Saturday, April 30, 2011

#12 MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE – CASTLE GRAYSKULL (1982)

Any quality action figure collection cannot be conceived without multiple accessories. It’s not enough that the figures have clothes, weapons or tools, they also need vehicles, animals and pets, and of course dioramas, buildings or castles.

“Playset” defines a group of figures and/or accessories which are sold together (generally self-contained in some kind of briefcase). Playsets are old as toys: imagine a victorian house doll, a garage for diecast cars, a Fort for cowboys which is being assaulted by Indians or Barbie’s veterinary clinic.

He-Man @ home

Castle Grayskull belongs to the Master of the Universe series. It was designed in 1981 and launched one year later. Mattel already had in stores the first 8 figures of this collection in addition to some vehicles and animals. Although it hadn't been long since the figures came out, Mattel realised, that the Collection was being a big success, and so they launched the castle Grayskull playset. This operation was not riskless, because it was a very expensive toy for those years (it cost like 6 or 7 figures), and it’s more difficult to sale, since it only makes sense when you already have some figures to “live in”.

The operation was a great success and the castle was sold during many consecutive years. In Spain it could be found until 1989, when the line was cancelled. The experience was so profitable, that Mattel made and sold other playsets with very similar characteristics in the following years: the Snake Mountain (1984), the Frigth Zone (1985) and the giant playset Eternia (1986).

The castle itself consists of two parts that hold together by means of two hinges. They allow to “close” the castle, turning it in some kind of briefcase. When closed, it’s very easy to carry, because it has a cavity which is a handle.

For playing, the playset opens leaving two fronts, (inside/ outside of the castle). The outside front is moulded with much detail (stones, slates, windows, balcony, and of course the skull at the gates), and is painted with some black spray.

Outside of the castle + details

Opened gate

The gate deserves to be commented apart, because both sides are very well sculpted, simulating teeth and tongue. It has a small bolt that allows the gate to be opened both from the inside and from the outside (using He-Man’s sword as a “key”).

The case is made of injected plastic, and the inside of the castle is the “negative” of the outside front. That’s why the interior is not so eye-catching. This little defect is hidden by the different elements to be found in each room, and the stickers.

Inside of the castle + details

The interior of the castle is divided in four rooms:

Dungeon

First room is the dungeon and the entrance of the castle. This name comes from the stickers at the floor of this room, representing the dungeon.

Throne Hall, trap and trap mechanism

Over the dungeon it’s the throne hall. This is the most beautiful room in the castle. There’s a trap at the floor which is decorated with a carpet sticker, and that can be activated by turning the throne. In this room there’s also a piece of cardboard that represents an armour (or maybe a robot) and a flag that hangs beside the throne.

On the other half of the castle, the bottom floor is the armoury, which is also the room where the elevator is found. There is another cardboard representing a weapons stand that fits in this room at best.

The elevator runs over a rail that is fixed to the case and it can be lifted by pulling from a string at whose end there’s a bat. The whole thing leaves very few space free both at the bottom and top floors.

Control Station

At the top floor its located the control station with the “supercomputer”, whose function is not clear, maybe it’s a surveillance or communications device, maybe it’s the time machine, maybe it’s both and even more!

Apart from those rooms, there are two towers, the bigger one is a vigilance tower where the flag can be clipped. The smaller tower has a cannon that takes up almost the whole space.

In the box there were 9 light gray weapons and a stand to put them on. At that point, all the weapons were new sculpts, but in the following years, they were reused for new figures (changing always the color) A training tool was also included.

Spanish promotional catalogue - Courtesy of Blade

One year later (1983), Mattel sold separately the “Point Dread and Talon Fighter”, which was an add-on to the castle, and a kind of bird/airplane (see picture above).

