Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Knickerbocker's Dukes of Hazzard Toys

During the Golden Era of Dukes of Hazzard toys, there were several big toy companies creating Dukes items.  Ertl, Mego, Gordy, and Knickerbocker were the biggest.  They each had their own spin on Dukes products, Mego was action figures, Ertl was diescast, Gordy was, well a bunch of random things, and Knickerbocker really cornered the market on plastic mechanical General Lee toys.  I've blogged about a lot of these items as they came into the collection, but I wanted to write a Knickerbocker specific post and take a picture of just about everything the toy giant had to offer to the Dukes world.  Let's dive in to the Knickerbocker's stunt, jump, speed, bust, race sets.

Knickerbocker Toy Company, Inc. started in 1850 in New York City making blocks and educational toys.  They started manufacturing teddy bears and stuffed animals in the early decades of the twentieth cenutry and set the standard for the affordable teddy bear in this country.  The company moved to Middlesex, NJ in the mid- '60 and around that time they began producing licensed toys with the introduction of Smokey the Bear and made many popular products in the '70s including stuffed animals and plush toys for Raggedy Anne, Disney and Sesame Street.  They made plush Superheros for Marvel and DC and had action figures based on Annie, and the 80's Lord of the Rings figure line. They also made E.T. toys.  In 1978 they were purchased by Warner Bros. so naturally they were the perfect fit to produce Dukes toys.    

There are several large Dukes playsets produced by Knickerbocker.  The biggest is the Speed Jumper.  I've written about the Speed Jumper before and even recorded some video of it in action.  It consists of a two-piece jump ramp and a landing ramp for the two-speed General Lee.  Also included are walls, flags, and traffic cones.

Like many toys of the '80s there were lots of stickers that needed to be attached.  I have sets that had the stickers attached by Dukes fans in the past, and a set that is in close to mint condition.  I have a set with black plastic ramps as well as a few with yellow.

The Stunt Jumper also came in a mail-away package with a giant sticker on the box.  It comes with everything the standard version does, just without the pretty box.

I really like the artwork used.  It is the same image of Bo, Luke, and Daisy used on the wrist racer package and store display.  

One of the most memorable and popular Dukes items ever created is the Barnbusters set.  I wrote about this set early on on DukesCollector. Our good pal "Uncle Jesse" created a very nice website dedicated to just this set.  His site has a wealth of information about the set.  Check it out here.  The set consists of a barn for the Gen'ral to bust through as well as a ramp and wall.  Also included are barrels and hay bails for the General Lee to push around.  There are several areas on the set that make the General Lee do different things such as jumps and wheelies.

The General Lee goes into the barn on four wheels and thanks to pegs on the wheels and rails inside comes busting out doing a wheelie.  Very realistic to the show.  I recorded video of the barnbustin' Gen'ral for an older post as well.

The final large boxed set is the Stuntbuster.  The Stuntbuster Action Stunt Set is very similar to the Barnbuster but a little smaller.  It doesn't include the ramp and wall for the General Lee to run into.  It just has the barn and a detachable runway.  It also comes with barrels, hay bails, and a fence.  Both sets share the same artwork on the box.  The artwork is more realistic than the Speed Jumper art. Even though the artwork features a shot of the General Lee that looks like a real Charger, Knickerbocker added a spoiler to the car so it matched the product.  Nice touch Knockerbocker.  I blogged about a pajama set that uses the same artwork but doesn't have the spoiler in this post.  I wonder which product was designed first.

I went into more detail on this set in a previous post as well.

The General Lee is the star of the Knickerbocker boxed playsets.  Each came with a version of the Gen'ral with a spoiler on the back.  If you didn't want the set, or wanted extra cars, you could buy Knickerbocker's General Lee Stunt Buster.  Knickerbocker had many different names for their Dukes set, Speed Jumper, Barnbuster, and Stuntbuster.  I'm surprised the individually carded General Lee shares the same name with a playset.  I noticed the playset seems to not have a space between "Stunt" and "Buster" so the distinction is the Stuntbuster is the full boxed playset and the Stunt Buster is the individual car.  The Stunt Buster also comes with a crash wall.

The back of the package has some nice graphics and advertises the Finger Racers, but we'll get to those soon.

There seems to be two different versions of the Stunt Buster.  The one I have in the best condition has a small sticker under the first of the three images of the car in action that says "new 2 speed car."  The one on the left doesn't have that sticker.  Also the one on the left has the decals already attached. Maybe it came out first and doesn't have the two speed feature.  I have no plans on opening them to find out.

I just picked up the Stunt Buster car on a package error card.  Someone in Middlesex, NJ let this bad boy get into the wild.  The card is upside down.  Or maybe the car is.  It's all about perspective.

The package is the same and has the 2 speed sticker.  It was even sold at Kay Bee Toys, at a discounted price.  I love oddities like this.

Here are three versions of the single Knickerbocker Stunt Buster General Lee.

