Motor Trend and Hot Wheels

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Recently, Hot Wheels and Motor Trend teamed up and created an exclusive pair of diecast cars if you signed up for a new account of Motor Trend On Demand. New account users would receive the Datsun 240Z made famous by the show Road Kill. On the show, the hosts modified the car with a massive turbo charger and exhaust pipe and named it “The Rotsun.” Hot Wheels made that car so subscribers could have both the before and after version of the car. The photo above is the after version. I am still hunting down the before version.

With Hot wheels and Motor Trend collaborating on projects now, and Hot Wheels now experimenting with cars coming already crushed, could we see more cars from Roadkill and other Motor Trend shows? I’m sure all of us what like to see Blasphemi as an official Hot Wheel. But there are so many more that could be done. The Draguar, the Mazdarati, Stubby Bob, General Mayhem and General Maintenance, and those are just from Roadkill. Dirt Every Day has fantastic examples of vehicles as well. Tube Sock and the Alabama Army Truck come to mind.

I’m curious to see how this partnership continues into the future though. Because, the problem with the above mentioned promotion was that the account MUST be a new account. Current subscribers would have had to create an entirely new account in order to take advantage of getting the cars. That to me seemed like a terrible idea. Hot Wheels already has the Red Line Club where members pay a yearly membership fee to have access to cars only available to the RLC. They come at a cost, normally around $30 a car. I don’t know why Motor Trend doesn’t do the same thing? I am a faithful subscriber to Motor Trend On Demand, and WOULD HAVE BOUHGHT the set of cars from Motor Trend if given the option. Merchandise is supposedly a profitable source of income from what I know about business. Hopefully Motor Trend and Hot Wheels have learned from this situation. Hopefully there are more car choices soon and available to all subscribers. And if they could still keep them somewhat exclusive and limited, that actually might be cool too.

Why I think E-ZPass is Useless

Back in July 2020, my wife and I finally decided to get an E-ZPass. We do frequent trips where we cross bridges, tunnels, and roads that utilize it and with the world wide condition, we were thinking it would be faster, easier, and cheaper just to get an E-ZPass for all of our future travels.

To make a very long story short, it really did not do what we thought it would. When we pulled up to booth after booth, the device would not register. At one point, we stopped at an E-ZPass station in Delaware, and they said that while they felt bad for me, they could not help me because they can only assist customers with a Delaware issued E-ZPass. Mine was Virginia issued. I was absolutely livid.

Upon returning home, I decided to look into a tip my brother in-law shared with me during our travels. He remembered reading somewhere that certain vehicles, and more specifically, my 2003 Buick Rendezvous has been known to have a windshield that does not work well, or at all, with E-ZPass. I researched into that more and in fact found that to be true. There is a list of vehicles that I found on a document from the E-ZPass website that listed the Buick Rendezvous as a “Special Vehicle.”

There is apparently something in the windshield of a Buick Rendezvous that prevents the E-ZPass transponder from being read by the booths. That is really weird, because I do believe before I owned the Rendezvous, my dad replaced the windshield. I guess even replacement windshields have that same issue?

My biggest beef with all of this is the following. When I walked into the E-ZPass store (I didn’t buy online), WHY DID THEY NOT TELL ME MY CAR WAS ON THE SPECIAL VEHCILES LIST? They knew what vehicle I had because they manually entered it into the computer. The system should have red flagged that immediately. It is very frustrating.

To add insult to injury, the E-ZPass rate for the Cheasapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which we travel across frequently, is no cheaper than if you were to pay by cash or card at the booth. Yes, they take card. But the rates are all the same. The only advantage to E-ZPass is you don’t have to stop for the length of time to exchange money. Not much of a real time saving if I’m honest. I do find it humorous that on the CBBT website they use the silhouette of a Nissan GT-R as the reference vehicle and they show it can apparently tow a three axle trailer.

Overall, I do like when we use our Ford Focus to go on trips. The E-ZPass makes traveling in that car a breeze. But, 50% is a fail. E-ZPass, you really should let people know.