FACTS and FIGURES

  • Name: CASTLE GRAYSKULL
  • Toy Line: Masters of the Universe (Wave 1)
  • Year: 1982
  • Company: Mattel (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the castle: 48 cm x 30 cm x 20 cm
NOTE: This article is a translated and abridged version of the one published in "Figuras en Acción" (Nr.2), but including more pictures.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

#11 M.A.S.K. – DYNAMO with BRUCE SATO/ LIFTER (1987)

M.A.S.K. (or Mobile Armored Strike Kommando) is, like in any other action figure series, a group of heroes that saves the world each day by fighting a mysterious terrorist organisation called VENOM. One of the most interesting things of this collection is that these heroes do not have superpowers, but very special masks. Masks have many different features: they shoot laser beams or arrows, produce anti-gravity fields, high frequency waves to paralyze the enemies, or provide sonar and radar utilities to see though walls, or detect possible menaces. The masks are so important, that the characters change their names when they are wearing them.


Stealth mode: Off-road vehicle

Another interesting fact of this collection is that the characters have very different personalities and backgrounds. Even the names are very well selected…

Today I wanted to talk about one of M.A.S.K.’s characters: Bruce Sato (or Lifter when his wearing his mask). To this extent, I have chosen one of the two vehicles he usually drives: the Dynamo. In cartoons and comics, he usually drives the Rhino, the big truck released in the first wave. A second version of Bruce Sato was available in the 4th wave (1987-1988) with the Dynamo. Bruce could also be purchased in the two-figures-blister or in the adventure pack: “Rescue Mission” with the mask “Grasshopper”.
Bruce Sato/Lifter and clone
According to his biography, Bruce Sato works as a toy designer. Inside M.A.S.K. organisation he is a mechanical engineer and design specialist. He is also the right hand of Matt Tracker, what means, he’s the second in the command line. He is of Japanese origin and for this reason uses many proverbs and riddles that not all his colleagues understand.
Like the rest of the boxes from the 4th wave, the figure came with a “clone”, which is exactly the same figure but in some translucent color.
Defense mode: Helicopter and Kart
Dynamo’s stealth mode is an off-road vehicle, while in defense mode is a small helicopter and some kind of kart. Under the nose of the helicopter is hidden a “fusion bomb”, which is often missing.
FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: DYNAMO with BRUCE SATO
  • M.A.S.K. (Wave 4)
  • Year: 1987
  • Company: Kenner (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the vehicle: 5’’ or 13 cm
  • Size of the figures: 2½’’ or 6,5 cm

Saturday, April 23, 2011

#10 MAJORETTE – FORMULA 1 (REPCO Nr. 226, B.R.M. Nr. 228 and FERRARI Nr.229) (1968-1969)

One of the most prolific diecast manufacturers is the French company Majorette. It was founded in 1961 by the Veron family, but at that time it was called “Rail-Route Jouets”. Majorette was originally one of the two series of Rail-Route: the train series carried no second name, but every car and truck was sold as “Rail-Route, coll. Majorette”. The current name was adopted around 1966, when the company cancelled their railway models’ production. One locomotive model (Nr. 234) would still be available until 1970.

2nd Catalogue from 1970, Courtesy of Mike B. www.mjrttnrv.nl

On the first two Majorette Series (1968-69), 4 Formula 1 models were produced with the numbers 226 to 229.
Nr. 226 – REPCO BRABHAM (1969 - 1975)
Nr. 227 - LOTUS (1969 - 1975)
Nr. 228 - B.R.M. (1968 - 1974)
Nr. 229 – FERRARI (1968 - 1974)

226 Repco Brabham (blue) & 229 Ferrari (red)


227 Lotus (gold), 228 BRM (red) & 229 Ferrari (blue)
227 Lotus (gold), 228 BRM (red) & 229 Ferrari (blue)
 
227 Lotus (gold), 228 BRM (red) & 229 Ferrari (blue)

 In the last picture, the name of car nr. 228 (BRM) has been erased from the cast, so there were at least two different casts for this model. The erased one is obviously more recent, but we don't know the reasons for that.

