packing LED lighting, digital sounds and more into packages with Batteries included. For 2016, it's the Hess Toy Truck and Dragster!

This post is sponsored by Life of Dad and Kelley Blue Book. All opinions are that of James Zahn, aka "The Rock Father"

Earlier this year, I had the unique opportunity to become one of the very first #KBBDads - an elite team assembled by Life of Dad to partner with Kelley Blue Book to showcase some of the best cars and trucks for families. I headed for KBB Headquarters in Irvine, California where I went hands-on with a fleet of vehicles, hitting the roads of Southern California after getting the details on how to evaluate like the team at Kelley Blue Book - direct from the KBB Editors. Kelley Blue Book is the trusted resource for new and used car buyers, available 24/7 to help people make the best possible buying decisions. Their yearly Best Buy Awards are a pinnacle of what they do, and as we prepare to flip the calendar for a new model year, I'm excited to share with you the 2017 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award Winners - a field of 12 vehicles that have secured positions ahead of their competitors.  Check out the full list along with a few "Rock Father Picks" below!

Monday, November 14 2016 08:24

Holiday Wish Guide: Kent Bicycles for Girls & Boys

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When it comes to the Holidays, there's certain gifts that just evoke that feeling of a classic Christmas. A kid coming downstairs to find a shiny new bike under the tree is one of those things, but as both Santa and parents know, kids grow (and outgrow) quickly, and families want to be sure that their children have a quality bike at a price that doesn't break the bank. The folks at Kent International have a full range of bikes for the whole family, but for my 2016 Holiday Wish Guide I'm focusing on the 2+, 5+ and 8+ range, including their 18" Sparkle Freestyle BMX Bike... the same one that our youngest daughter has been rockin' the sidewalk on, sent to us this Fall for review.

Tuesday, November 01 2016 09:22

The 2016 Hess Toy Truck and Dragster hits the Streets!

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It's November 1, so that means that the arrival of the Hess Toy Truck, a tradition that began back in 1964, is here. Previewed in early October with an image of gleaming pistons alongside the message that the truck "is coming with more power than ever," the 2016 Hess Toy Truck and Dragster retails for $31.99 with free standard shipping and five Energizer® batteries included. The vehicle went on-sale exclusively via its official website at 10am Eastern time, with an immediate queue forming some 20 minutes+ deep in order to meet demand and avoid the crashing that plagued the 2015 launch - the first time that the trucks were offered as an online affair following the sale of the Hess Express Stations the year prior.

Aside from perhaps, STAR WARS, the most-mentioned pop culture property here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine is undoubtedly The Greatest Television Series of All-Time™, KNIGHT RIDER. That's what the youngster in me still believes, the very boy who eagerly awaited new episodes on a weekly basis from 1982-1986, who made watching reruns after school a part of his daily routine from 1988-1990, and who still stops and watches for a bit while running across an episode on television, despite having owned the complete series on DVD for years. Of course, my affection lies firmly with the original KNIGHT RIDER - the Glen A. Larson creation that starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, who alongside a talking 1982 Pontiac Trans Am known as the Knight Industries 2000 (K.I.T.T., if you prefer) fought bad guys for an hour each week. While there have been several sub-par "reboot" efforts over the years, none have matched the original, and the long-rumored cinematic version (rights have changed hands repeatedly) never materialized. Now there's hope for a proper KNIGHT RIDER to ride again, as Justin Lin (FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, STAR TREK BEYOND)  is heading up a Machinima "Digital Series" for a 2017 launch.

Unless it's in the shell of a 1982 Pontiac Trans Am and offers "self-driving" as an option rather than a standard, I have zero interest in owning (or riding in) an "autonomous" car. One of the most important aspects of car ownership is driving, and for that reason alone - nevermind the fact that I'm seldom comfortable even with another human at the wheel due to perceived lack of my own control - and a vehicle that is devoid of a steering wheel is a prospect that is terrifying. That said, one of my favorite automakers - Kia - is set to unveil the stuff of my nightmares at SEMA 2016 in Las Vegas next month, and now there's a preview. Check it out...

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