Where it Began

A builder, visionary, entrepreneur, patriot and leader. Above all, a great father and family man. The remarkable qualities that made Leon Hess so special are at the heart of the Hess Toy Truck. Born in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1914, Leon Hess grew up during the Depression. After finishing high school and unable to afford college, he bought a second hand truck and started a business delivering fuel oil to homes in New Jersey in 1933. When he passed away in 1999 at the age of 85, Hess Corporation had grown into one of the world’s largest energy companies.

Where it Began

Not long after opening the first Hess branded gas station in 1960, Leon Hess decided to offer families a fun, high quality and affordable toy for the holidays as a goodwill gesture to customers. With that decision, he created a toy for kids of all ages, the Hess Toy Truck, that has become a hallmark of the holiday season. Leon Hess wanted a toy truck made outstanding craftsmanship and innovative use of electronics. And he wanted to offer it at a price families could afford with batteries included— a concept that endures to this day.

Where it Began

This vision for a Hess Toy Truck became a reality with the 1964 Hess Tanker Trailer. A replica of the company’s first B61 Mack truck and trailer, the toy’s features were rare for its time: working headlights and taillights controlled by a switch at the back of the cab, and a cargo tank that could be filled and emptied with an accompanying funnel and rubber hose. There were no TV ads or major radio campaigns for the Hess Tanker Trailer—just a few small newspaper ads for a well-made toy, battery included, sold at Hess gas stations. But fifty years of fun had just begun.

How It's Made

It takes a very long time to become a Hess Toy Truck. The process of developing the annual toy starts between two and three years before it actually goes on sale. And in some cases it’s been as long as six years from concept to market.

How It's Made

The drawings and feature concepts are reviewed, and the toys begin to evolve. Many trucks are proposed and many fall by the wayside. The top two or three designs go to the next round, where they are transformed from drawings to handmade models, then evaluated for functionality and playability. Eventually, the new Hess Toy Truck is chosen.

How It's Made

Each Hess toy is comprised of 75 to 100 small hard-plastic pieces. A tooling, or mold, for each of those pieces must be cut to precise measurements. Once the toolings are made and tested, the pieces are produced and meticulously assembled. Then, as anyone who has unpacked a Hess Toy Truck knows, the final toy is placed—very carefully—in its box.

How It's Made

And what happens to the trucks that didn’t get picked? Some of them vanish, never to be spoken of again. Others have actually reappeared years later, souped up and ready to light up a future holiday promotion.

Marketing of the Toy Truck

Until the 1980s there were no TV ads or major radio campaigns for the Hess Toy Trucks—just newspaper ads and signs at the Hess gas stations for a well-made toy, battery included, sold for a great value.

Marketing of the Toy Truck

Starting in the 1980s, Hess began releasing new TV commercials every year. Their variety and ingenuity made every spot a surprise. One year the spot updated the famous poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”; in another, it was set to a jingle that rewrote the words to Roger Miller’s hobo classic “King of the Road.”

Marketing of the Toy Truck

To celebrate the Toy Truck and Racer in 1988, Hess adapted a song by the ’60s group The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back.” The Hess jingle was: “The Hess Truck’s back and it’s better than ever!” That line got to the heart of the matter, the excitement around the arrival of a new great toy. Every year since, the jingle has been rearranged for the new release.

Marketing of the Toy Truck

Since 2009, Hess has been expanding its digital identity – first with a Facebook page, then with a series of free app games based on the toy trucks. Kids and adults alike can play with the Toy Trucks in the virtual world on their smartphones. In 2012, Hess launched an online store where customers could purchase Hess Toy Trucks, here at www.hesstoytruck.com.