BRM (Unfortunately, exhaust pipes are broken)
 
All models are built in 1:65 scale, and include two-piece wheels, typical for models made before 1973.
Each model was built in many different colours, and included different sponsors and numbers (they were applied randomly). The Ferrari, for example, was sold at least with two different shades of red, orange, and blue, while the Repco was (at least) in blue, dark green and orange.B.R.M. was available at least in metallic red, green, blue, turquoise, and red with yellow chassis.

Another sculpt of the Ferrari was sold with the same number. Both models are very similar, but the one which is not depicted here, lacks of front and rear wings. This one was produced at least in red and silver grey.

Models with rear wing are very fragile, since this part is made of plastic and breaks easily. Other parts, like exhaust pipes are also fragile, and the chromed parts tend to lose its shine with the years.

FACTS AND FIGURES
  • Name: FORMULA 1 (Nrs. 226/227/228/229)
  • Scale: 1:65
  • Year: 1969/1969/1968/1968
  • Company: Majorette (France)
  • Size: approx. 3’’ or 7,5 cm

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#9 AIRGAM COMICS – SUPERFANTASTICS TRI-RUNNER with SIRDAR (1986)

Airgam is a Spanish toy company which was extremely popular in the 70s, mostly thanks to their Airgamboys, figures which looked very much like Playmobils. This series had from football players to extraterrestrials, and from gladiators to robots. In the last years of existence of this company (85-86), they reused many moulds from Airgamboys, to create a complete new series, called Airgamcomics. The characters were a mixture of comic heroes, film monsters, and some invented characters, as well as many vehicles (motorbikes, buggies, planes, helicopters, boats, futuristic tanks, amphibious vehicles…).


I’ll talk some other time about these figures, and I’ll provide many pictures. This time I want to talk about this box, which belongs to the second (and last) Airgamcomics wave (1986). This wave’s figures had extra articulations in knees and elbows (the classic G.I.Joe: ARAH’s swivel arm). Sirdar is one of the eight figures of this wave, and reminds very much of a gladiator. It was sold separately in a single blister (Ref. 1101) or along with his vehicle (Ref. 1156), which is some kind of futuristic AT-tricycle.

 
The vehicle includes a missile launcher (with five missiles) and you can steer it moving from side to side the tab behind the seat. Unfortunately I can’t take better photos now, but the stickers at the control panel are very colourful, and in the front wheel, there is a tiger head at each side.
The figure comes with a silver sword, a shield and a black laser pistol. I’ll show it fully armoured when I talk about the figures. Sorry for the bad quality of the picture!

As you can see in the third pic, the box is much filled with air, but it has a nice design and a nice illustration in the flap. Notice that the box is in Spanish, French and English, and it has the word projectiles written with “y”: “proyectiles”.
From all action figure collections I did, this was my first. I remember when my father bought me the first figure and vehicle of this collection, and how I got to have all figures. I still have them, and for this reason, this collection has a very special place among all my figures and cars.
FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: TRI-RUNNER with SIRDAR
  • Toy Line: Airgamcomics (Wave 2)
  • Year: 1986
  • Company: Airgam (Spain)
  • Size of the vehicle: 18 cm
  • Size of the figures: 10 cm

Monday, April 18, 2011

#8 MATCHBOX – MERCEDES BENZ ‘BINZ’ AMBULANCE (1967)

There is nothing I can say about Matchbox cars has not been written before, there are many books dealing with this British company. This time, I’ll just present one of the “King Size” models I acquired two years ago.
From the models made before 1971, there are two models for each reference. The first reference belongs to models made between 1960 and 1963, that were packaged in the classic yellow “matchbox” box. These models are often referred as “K-XX-a” (K-1 to K-12). Most of these models are trucks and construction machines (excavator, tractor, shovel…)

In 1964, new “King Size” models were packaged in a more elaborated box, with a window through which you could see the actual toy. All references were reused. (K-1 to K-24). In this series there were for the first time cars, and the models included new features like opening doors, suspension and front wheels steering.
All King Size models were manufactured before 1971; in that year, the brand changed this series name to “Super Kings”, although the numbering remained K-XX.


