I was with my 15-month old son, Otto, at the playground in Griffith Park the other day and saw something that reaffirmed my faith that maybe, just maybe, some of this current generation of kids will grow up appreciating cars the way I do.
What I saw was this delightful reduction of a Jeep down to its absolute essentials — a reduction, even, of an entire spatial dimension, as the anonymous playground designer managed to get across the distinctive qualities of a Jeep on a simple, flat panel, and still provide enough imagination-fuel for a kid to have a great time.
Look at this thing: there's the signature Jeep headlight/grille slat combination, a steering wheel, and, maybe the best part, a manual shifter.
With the sad decline of manual transmission shifting knowledge, this is especially welcome. The designer could have as easily made a PRNDL slider, but deliberately chose to put an H-pattern in there — and not just any H-pattern, either. This one showed a really archaic 3-speed pattern, even, for extra make-dad-excitedness.
It's also great to see toys that still let a kid's imagination fill in whatever gaps they want.
This toy's not a movie-branded character, it's not overly done, hell, it barely has anything you'd call a "color."
But it's just enough to get the brain of a kid going, and then that steering wheel on that ABS plastic panel is the lead Jeep in the convoy chasing that renegade cyborg T-Rex, hellbent on eating Los Angeles. Drive, Jeep! Catch that dinosaurbot!