Owl Jr. is still very much into Thomas the Tank Engine. Periodically he'll ask me to read him the toy catalog, which I'll staunchly refuse the first 97 times.
But he has taken up Hotwheels to some extent. It does seem all hopelessly gender stereotypical but I suppose I'm just too old-fashioned, lazy, and cheap to get him the Mother Jones approved Green Nurture Truck from the Gaia Solar Empowered Rescue Team (made from carbon neutral renewable Fair Trade non-invasive species bamboo). Also, it means I can hand him down my Hotwheels. Likely made from lead-paint, cast from asbestos casts and formed from depleted uranium with a special DEET-infused glass for the windshield.
It's a bit of a trip to see him play with the milk truck tanker which I pretended to be a tanker with mini-laser turrets where the tank caps are. Or the grey funny car which quite EMPHATICALLY belonged to my brother. Or the 007 Aston Martin which even MORE emphatically belonged to my other brother. Or the Starsky and Hutch car before it was made into a ironic poorly made retro-movie callback.
He generally doesn't play with them all at once, or even many at once. He'll ask what they are called (the old, 'gotta read the bottom to find out what it's called' trick). And then he'll loyally haul that around for days and days. One of them was featured in a unabashedly toy tie-in book in which Hotwheels cars race while dinosaurs methodically take them all out. The blue car wins, which we, completely by luck, we happen to have. It's name is Tantrum, since it's not a real car, but some special weird made up car where they just let the Hotwheel's designers go nuts because I'm sure that's cheaper than licensing names.
Invariably, as ny 4 year old who hauls around one toy for days and days, he'll lose it. And then, for many more days than we'd have thought possible he'll wander around, like a Dickensian ghost, repeating "Where's Tantrum? I lost Tantrum... where's Tantrum?". It's a little unnerving bordering on aggravating. But it's matched by a nameless joy when he finally finds the damn car.
The naming cars things is understandable, but some of the cars don't actually have the name on the bottom, which is a minor sin, I think, and why Owl Jr. calls the generic stock car 'Thailand'. Others have convoluted names, like the full designation, wth all the X'es and numbers and dashes. I prefer something in between. 'Charger', is fine, "Charger XJ-29 2012 Limited Edition Nascar PRO wheel", is a bit much.
It's at this point thinking about cars that I kinda pine for the simple trains, with their names that were popular for British children's in the 40's: Thomas, Ferdinand, Percy. Even if they are featured in a product catalog masquerading, poorly, as a storybook.