Vintage Vault: M.A.S.K. Thunderhawk with Matt Trakker by Kenner

I suppose I couldn’t go much longer looking at MASK without checking out one of the lead vehicles, so today we’re checking out what is without a doubt the most iconic vehicle of the line. Its none other then Matt Trakker’s flying Chevy Camero, Thunderhawk. Now, this may be blasphemy to some of you MASK fans out there, but as both a toy and a concept, Thunderhawk hasn’t aged well for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was in love with this toy as a kid, but while I still have an undying love for many of these clever toy designs, Thunderhawk just doesn’t impress me much anymore. Let’s see why…

But before we get to Thunderhawk, let’s check out MASK’s intrepid leader and single dad, Matt Trakker. If he looks a little familar, it might be because Hasbro gave him the action figure treatment just a few years ago as part of the GI JOE 25th Anniversary Collection. And yes, having a 3 3/4″ Matt Trakker figure on a GI JOE card almost blew my brain out the side of my head from sheer awesome and is a figure I seriously need to look at here later on in the week. It also gave me false hopes that we might see a resurgence in MASK toys and figures, but we all know how that went. Anyway, the original Matt is a fairly simple figure. He comes in a grey flight jumpsuit with a sculpted five-point harness and red armbands, gloves and knee pads. As usual for MASK figures, his hair is painted, but none of the features on his face are, making it a bit difficult to pick out the detail in the head sculpt. Matt Trakker features the same seven points of articulation as all MASK figures: A rotating neck, arms that rotate at the shoulders, legs that rotate at the hips, and hinged knees.
Matt Trakker’s mask is called Spectrum and if I remember correctly it launched some kind of sonic attack that temporarily disorientated enemies. Spectrum is one of my favorite mask designs in the whole line. Its red and silver deco goes well with Matt’s jumpsuit and the fact that it actually looks a bit like a flight mask made it look right very appropriate while Matt was flyng the Thunderhawk, especially since the cockpit was open to the air. That wind sheer had to be killer!
And so that brings us to Thunderhawk. In its covert mode, Thunderhawk is a red Chevy Camero, and I’ve got very little to complain about when it comes to this mode. The car looks fantastic, and as I’ve said before, I loved the fact that so many MASK toys actually used licensed vehicles, complete with trademarks and all. As usual, you even get real rubber tires complete with the Good Year logos. The interior of the car is very nicely detailed, complete with sculpted seats, a dashboard sticker, and seatbelts that hold the figures in place. Yes sir, the Thunderhawk is a very nice recreation of the Camero, with only one exception and that’s the gull-wing doors, which aren’t accurate, but obviously needed for the toy’s conversion gimmick.
The bulk of the car’s body is molded in red plastic and the undercarriage is in grey. The headlights are chromed silver, as are the running boards under the doors. Thunderhawk makes use of some very prominant and very large stickers, which make the toy look great, so long as they aren’t tattered and peeling. These stickers are one of the things that makes getting a really good second-hand Thunderhawk particularly difficult, but more on that later.
So far its all been gushing, so what’s the problem? The problem is in Thunderhawk’s conversion to its jet mode. Its just way too simple. You push the button on the top, the gullwing doors open to form wings and the spoiler and rear bumper lift up to reveal the thrusters. All that’s left is to pull out the wing guns, and that’s it. If you look underneath, there’s two hatches where Thunderhawk can drop its stun bombs. Yeah, one of mine is missing. I had plenty of fun with this thing as a kid, but looking back on it now, it’s just not very clever or convincing when it comes to designs.
The other problem with Thunderhawk is that it can be damn expensive to get a really good one. It is the most iconic vehicle in the line, and so that makes it one of the most desireable. There are plenty out there to be had, but getting one in really good condition is the tricky thing. I’ve already mentioned the stickers. There are two huge stickers on the hood, one on each door, three on the roof, and one that covers the entire spoiler. Years and rough play take their tole on these things, and when they’re mussed up, it really hurts the look of the toy. The other problem is in the springs. Thunderhawk’s conversion is done almost completely by the single press of a button and the catches wear over time. It takes several tries before the doors on mine will lock down, and eventually they just won’t anymore. The rear bumper won’t stay down all the way, leaving the rear jet engines peaking out all the time. I often think about getting another one in better shape, but then I reallize I’ll be spending around sixty bucks, and quite frankly there are other MASK toys that I don’t have, that I’d much rather sink that money into.
Don’t think I’m hating on Thunderhawk. Its still a cool toy, but it just isn’t one of my favorites in the line. Afterall, half of its conversion just entails opening its doors. I’m all for suspending belief at the fact that this thing doesn’t look like it could ever fly in a million years, but when you look at some of the clever designs of the other MASK vehicles, you’d think the leader could get something better. In fact, there were several flying sportscars in the MASK line, and almost all of them were better looking and more clever than poor old Thunderhawk. Next Monday, we’ll take a look at one of those.

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