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The History of Hess Trucks

In the 1930s, Leon Hess began delivering fuel to homes in New Jersey. By 1964, he owned an empire of gas stations and wanted to give his customers a gift as a sign of goodwill. To that end, he began selling toy trucks at his Hess gas stations. Hess insisted on high-quality craftsmanship and affordability. The very first Hess truck debuted in 1964 and was a replica of the company’s first B61 tanker. For the next 15 years, Hess sold a new toy truck each holiday season without any major marketing. Each was modeled after an actual vehicle in the Hess fleet, although they weren’t always trucks. For example, in 1966, the company released the Hess Voyager, which was a replica of a real Hess oil tanker ship! In 1980, Hess began to run TV commercials, and the iconic jingle, “The Hess truck’s back and it’s better than ever!” debuted in 1988. (Notably, the tune is an adapted version of the hit 1963 song, “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels.) That same year, the company released their first toy not based on one of their own vehicles — a combination trailer truck and GT-style race car. 1988 was also the first year that Hess toys were given license plates inscribed with the year of issue. Hess has released a holiday truck each year since 1964, with the exception of three: 1973, 1979, and 1981. All three years involved a gas crisis or economic downturn that made manufacturing the toys prohibitively expensive. In 2014, Hess sold its retail gas stations to Speedway, but the company has continued to produce its iconic toy trucks online. Since their introduction in 1964, Hess trucks have become highly sought-after collectibles and new releases are eagerly anticipated by many families as the holiday season rolls around each year.

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