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One of the first Thomas toys my son owned was this car. Since then many Thomas toys have come and gone, but this car is still standing and very much a favourite. We came across it in our local toy shop for £10 and my son fell in love with it instantly. It is the car of Sir Topham Hatt, or as we know him better, The Fat Controller. He is the head of the railway and gives the engines their orders and directions. My son is a huge fan and has a number of different figures.
It is a large car and more like the size of those of Fisher price, ELC and alike. It is made of metal so has a little weight to it, and it has free moving rubber wheels so it can easily be pushed around. This car cannot be used on tracks; it is just designed to be pushed around on flat surfaces.
The fat controller sits in the front of the car and when you push on his hat it activates the sounds. The whole car is very well detailed with steering wheels, and wing mirrors etc, which my son thought was very important. Of course he has his top hat on and when you push the car along it will play an engine noise. The character cannot be removed and the doors of the car are also just for show, but this does not put my children off at all. The toy says both phrases, and makes a noise as it is pushed along the floor.
My son loves pushing this car around and he used it a lot in his Thomas phrase. It is the perfect size to be pushed around by small children and the sounds give the imagination a kick start. When you press down on the top of the hat the car begins to rev, and each time you press it again the fat controller says a number of phrases. They all of course relate to the trains and the Island of Sodor, and the phrases would be easily recognised by any Thomas fan. He talks about how engines should be really useful, and how he must keep his engines in order. They do not play on a loop, but there are only around six phrases, so not a huge amount of variation.
The rubber wheels mean it moves freely, but when you try to push the car it does not travel very far even on wooden flooring. My son does not mind at all because he likes being close to the car to here it rev up as it drives along. He loves this car and he always made sure it was involved in his stories. He loved driving the car past and shouting orders at the engines. The character is not removable and is permanently fixed to the seat. Other than the noises there are no interactive features, but that is more than enough to please my son.
The durability has been fantastic. We have owned this for around three years now and it is still in perfect condition. It has received hours of use from all of my children, and other than a few scratches to the paint it is still functional. There is a switch underneath the car so you can turn the sounds on and off. We tend to just leave it on as it only starts up once you have pressed the hat. In three years we have never once had to change the batteries. The voice is not perfect but it was like this when we first purchased it.
As it was so long ago that I purchased the car I checked Amazon to see the recommended age range. They have it listed at 12 months plus, which I have to disagree with. The car is very heavy and if it were in the hands of a child so young they could easily hurt themselves. I would say three years plus would be more suitable, when a child can play without trying to throw or eat it. It is very easy to use and a gentle knock of the hat sets the car off easily, so that part of the car would be no problem.
I would highly recommend this car, as my son finds it is the perfect accessory for his stories. It works well and the fact that the fat controller talks really seems to please my son. We purchased ours from an independent toy store, but they are available on eBay and Amazon. Amazon has a price of £27 plus £5 postage which is just crazy for a toy car. I would say anything up to around £15 would be a fair price for a fantastic toy.