The Mercedes Benz ‘Binz’ Ambulance reference is K-6 (often referred as K-6-b). The box keeps its original yellow color and includes the word “new” before “King Size”.

The back is beautifully illustrated as well. Even the inside of the box is decorated.

The car is built in what it seems to be a 1:43 scale (is not indicated anywhere in the box). The interior is made of plastic, and the tyres are made of rubber. The model presents a very high number of details: high roof, siren, front radiator and lights, Mercedes emblem, hub caps, interior, opening doors and trunk, and red cross decals. The most interesting detail is the patient in the stretcher with the blanket. This part is obviously very hard to find, and gives much value to the scale model. The box is completely original.

catalogue image promoting this model

I hope you liked this review. I must apologize for the pictures, when I took them, I didn’t know I would use them for this report, and therefore I didn’t make any attention to the backgrounds.

FACTS AND FIGURES
  • Name: MERCEDES BENZ ‘BINZ’ AMBULANCE
  • Series: King Size
  • Scale: 1:43 (estimation)
  • Year: 1967
  • Company: Matchbox (Great Britain)
  • Size: approx. 10 cm

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#7 TRANSFORMERS - MICROMASTERS OVERLOAD (1988)



The Micromasters are the small versions of the transformers. They were sold in packets containing 4 different figures (ordered by theme: Race Cars, Monster Trucks, Construction,…) like Galoob’s Micromachines, or individually, if they were some kind of transport or playset/ headquarters.

One year later, the micromasters were presented as robots that transformed into one half of a vehicle, and they were called Combiners. This same schema was used by Matchbox’s Connectables, in which you could combine different parts of cars, planes,… into a new, custom vehicle.

The combiners were sold as well in groups (six halves = three vehicles), or individually (transports, headquarters).

Both the micromasters or micromasters combiners’ headquarters are vehicles that transform in a little playset at the scale of the little robots. This idea is similar to the one used later in other toy lines like Mighty Max, Polly Pocket or, again, in the Micromachines pocket playsets.


Today, on ToysFromThePast, Micromaster Overload, one of the four Micromaster transporters of 1988. Overload was not released anymore in the vintage line, and is, therefore, a relative unknown character.



OVERLOAD (Japan: Roadjet -C-337-)
  • Faction: Autobots
  • Subgroup: Micromasters
  • Function: Troops Transport
  • Motto: “Know your enemy and he's yours”
  • Bio: A bold and daring soldier. Often breaks away from cargo-hauling missions to join his fellow Autobots on the battlefield. A tactical genius on the front line. Trailer converts to turbo-boosted, supersonic fighter jet armed with wing-mounted, double-barreled machine guns. Laser guided, lock-target scanners provide pinpoint firepower. Capable of reaching speeds in excess of Mach 2. Also equipped with hydrofoil capabilities.
  • Tech Specs for Overload:
    • Strength: 5
    • Intelligence: 8
    • Speed: 7
    • Endurance: 8
    • Rank: 4
    • Courage: 8
    • Firepower: 7
    • Skill: 6

FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: Micromasters Autobot Overload
  • Toy Line: Transformers (G1)
  • Year: 1989
  • Company: Hasbro (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the toy: 5’’ or 12,5 cm
  • Size of the figure in robot mode: 2’’ or 5 cm

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#6 BIG JIM – MOTOCROSS HONDA (1974)


Big Jim was born in 1972 under the inspiration of Hasbro’s Adventure Team/ G.I. Joe. Mattel needed a figure to compete in the toys-for-boys market against them. They already had Barbie (since 1959), which was (and still is) a huge success. G.I.Joe was pioneer in action figures for boys, proving that also boys could play with “dolls”. This was at the time a huge conceptual change in games for boys.

