Time flies when you’re having fun, and earlier this month, “Say Hello To My Little Friends” celebrated it’s 6th anniversary, wow! I think that’s a pretty cool accomplishment in blog land, especially when over the past two years I’ve seen a lot of doll bloggers in my corner of the world decide to hang it up. In this day and age, there are a lot of marriages that don’t last 6 years!
For those of you who don’t remember or maybe haven’t been following the blog since the beginning-this whole thing came about when after years of not buying any doll stuff, I decided I wanted another doll and purchased Rebecca. 6 years later I’ve added a ton of stuff to my collection and I think I qualify as a full fledged American Girl collector/authority! I remember thinking then that blogging about this was kind of a strange idea, but as the past 6 years have progressed, I’ve not only realized that there are lots and lots of adult collectors like myself, but that there is a demand for reviews and other fun related doll info. So, here we are.
Over the 4th of July holiday, American Girl ran an awesome promotion for rewards members–4 x the points for any purchase. I’m a Berry member at the moment so that means if I purchased anything, I’d earn 6 points for every dollar I spent instead of the traditional 1.5. That adds up really fast when you think about it. And at that point my mind went into overdrive…
So…what did I buy???
Let’s just say it’s large…in fact, I wasn’t even prepared for how large. The day it arrived, I wasn’t home for a little while and when I pulled into the driveway, I was not prepared for the size of the box sitting beside my front door!!! (Now have you figured it out?)
The good part is the Fed Ex driver had left it sitting on end, so I just kind of scooted it over to the door and tipped it in, onto the throw rug in front of my door and scooted it across into my living room. Then there was the other problem…getting out of the box. The weight on this thing shipped was around 48 pounds. Fortunately, someone at AG realized this COULD be an issue and there were instructions on the top of the box which told you to open both ends of the box and push it out. Good thinking on their part because let me tell you, there is no way in the world anyone could safely lift this item out the box without some sort of injury!
Part of me wanted to wait until I had help, but I decided I could do it myself. It took a little while, but finally I prevailed. And now for the big reveal!
Yes, I did it. I bought Joss’ surf van!!!! This was not an easy decision let me tell you. I think the price is completely asinine, even after getting it and seeing it in all it’s cuteness. But, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked myself for not getting the VW Beetle that they made for Julie. I’ve had an ongoing love affair with Volkswagen vehicles (despite only ever owning one myself!) and this van reminded me so much of the one my mom’s friend had. Let me just tell you as a kid, there were many interesting adventures in that van–museums, shopping, trips to the doctor (yuck). Whenever Joss was revealed on Good Morning America and they showed it with her, I let out a little gasp. The price though, I really had to look long and hard before I decided to order it. And probably still wouldn’t have had it not been for the 4th of July points bonus. With that, I earned $200 in rewards points and that will actually work out really well as there are around $200 worth of smaller sets that I was planning on getting anyhow. They’ve also included the van in the “free shipping” offer now (when it first came out, they weren’t!). So for me, that was almost like getting it for $200 off and brought the price down enough that I felt like making the plunge. Even with that, I still think $450 is ridiculous for a toy, but sometimes for something special like this, you just decide “why not?” I’m also currently spending money on next to nothing else, I’m not traveling, I’m not buying clothing, I’ve filled the gas tank up on my car twice since March 16th. I’m doing my part for the economy this way. I’m considering it my blog anniversary/early birthday present. It was this or a new guitar. I have several guitars already. I don’t have a doll sized van. No brainer.
Once I had it out of the box, I had to get it off that piece of foam on the bottom. That was kind of tricky, let me just tell you. Out of the box, I’d say it still weighs at least 35 pounds which really isn’t a ton, but this is a LARGE piece and it’s awkward as all get out. There is nothing to grab onto! After some messing around a bit, I managed to get it off and onto the floor, scaring Sophie half to death. Now she thinks it’s cool and it’s been doggie “christened” with some nose prints on the windshield, but for that first hour or so, all I had to do was move it and she jumped. This thing is as big as a small golden retriever, much bigger than her. I’d have been scared too!
I waited for Mr. Flo to get home and had him help me lift it up onto the folding table I had in the dining room so I could get some good photographs of it to share. Are you ready??? This post is very photo heavy, you’ve been warned! But I didn’t want to do a poor job of reviewing it and wanted to share as many details as I possibly could. Before buying it myself I looked at a lot of reviews and I had a lot of questions that weren’t answered still. Hopefully my review will cover those bases. Also, I didn’t enlarge a lot of these pics, but if you click on them, you can better see some of the details.