Thankfully, most of the time the booths just run the plate and charge me through the E-ZPass that way, so I still get the possible discounts, if applicable. Which leads to a whole new point. Why is the device needed at all? Just scan plates and bill. And at that point, E-ZPass is just the middle man. Stupid E-ZPass. Absolutely useless.

Need For Speed

My brother and I were recently talking about the game Need for Speed, and how after many iterations, it has lost out fans because of one specific game in the franchise. Apparently, that game, required internet to play. There was no way to play offline, which would be a huge deterrent. Since then, the franchise has struggled to get into gamers good graces.

As my brother pointed out, Forza and Grand Turismo are basically simulators rather than play for fun games.

So what would a new Need for Speed look like? Both gamers and car guys are, I think, the overlap in a venn diagram.

Right now, from a car guy standpoint, you have to put cars that are super popular in real life on the cover. A Datsun 510 would turn enough heads. If you want to really throw in a spark, put a GMC Syclone or a Porsche 944. Of course exotic cars are always a draw, but hyper cars tend to be the real show stopper now days. Cars like a McLaren Senna, Pagani Huayra, Koenigsegg Regera, are a bit more attention grabbing to enthusiasts, and still just as appealing to non enthusiasts.

Although, mentioning the GMC and the Porsche got me thinking that an expansion DLC for a Radwood edition would be REALLY popular.

I also recently read an article about how Road & Track had a hand in the original Need for Speed game. Back then, they pioneered the driving connection to the car. As the games increased, Road & Track parted ways. But ever since 2005 when Need for Speed Most Wanted came out, the game has gone down hill. I started to ask myself why.

I think that the game needs to get back to two anchors that made the game what it was. First, as debuted in Underground, they need to allow major modifications to the cars. For example, 2JZ swap a Lamborghini or safari a 94 Acura Legend. Let people get really creative with body kits, engine swaps, colors, lighting, interior, etc. A computer can swap out interiors and engines on a whim. Make it happen.

Second, and most importantly, is to have the ability to race and/or be pursued, at any time, anywhere in the game, in a semi realistic way. The original game was all about fast racing. Hot Pursuit was all about being chased. Suspension of disbelief is hard to achieve in a racing video game, especially if you are not making a simulator. But if there are options, like turning on and off damage, having a speed ratio to what is equipped on the car, and factoring in environmental effects like weather, are all things that have to have a delicate balance to give game players an extremely fun experience, but also have it be somewhat believable. To accomplish this, get a small group of strictly gamers, strictly car people, and people who know both, to accomplish the right balance for the game. If those things could be accomplished, Need for Speed can make an awesome comeback.

Hunting on the Range

Electric vehicles have created a new problem for commuting. That issue is called range anxiety. Essentially, it is the worry that the cars battery will die before a charging station is able to be found. While Tesla is the most well known electric vehicle, this blog is about is the Porsche Taycan.

A video on YouTube by Shmee150 shows his journey of taking his Taycan from London to Birmingham, which is roughly a 250 mile round trip. In the video, he says that the charging is not always the most quick thing to do. Not only did he wait over an hour, but he said it is a very social event. Part of that hour wait was waiting for the charger to become available. So, that is something to consider if you are going to drive an electric vehicle. The other part of the hour was trying to get the charger to work. Once it was working, it was not able to fast charge, so he spent over a half an hour to gain only 15 miles of range. In my eyes, that sounds like a waste of time. In regard to the social event, he said while charging his car other EV owners or just people in general come up to talk about their vehicles or experiences, or want to ask him about the Porsche. This does not sound like a car for people in a hurry or those who are introverts.

The other big story about the Taycan was published in Road & Track magazine. There, they took a cross country trip of the US from New York to California, and stopped 19 times to accomplish the trip. What most surprised me is that the chargers they preferred to use and the ones most accessible, were located at Walmart. While they were struggling to kill time at all the Walmarts they stopped at, because face it, we are not used to the idea yet that road tripping involves stopping for 30 minutes or far more at a time and gas station atmosphere is far more convenient in terms of travel foods, beverages, and accessories. The Road & Track drivers made it sound like the Walmarts became monotonous and boring after the first few.