I have the same car in an Italian package that comes with the same ramp and different stickers.  It doesn't mention Dukes but that didn't stop me from adding it to the collection.  There are also foreign versions of the larger playsets, but I haven't tracked down any of those yet.  Knickerbocker licensed the use of the set to Harbert Sports to be packaged as the Autorodeo set.  You can read more about this set in this post about foreign Dukes items.

All of the sets above share a similar General Lee plastic car.  That was not the only design from Knickerbocker.  The Wrist Racers and Finger Racers are also beloved additions to many Dukes of Hazzard collections.

One of the most popular Dukes toys out there, and one that many casual fans remember from their childhood is the Dukes of Hazzard Wrist Racer Stunt Car.  Many people remember the car without the wrist strap and ramp.  I've had several people tell me they thought this car came in a Dukes of Hazzard Happy Meal, but it didn't.  I showcased all the Dukes McDonald's products in a recent post.

The Wrist Racers included both the General Lee and the Police Cruiser.  The Gen'ral does wheelies and the Police Cruiser does spin-outs.  They seem to do the same things when I wind them up and let them go.

I have standard and multi-language versions of both of these cars.  The ones pictured on the left are labeled to be released by Knickerbocker and Ganz Bros. and feature English and French.  They were released in Canada.  

On top of just being wind-up toys, the Wrist Racer includes a strap with a bubble and a ramp.  You put the car in the bubble, wind it up, pull the ramp, and hit the button on the back.  The bubble pops up and the car flies out.

The playsets only include a General Lee but the smaller toys have Rosco's car in the mix.

Many people remember having just the cars without the wrist strap.  I have several cars and only a few straps.  They are great, inexpensive additions to any collection.  I've added a bunch to my collection over the years.

I was lucky enough to add this store display advertising the Wrist Racers to the collection last year.  It features our Duke Cousins and Rosco playing with the toys.  I really love the artwork of the characters.

Recently I purchased this General Lee Wrist Racer that might be a mail-away version.  It might also just be a complete Wrist Racer in a box with a Barnbuster sticker on it.

The reason I believe it is a mail-away is that it comes with instructions that did not come on the carded version.

They are the same instructions that are printed on the back of the card, but on paper.  I'm calling it a mail-away version and sticking with it.  These are the powers afforded to me by having a Dukes of Hazzard toy blog.  The mail-away Speed Jumper set is quite rare.  I've never seen another mail-away Wrist Racer so it seems to be even more rare.  I just proclaimed that an item exists and attached rarity to it.  I love having this blog.

The final entry in the Knickerbocker Dukes of Hazzard line are the Finger Racer Crash Cars.

Like the Wrist Racers, the Finger Racers include the Gen'ral and Rosco's car.  They are smaller and are spring loaded as opposed to wind-up.  


The Finger Racers have a little launcher that fits on your finger and a button that launches them. When they hit a wall, the top of the cars fly off.

The three Knickerbocker General Lees each have distinct features and each resemble a real Charger only a little.  I just realized the Stunt Buster car I used in this picture has the flag decal attached sideways.

I sure have a bunch of Knickerbocker Dukes of Hazzard toys.  I love getting everything together like this and showing it off as a collection.  Now to post all of these cars to my new DukesCollector.com database.  Ain't this fun?

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Grand Opening of Cooter's in the Valley in Luray, VA Was A Huge Success!

What a great weekend I just had in Luray!  The Grand Opening was so much fun and a huge success.

The weather wasn't perfect, but that didn't stop loads of Dukes fans from showing up and opening the newest Cooter's location in grand fashion. 

We started the day with a ribbon cutting ceremony that was on the stage inside instead of outside. Many local politicians and community leaders were in attendance.  There were no Boss Hogg types here as everyone was very excited for the potential that Cooter's Place was bringing to Page County. Our good pal Cody of C3Brix was on hand for the ribbon cutting and I only got a picture from the stage.

Cody made another amazing mosaic out of Legos, this time of Crazy Cooter himself, Ben Jones.

This picture is of Ben seeing the mosaic for the first time, and it was a surprise from Cody and Miss Alma.

I'd say Ben was impressed.

He even grabbed special guest Tom Wopat and showed his newest portrait off to Luke Duke.  It was a special moment.

I made some great new friends at the event.  One new friend is JD Heavener of JD Joyride TV.  JD is a youtuber who has an awesome Mustang Shelby GT.  He is very passionate about his video production and Cooter's was lucky enough to have him make a video about the Grand Opening.  I happen to have a cameo in it.  Check it out above.  JD got some great footage and we had a blast hanging out.  We also rode in the Monster Truck together and JD is going to make a separate video on that.  Watch my twitter feed for that one.  Check out JD's other great videos on his youtube channel  JD Joyride TV.  I'm really looking forward to hanging out with JD more at the big event in July.

Miss Alma commissioned this awesome Cooter's shaped cake from baker extraordinaire Tom Sowers and it was a big hit.

I also surprised Alma with some homemade Dukes of Hazzard cookies that were also a hit.  Maybe I'll write a blog all about these delicious General Lees.

Alma loved them.

This is Kevin posing with his son and his really cool custom newer Charger General Lee.  I first met Kevin at the old Cooter's in Sperryville in December of 2015.