First off, some more exterior photos:
I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here because there are plenty of photos of the exterior online already. I will say that the door handles and hubcaps are made of metal which is an excellent idea. I think if they had made the door handles out of plastic, they wouldn’t hold up over long term play. The handle on the sliding door DOES NOT operate like it would on an actual VW just in case you were wondering, but they sure made it look good! You simple pull it towards you and then the door DOES slide towards the back just like it would on an actual van. Well done.
The front seats are vinyl and squishy like real car seats, not hard plastic like a lot of doll vehicles. More details to follow.
The rear compartment opens up to reveal storage. These photos were taken before I started adding all the accessories.
A roof rack on top to hold surfboards and other items. I think it would have been cute if they had included a miniature bungee cord or two for holding luggage on top. I’ll have to think of something just for that.
And here are some interior shots once I got the accessories into it:
So, first I’m going to address the interior just over the table. There’s a button there and when you click on it, it has an interior light! It puts out a decent amount of light as well, it’s a little difficult to tell in these photos as there was sufficient daylight still available, but I thought this was a really nice feature.
Also inside is a hook for the skateboard. Curtains too, complete with hooks to pull them back with so you can see when you are on the road!
In the rear compartment two drawers pull out. One is for storage and the other is a cooking area. You simply push down on the cooking area to have it pop up. To store it simply push down on it and it locks it in place so you can push the drawer in.
It comes with a few cooking utensils as well–a fry pan, a large pot, tongs, a spoon and a spatula/cake turner.
Here is where I insert a warning. Do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to store the large pot in the drawer. It is just too close to the size of the drawer and if it shifts even a tiny bit, guess what? Yep, you can’t get the drawer open. I learned this the hard way and after a lot of messing around with it, I finally managed to get it moved around. Unfortunately in doing so, I ended up leaving a nice scratch mark on the pot. Grrr… The weird part is I can’t quite see the point of a pot this large with this set as there isn’t a food item that really goes with it. Odd.
The hatch area does have a decent amount of storage space though, and the van comes with this cool little projector. On to that!
Included is a white fabric “screen” that hooks into the back of the van by the curtain pullback hooks. You are supposed to be able to project images from the little included discs. It’s a cool idea in theory, but I found it didn’t work all that well in reality. Maybe I had lofty expectations, but here are a few photos of what it looked like with me moving around the projector to try and improve the image quality. Meh.
I do have to give them props for the realism of the light though in the projector, it does look just like a real one! The bottom part moves so you can adjust the height of the projector too. Overall it’s really a cool idea, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong? I’ll keep messing with it and if I find that out, I’ll be sure to update.
The set comes with a lot of cute accessories for decor. Included is a blanket/throw, three pillows and a rug.
You also get a beach blanket/towel! It’s a decent size too.
And a sleeping bag! I love the color scheme too, very beachy. And not tons of pink! (and I like pink, but sometimes doll companies get far too carried away with using it.)
Some fun accessories–reading material, some photos, a dog bowl with removable kibble and a skateboard.
The skateboard is very well done, I love the attention to detail on the underside as well:
Wendy decided to give it a try. It was a little difficult with the shoes she had on, they didn’t want to fit in the straps that hold her in place very well, but after some persistance, I was able to get her to stand freely on it. She’s a natural!
Also included is a laptop. It has two interchangeable screen inserts that are two sided. I like the USB “cord” too, I’m assuming if I had the mini Go Pro camera that comes with the surfboard set, it would fit in it? I’ll have to look into that.
The set comes with a good number of food accessories. I’m not going to go into detail on each and every one, I think these photos should suffice. I will say that the sandwich and the wrap seem a bit out of proportion though. And we have a lone piece of chicken with nothing else to go with it, I’m really confused on that part.
And…one plate. WHY?? I don’t get this. Especially since this van can accommodate 4 dolls, why is there only one plate?? And only one serving of each food item? You’d think for this price, they’d at least include 2 of everything. The plate is large though, as you can see it easily fits the bacon, egg and pancake stack.
You also get a cool bag of pretzels. The pretzels are just a lump and there is no way to open the bag unless you cut it which I’m not going to do.
The cooler included is really nice and very realistic. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t include any fake ice or even an ice pack!
The spots on the top are nice to hold drinks and food. And all of the food fits inside the cooler for storage.
The plate doesn’t fit in the drawer either…
But there’s a nice space for the cooler and enough space above it that the plate can go on top of it and it still closes.
The interior seating/sleeping area is really well thought out. It can be used as a bench seat in the back of the van, but then easily folds down into a mattress. As you can see in the first photo, the table also folds down out of the way as well. The whole seat/drawer assembly slides forward to make space for the mattress to lie on.
Plenty of sleeping area for one doll, even two!
This strap (which is easily removed and replaced) is the secret to this whole set up. You take it out for sleeping, but then put it back into place for when you need the bench seat. Velcro helps hold the mattress/seat in place too.