This comes to my main point. As a Hot Wheel hunter, it sounds like a Taycan in the US would be the ultimate Hot Wheel hunting vehicle. You have more than one reason to stop at every Walmart now! Not only do you get to look for Hot Wheels, but you can charge your car as well! That is a win win situation! Although, paying the base model price of $103,800 for a Taycan can buy a lot of Hot Wheels and the waiting time to charge is still too much when on the hunt for the little cars. I like to get in and get out as fast as possible. As cool as the Taycan and the social event of charging sounds (I’m an extrovert), I think I’ll stick to Hot Wheel hunting in my Buick Rendezvous.

Should Models be Brands?

 

The subject of should models become brands has been relevant and important lately. I have had conversations with family and friends about the subject since some have texted me wondering why certain car manufacturers are doing certain business decisions. So, here is my take on should car models become brands.

In 2009, Dodge/Chrysler/Daimler/FCA split off the Ram pickup truck from Dodge and created their own brand from that model. That has been a very successful decision. Hyundai has split Genesis off into its own luxury brand, copying a page from Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti recipe, but also making a brand from a model. Chevrolet has rumored that they might consider making the Corvette a brand in itself. Manufacturers have split models into brands in the past, some have success and some were a failure.

Now, Ford wants to make a Mustang a brand, starting with the all-electric SUV, the Mach E. There is also a rumor that they want to make the Bronco a brand as well. Although, what doesn’t make sense is how they use the Raptor nameplate. They utilize that name for the F-150 Raptor, and Ranger Raptor, but apparently that name will not be utilized to distinguish a more powerful Bronco. A beefy Bronco is rumored to be called a Warthog. Confusing, but whatever.

What Ford should learn though, is they have almost been in this situation before. They had Mercury, that they closed because they couldn’t seem to explain to buyers why they should pay more for a car that is identical to the Ford equivalent. Lincoln almost had the same fate. Hopefully, they have learned from those experiences and don’t mess up a new Mustang or Bronco brand. Toyota and Subaru are also the same boat. They had the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ, and the Scion FRS all on the market at one time. And now they are almost doing the same thing, but instead of the Scion available, the Supra has taken that slot. We will have to see how this goes. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan does this with their Z car. Especially with the launch of the new 400Z. The Z name is known by people both with and without automotive knowledge so that would be a good start for them.

What do you think? Should auto manufacturers start making separate brands from their successful models?

What is up with the RLC?

RLC stands for Red Line Club, which is the Hot Wheels Collectors exclusive group that has limited members where one can attempt to join once a year. Many members are able to renew each year, while on occasion some cannot, or some do not, and the club grows by small amounts each year to facilitate new members.

One of the perks to being a member is the ability to purchase Hot Wheels cars made exclusively for the club. In the past, those cars were only able to be purchased through the RLC. Once the sale of the car happened, only then were cars able to be purchased or won on the secondary market, like eBay, company promotions, etc.

The RLC has always had problems with their website crashing on car sales days. Sales get postponed or delayed often. When this happened for the sale of the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T, no one was really that surprised. Mattel said they were going to postpone the sale another week and I just accepted that.

What I didn’t expect, was that Hagerty would be promoting a give away of 25 RLC 1969 Dodge Charger R/T cars for new users to their platform. I am all for promoting the love of Hot Wheels to others, and promoting automotive culture. But, it is unsettling to me that Hot Wheels is letting their RLC cars be accessed, even through a give away, through something other than the RLC. What then is the point of the RLC? If there is the possibility of getting access to the cars elsewhere, that devalues being part of the club.

They should have done a similar promotion to the Road Kill partnership. Hot Wheels created two separate cars for Motor Trend’s Road Kill show that could be obtained by being a new subscriber to Motor Trend On Demand. While I do have a minor beef with that, because they didn’t offer it to current subscribers (which I am) only new, the car can only be obtained in that manner and it was not a RLC exclusive car.

All that needs to happen is the RLC cars should only be available to RLC members, especially if an RLC sale got postponed. Once the sale happens, maybe then the car can be used as a marketing tool. But, it would be best if RLC cars stay exclusive to the RLC.

Bronco Launch: Boom or Bust?