Kevin recently had his Gen'ral featured in a Mopar magazine and showed me the pictures.  He told me how much fun the photo shoot was.  It is really cool that Kevin had that experience and got to share his love for the Dukes in the magazine.  Great job Kevin!

There were several custom General Lees at the event.  This is Nicholas and his General Lee Dodge Dart.  Nick is a die hard and the next generation of Dukes fanatics.  It was really great talking to Nick about his trips to Gatlinburg and Luray.  He has a great collection and plans on building a '69 Charger General Lee.  I look forward to talking to Nick more at future events.

Nick already has a trunk lid from a '69 Dodge Charger that he plans on one day installing on his very own General Lee.  Ben signed it at the event, and Nick has several other autographs on it.  I can't wait to see your car when you get it Nicholas.

I also caught up with our pal Mike.  I first met Mike at the Kickstarter concert in New York City in December 2014.  Mike has quite a Dukes collection and we spent some time discussing Dukes stuff. I'm not sure if anyone knows, but I love talking Dukes stuff.

Mike brought his kids and they seemed to have as much fun as their dad.  Dukes of Hazzard truly is about family and that shows so often at Cooter's.

And then I took my new drone to the sky.  I recently bought a DJI Mavic Pro, and I couldn't wait to get some Dukes photos from the sky.  What I love about this shot is it shows how big the new Cooter's location is and it also shows the Cooter's Garage that's an awesome addition to the location. The outside of the building is painted to look like Cooter's Hazzard County Garage on one side.

When you step inside, you would swear you were in Hazzard County.  Ben and Alma, with the help of the Cooter's crew as well as Hollywood set designers recreated Cooter's Garage from the show down to exact details.

Mark Bradley, who currently works at the theme parks in Orlando, has designed models and sets for Hollywood productions all over the world.  He started out by building an exquisite model of the garage and it blossomed into a full size replica.

The addition of Hazzard County cars such as the General Lee, Cooter's 99 Camaro, and Boss Hogg's Caddy really add the finishing touch.

The posters on the wall and the tools on the bench are all accurate to the garage from the show.  The Cooter's Garage at Cooter's Place in Luray is a must see destination for all Dukes fans.  A really cool aspect of the garage is that fact that it will be fluid in a sense that it will have different Hazzard vehicles displayed at different times.  Cooter didn't work on the same few cars, though he did work on the Gen'ral all the time.  Keep an eye out for Daisy's Jeep, Rosco's Patrol car, and other cars soon.

The museum is amazing.  There was a crew that I was a part of that worked very hard leading up to the opening getting everything on the walls and in the shelves.  I'm honored to be a part of the Cooter's Dukes of Hazzard Museum Curators. That's not an official thing, but it sure sounds good.

Tom was interviewed by the local television station.  Everyone gets excited when the Dukes are in town.

A great thing about the new museum is that it's so big that there is space for the cast to sign autographs, a line to form, and still have people enjoy the collectibles and even have someone perform on stage.  The place is huge.

 And if Ben is signing in the museum and there is bluegrass music on stage, you can put Tom in the garage to sign and everyone is happy.  Tom looks really happy here.

Back to some of my drone shots.  We usually are looking up as the General flies through the air.  It's the other way around in this shot.

Hey look, there was a monster truck at he event.

And I got to rid in it!  I didn't use this ladder to get in.  You can see JD prepping his camera mounts inside the cabin of this beast.  He is preparing another video of us in the Monster High monster truck that I can't wait to see.

You really don't know how high you are in a monster truck until you take a ride in one.  I was in the backseat and I still got muddy.  It was a blast.

Saturday evening saw the kick off of the Shenandoah Jamboree concert series at Cooter's.  The great thing about the museum is everything is on wheels and can be moved around easily so it can turn into a concert hall.  We fit about 300 seats in there.

It's so cool that I get to see behind the scenes at these events like Tom and Cooter's Garage Band warming up.

These two lovebirds enjoyed a private concert and a little rest during all the commotion of the Grand Opening.  It was a moment I had to capture.

The concert was great.  It was a sellout and everyone had a good time.

Tom sang so many hits.  I contend that his version of "Up On Cripple Creek" is better than the original from The Band.  I said it and I stand by it.

Lisa Meadows and the rest of Cooter's Garage Band never disappoint.  It was a great show.  Tom even stuck around to sign more autographs afterwards.  He signed all day Saturday and Sunday and Saturday night.  We Dukes fans are very lucky that our heroes are so good to us.

I hung out with Cody most of the weekend, but didn't get many pictures of or with him.  Here is one of the Lego Master Builder entertaining the crowd as they wait to meet Ol' Crazy Cooter.

It was a great weekend at the Grand Opening of Cooter's in Luray.  Now the the location is officially open, there will be events all summer.  Of course, Cooter's Last Stand is coming up quickly on July 29 and 30, and there will be car shows, appearances, concerts, and all kind of events each weekend. I'll be there at least once more before the big event.  I'm already counting down the days until I go back.