It’s long past time that I introduce a fresh toy line to Vintage Vault, so here we go. Today we’re checking out the Wheeled Warriors. Introduced by Mattel back in 1985, the Wheeled Warriors were a somewhat short lived line of vehicles with a load of customization and play value, summed up by the tagline, “quick changing fighting machines!” The battle raged between the good guys, called the Lightning League, and the bad guys, The Monster Minds. Like all good toy lines of the 80’s the Wheeled Warriors featured a cartoon tie-in, called “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.” Unlike a lot of the 80’s cartoons, this one was ret-conned from a toy line that didn’t really have any characters or story and it shows. It was well animated enough and sometimes entertaining, but despite the fact that it featured Mattel’s vehicle designs it just didn’t mesh well with the toys. The bizarre mix of magic and fantasy elements and the ungoing story involving space exploration and the quest to find the lead character’s father seemed obviously tacked on.
Anywho, today we’re going to look at the lead vehicle from the good guys, Armed Force. Each of the vehicles had a signature weapon and Armed Force’s is a giant claw. I don’t have a package shot, but these vehicles came in slightly elongated window boxes with the core vehicle on one side and the various parts mounted to the right. The packages displayed the toys well enough, but the deco wasn’t terribly attractive or exciting. Someday I may get to feature a packaged Wheeled Warriors toy here, but I won’t be going out of my way to get one.
And there’s Armed Force in all its stripped down glory. The set includes the vehicle’s chassis, hinged cockpit, driver figure, drive frame, the claw arm, a missile, and three guns. You also got six wheels, but mine is missing the two extras. The missing wheels are basically the same as the smaller ones, but have a swirly pattern instead of the gears. Remember, the gimmick here is complete customization, so each of the vehicles had sockets to plug the weapons into and even the drive systems and wheels could be pulled out and interchanged. Armed Force has enough sockets to get everything onto the vehicle, minus the two extra wheels, and still have three sockets left over. There are plenty of custom options for each individual toy, but ideally the more toys you had the more you could play around with, plus each side had an Attack Pack available with extra parts. You can even link up multiple vehicles. It works better in theory than practice, but you can still do it!
The Armed Force toy itself is a very nice piece. The body is cast in white plastic and paired with some gorgeous gold vac-metal to give it a snazzy look. There are sculpted panel lines, vents, hoses and various other thingamajigs all over and even some colorful decals on the top with the Lightning League logos. The canopy opens up to reveal the cockpit for the driver figure. The drivers aren’t much to rave about. They’re smaller and less detailed than Kenner’s MASK figures, and only feature four points of articulation (shoulders and hips) but having a removable driver is still a cool bonus. The use of gold vac-metal carried over to some of the parts as well and the claw arm has a simple chomping gimmick that can be worked with the lever on the back.
I absolutely loved the concept of these toys as a kid, but between Transformers, GI Joe, and Star Wars my allowance and Christmas wish lists were always already spoken for so I never owned any. When I finally tracked down this decent and almost complete Armed Force, I was a little apprehensive about what it would be like in person, particularly since these things aren’t cheap. When it finally arrived I was happy to see that it lived up to, and possibly exceeded, my expectations. These are really fun and well- designed toys that hold up extremely well. If Mattel wanted to they could easily re-launch this line under the Hot Wheels brand and probably be pretty successful with it. I know I would buy the hell out of them. But for now, I’ll have to be content with hunting down the vintage versions. Oh yes, we’ll be looking at more Wheeled Warriors in the future!