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Ford introduced the Bronco on Monday night and it was met with great fanfare and rejoicing. I have been incredibly excited for it to debut and would love to have put down a deposit on one. The website to reserve one crashed almost immediately. It will be a very successful and popular vehicle. But for as hyped as the Bronco was, the launch, especially being all virtual, did not go as well as it could have in my opinion, and here is why.

Ford teamed up with Disney Creativeworks to create three short films about the Bronco directed by Jimmy Chin. You can watch each film here, here, and here. They were shown around the 8 o’clock hour on Monday, July 13th. One on ABC, one on ESPN, and the last National Geographic. Ford also did a virtual launch on their YouTube channel.

After watching all three, I now see what Ford was trying to do and where they were trying to go. They are trying to say get off your butt and go out in nature. Stop watching it on TV, get in a Bronco, and go live. They want to show they are going back to their roots, ready to tackle the tough terrain and take on Jeep. It is showing that Ford has climbed up out of there old ways because each film has climbing in it. Jimmy is not just an award-winning film director, he is also a climber. That is evident in all three short films that he made. The climbing aspect was much better in Jimmy’s own film than it was in the other two.

Jimmy’s own film was just much better overall. He did better at making the Bronco a part of his story, sort of like a supporting role, rather than just a vehicle being driven by a celebrity. I do not want to belittle those celebrities either. Their stories were amazing and they are awesome people. I just don’t think Jimmy could incorporate the Bronco into them as well and it seemed more forced and less natural. But that is simply my opinion.

The main issue I have is this. For as much hype that had been put into these films and the Bronco launch in general, it was insanely overrated. It is also ridiculously hard to find where they said they said they were going to place these films. They said they would be available on Hulu starting July 14th, the day after the launch. Maybe they were there. I wasn’t able to check. But, I did check on July 16th and did not find them. I searched, but I didn’t see anything Ford or Bronco related. Therefore, I went to YouTube. All three films are there but they have so few views in my opinion. Ford really dropped the ball on these films, I think. The most views one of the films has is 272,000. You might think that is a lot, but when you look at the live launch they debuted on YouTube, that video has over 2.8 million views. The films to me were a total dud and a total distraction.

Ford has had issues with launches in the past, especially the Explorer. If you want to hand Ford a pass because of the pandemic, that is fine. I will cut them a little slack. But really, they have rumored the Bronco for YEARS. Ford kept changing the date because the first launch date was set to be in the spring of 2020. Then the pandemic hit and caused them to set a new date. That date was July 9th, which was OJ Simpson’s birthday. How did they not know that? When your vehicle is associated with something like that, one would think a simple Google search would tell you a birthday? Not intentionally doing that, and wanting to not cause controversy, they moved it to July 13th and said all 3 films would come out across 3 Disney network of channels. Then there would also be something on YouTube. Yet, in none of these did a CEO get up and say anything about the vehicle, or show one in action in real life. Everything was staged and filmed prior. Nothing was live. There were hardly any facts given that we didn’t already know.

If it seems like I am ranting and long-winded it is because I can’t seem to articulate how confusing this launch was. My point is this. It should have been a very simple, inspiring, and proud event. In reality, it had very few of those things.

Let me be clear though. The Bronco launch did not fail. There was so much hype about it to begin with that it really couldn’t fail. It just wasn’t as amazing as it could or should have been in my journalism degree, automotive enthusiast opinion.

Wrangler Raptor Bronco Battle

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A few weeks ago, I commented on a Ford Bronco post on social media that was about how Ford thinks the new Bronco will eat the Jeep Wrangler for lunch (I’m not really sure where the exact quote about that is). My comment was, that on paper, the new Bronco looks to be a superior off-road vehicle to the Jeep. Many people quickly commented back saying that being able to make a prediction like that is not sound and that there is one crippling feature the Bronco does not have which will always make the Jeep superior.

That feature is a solid front axle. Jeeps always reign supreme because of having a solid front axle. The Bronco will be coming with independent front suspension. While I completely agree, that my opinion about the Bronco on paper is premature to call it superior to the Jeep without actually physically being able to compare them yet, I had to really think about the solid front axle issue.