If it worked for Hasbro, why wouldn’t it work for Mattel? G.I.Joes are soldiers and Adventure Team are men of action and adventurers, while Big Jim are just normal people: they play sports, ride motorbikes or horses, and have fun and adventures with infinite playsets. Big Jim is somehow a cross-over between G.I.Joe (discriminating figures for boys) and Barbie (discriminating figures for girls). This toy line was intended for North and South America, as well as for Europe. It was in Central Europe that it got to reach its highest popularity, since centroeuropeans are reluctant to anything that reminds them of war or weapons.

One of the most prolific branches of this series was sports. For sale were numerous blisters with the appropriate sport attires: boxing, baseball, diving, skiing, basketball… as well as boxes with the corresponding accessories, like a handle for figures to fight against each other, or this motorbike.

A perfect replica of a Honda Elsinore CR250M model at 1:8 scale, in gray with green numbers, as seen in many competitions in the 70s. At the pictures in this entry, we can see Big Jack wearing the pilot attires. There is a more suitable pilot attire for motocross, but I don’t have it. Unfortunately some stickers (Honda emblem and green stripes over the petrol tank) are missing. The handlebar is very fragile and can be very easily broken.


FACTS and FIGURES:

  • Name: Honda Motocross (Ref. 7373)
  • Toy Line: Big Jim
  • Year: 1973
  • Company: Mattel (U.S.A.)
  • Size: 27 cm
  • Scale: 1:8

Friday, April 8, 2011

#5 POLITOYS – ALFA-ROMEO GIULIA, ALFA ROMEO GIULIA GT (1965) & MEBETOYS – FIAT 124 (1966)

Italian Automotive industries are between the most powerful in the world: Fiat, Lancia, Ferrari are well known worldwide. Toy companies like Politoys/Polistil, Bburago or Mebetoys are only popular among scale car collectors.
Today I wanted to present these three models, that I recently acquired. They are all built in 1:43 scale and they are made in Italy. That’s what they’ve in common.
 
Left to Right: A-R Giulia, A-R Giulia GT, Fiat 124 
 
Left to Right: Fiat 124, A-R Giulia, A-R Giulia GT

Two of these models are Alfa-Romeo Giulia, a “standard” version (nº523), and a GT version (nº 500) of the same automobile, and both are made by Politoys. This company was founded in 1960, and started producing plastic 1:41 cars, but in 1965 changed to die-cast 1:43 cars. In 1970, the company changed its name to Polistil, and continued producing quality products (cars, motobikes) in many different scales (1:16, 1:24, 1:32, 1:43, 1:66,…), including slot cars. By the late 80s, the company was absorbed by Tonka, and after a few years (1993), they stopped using this name forever.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
 
Alfa Romeo Giulia GT
 
The third model is a Fiat 124 (A-16), made by Mebetoys. This company was founded in 1959 but the car line was started in 1966. The company was only independent for a few years, because in 1969 it was acquired by Mattel, that already had its own brand for scale cars: HotWheels! Both brands were simultaneously in the market many years, until 1983. The moulds were shared with other toy companies, like the Spanish Joal. 

Fiat 124
 
Mebetoys’ old models are even rarer to find than Politoys and therefore relatively expensive.
Both Mebetoys and Politoys/Polistil are between the most renowned European brands of the 60s and 70s, along with Schucco (Germany), Solido (France), Corgi and Dinky (G. Britain). As you can see in the pictures, these models have many practicable parts (doors, trunk, bonnet), rubber tyres, and very high detail level. Some models even include reclining seats, and they all use “jewel-headlights”.

FACTS AND FIGURES
  • Name: Alfa Romeo Giulia / Alfa Romeo Giulia GT / Fiat 124
  • Scale: 1:43
  • Year: 1965 / 1965 / 1966
  • Company: Politoys- Polistil (Italy) / Mebetoys (Italy)
  • Size: approx. 10 cm
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