The mattress basically lays over the strap which keeps it from collapsing and is very sturdy once you have it assembled.
I like how the back hatch is divided into two pieces too, you can have the top open but still have the bottom half in place so you can get access to things quickly!
Also included is a First Aid kit. Yes, there is an ice pack, but it’s not a very big one, certainly not big enough for the cooler, definitely a first aid size. An assortment of first aid items are included–bandaids, ace bandage, gauze, scissors, medicated ointment, pain reliever and antiseptic spray. They’ve covered a lot of bases here!
I stashed the first aid kit in the drawer under the bench along with the sleeping bag, perfect fit!
Time for some more interior photos! One of the things I really liked about this van is that the front passenger seat rotates around so you have an additional seat in the dining area! While I had it rotated around, it was a good opportunity for me to show you that the seat belt hooks with Velcro. It’s pretty stretchy but it takes a little practice to get it around the doll and hooked!
And as is the case with most 18 inch dolls, they don’t exactly sit really well in the seats. I wish someone would come up with a better joint system to address this. But it works.
The attention to detail in the front part of the van is very good. The glove box opens, the gear shift actually moves, steering wheel turns (although it does NOT turn the wheels of the van). Horn works, headlights/taillights work–it even has working windshield wipers!! If you press the buttons on the radio, music comes out (several different selections here). Another button on the dash starts phrases that Joss would say. There’s even an ignition with a button on it that sounds like an engine starting, and from what I have read, the key that comes in Joss’ accessory set fits in this ignition. Even the turn signals work and make a sound. They thought of just about everything!
One of the reasons that this van is so heavy is because the base is made of actual wood! I think this was a great idea because it makes it much more durable for play. I’m afraid if it were a plastic bottom, it might warp, bend or even break over time. It’s nicely finished, I’m not sure if it’s solid wood or MDF, but it’s very heavy and durable.
I would say the piece that I can see breaking the easiest on this van are the mirrors. Fortunately they have made them so they will fold out of the way and they are somewhat adjustable. They seem really flimsy to me though. The rear view mirror concerns me as well, but at least it’s out of the way.
One of the things I thought was brilliant was how they made it so the doors would open and close easily, but not just fall open–you know what I mean? Each of the front doors as well as the back panels have moving “buttons” in them that are spring loaded.
The doors themselves have a conventional hinge towards the bottom, but then they’ve reinforced them with a piece of webbing towards the top. I think this was an excellent idea, especially since the hinges are plastic and the stress on them if that was all that was there might cause them to break at some point. The doors themselves are vinyl lined and complete with faux door latches, handles and window cranks. The window cranks don’t work though, they don’t even move.
This set includes a surf board, and it’s very cute. I stood it beside Wendy (my renamed Joss doll) so you could see how tall it is. Nice design on either side, and an ankle strap. There is also a spot in the front for mounting the GoPro camera that comes with the other surf board set in Joss’ collection. I kind of wish they would have included it in this set too.
Here you can see Wendy standing as she exits the van. She does have to bend to get out but she is able to stand once she is inside the doorway!
On the side opposite of the sliding door is a panel that lifts up to reveal the battery compartment. I was SOOO relieved to see that this wasn’t one of those toys I had to turn upside down in order to install the batteries. That would have been a major headache given the size and weight. There is an on/off switch as well so you can conserve battery power and not worry about something being accidentally turned on when it’s not being used.
Two things I didn’t include in my photos–a sheet of stickers (which I will not be using, just stored in a safe place) and sleeves for the popsicles. They are shown on the AG page and really don’t add much in my opinion. More paper to get damaged from play. I was also surprised that they didn’t include handles for the popsicles so the dolls can hold them.
I think that is everything!!! If you have any questions about something I might have missed, please feel free to leave your questions in the comments. My thoughts??? Well, overall I think it’s an adorable piece and I LOVE it. Is it worth $650, NOPE. Is it worth $450? No, I don’t think so basically because of the how much of it is plastic. HOWEVER, as a collector, it is one of those few pieces I’m willing to spend a bit more on. Not something I would do for every set because not only does that get a bit on the expensive side, but it’s difficult to store large pieces like this. I have no idea where I’m going to put it to be honest. But, I saw so much potential in this piece for future shoots and display, plus my love of VW and the memories this brought back made it a piece I really wanted to add to my collection. I’m already tossing around ideas for a shoot with this and the pop-up camper at some point in the not-so-distant future. The areas where I felt it needed improvement were more food/cooking accessories (at least 2 of each item and some utensils!) and the projector, it really falls flat to me. I think it is kind of a strange thing to be included in the set to begin with, would have been more appropriate to have more beach related items like chairs, umbrellas, etc.
Wendy’s ready!!! Let’s hit the road!