After thinking long and hard about it, I concluded that I believe the Bronco is intended to be a different kind of off-road vehicle. I am not saying that the Bronco should not be compared to the Jeep, but I think the type of off-roading each vehicle is good at is slightly different. Jeep is intended for mountainous trails with steep inclines and jagged rocks. The Raptor and soon to be Bronco are created for desert trails and speed. That conclusion was solidified when I watched one of Doug DeMuros recent videos about the Jeep Mojave. I think Jeep built the new Mojave to specifically go head to head with the new Bronco in desert speed. The Fox shocks installed on the Mojave is almost the sole reason I think this.

What vehicle are Fox shocks famously found on? Oh yeah, the Ford Raptor. While no one is exactly comparing a Raptor to a Jeep, the Raptor is an insane desert off-roader. That is the type of driving I believe that the Bronco will fulfill to an even greater degree, but also tackle mountainous trails in an above-average way than what the Raptor currently does. This is why I think Jeep is installing Fox shocks, increasing the speed in low gear via the transfer case, and raising the ride height of the Mojave to prepare to compete with the Bronco on desert trail running. They know the Bronco is a threat and they are preparing for it. On the flip side, one could wonder why Jeep is moving away from “Trail Rated” and now placing “Desert Rated” badges on the Mojave? I think they want to show dominance in all areas first.

All of this makes sense when you look at the type of vehicles most popularly used for desert rally and endurance racing. Trophy trucks and the H1 Hummer are not exactly solid axle. The rear axle of a trophy truck is solid, but the front is independent and Hummers are portal. Looking at those vehicles and knowing that the Raptor is built to be with those vehicles, I believe it is safe to assume that the Bronco, with its independent suspension, is intended to join those vehicles playing in the sandbox.

One last side point is the modification capability of each vehicle. A point I made in my comment on social media was that the Jeep culture is vast and strong, and the aftermarket modification parts, capability, and customization is enormous. The Bronco out of the box will not have that. It will take some time for the aftermarket accessories to increase and bugs to be ironed out.

Even with all of this, I am incredibly excited for the Bronco to come on the market. Choices and competition are amazing and this will only make the off-road segment even more popular. Although, most of these will probably never leave the asphalt.

Up and Coming

aoo the next big thing

Donut Media did a video about what cars they believe are worth buying now to potentially cash in later when the cars become popular and valuable. Here is a link to that video. I agree with their choices, but I have 3 cars that I believe will increase in value and become very popular in about 5 to 10 years.

The first is a Volvo C30. My first real acquaintance with one was when a friend purchased an awesome white one. Since then, I have always had a soft spot for them. There is a niche market out there for hot hatches and an even smaller niche for Swede vehicles. But, the C30 T5 was a turbo car that looked phenomenal and can be purchased now for significantly less than retail. Depreciation is wonderful. On a side note, there is a Matchbox diecast of the Volvo C30 that is starting to creep up in value for a yet to be known reason. I have always said that car popularity and values correspond with one another, diecast to real life and vice versa.

Car two is an out of left field car that I don’t think many people, including enthusiasts, talk about at all. That car is a Suzuki Kizashi. These compact sedans can come with all-wheel drive and manual transmissions. How much better can it get? They are not too terribly expensive. Someday, someone will make this car cool. Maybe it will be me, but if it’s not, I’m calling it right now that one day this car will be popular.

The third and last car might not be one to reach huge popularity, but it sure is a car that should get more recognition. That car is a Hyundai Equus. I could see it someday being a car to rival the Lexus LS in used luxury status statements. Even new, the car is not as expensive compared to the cars Hyundai is competing against. Depreciation greatly helps the price and in some of the cars, you can get a refrigerator! That is a prime luxury feature that my wife wants. This car tops her list as a car to get sooner rather than later.

Those three cars are vehicles I believe will increase in both popularity and value in the next 5 to 10 years. There are no SUVs on this list but I wanted to get these 3 cars out in the open before I create another list. I have had these 3 on my mind for a few years now. Stay tuned for more lists of quirky, probably forgotten, and unpopular rides I think will become garage queens in the future.