GI JOE Spytroops: Night Attack Chopper (Desert Camo Version) by Hasbro

It was inevitable that as I continued to go through the totes in the dreaded Toy Crawlspace I would eventually hit GI Joe, and yesterday I unearthed quite the cornucopia of Joe goodness. Several totes worth, in fact! Some of you who haven’t been around FFZ long might mistake the rarity of GI Joe content here as an indication that I don’t love the line, but that’s far from the case. The line just frustrates me because I don’t have a lot of room for vehicles and for me GI Joe has always been about the figures interacting with the vehicles. Today’s feature is a great example of that frustration. The Night Attack Chopper is a pretty big helicopter and this one has spent almost its entire life in a tote because I have nowhere to display it. Time and again I’ve dug it out with intent to sell it and make room, but every time I fall in love with this thing and instead of putting it up on Ebay it goes back in the tote, waiting for the day I win the lottery and buy a mansion to display all this shit I collect.

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The NAC Chopper was released as part of the Spytroops line. I believe the original version was done in jungle camo and that this desert camo repaint came along the following year. I stumbled upon it back in my toy hunting days at a KB Toys Outlet (oh, those were the days!) and to be honest, I wasn’t enamored with it at first. I thought the crooked chopper blades made it look goofy, but I couldn’t deny it was a beefy and impressive toy. It was also on deep clearance so I couldn’t resist taking it home with me. The packaging is long gone, but it’s worth noting that Spytroops was a dark time when Hasbro packaged most of the vehicles in open air boxes, which meant kids could come along and stick boogers and gum onto the toy before you could even buy it. It wasn’t uncommon to have to go through several toys on the shelf before you found one that some kids didn’t already break or mess up.

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The stylized chopper blades still irk me, but considering that the rest of the toy is this glorious, I’ve learned to look past them. This is a beast of a toy and absolutely loaded with electronics and play value. There’s a fold down pistol grip on the bottom, which makes it easy to fly through the house and there’s a trigger on the tail boom to make the blades spin. You also get a winch on the side to lower Joes into action. The tan deco is simple but effective and the chopper comes with the stickers pre-applied. I love the stickers on this thing. Besides the usual registry numbers and the GI Joe logo, you get all sorts of hazard stripes, weapon load indicators; bullet holes in the canopy and even Cobra kill marks near the cockpit. Brillaint!

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Besides being big, the NAC comes loaded for bear. You got the Sound Attack system, which allowed you to plug weapons into different ports to get different attack sounds. You get two big guns designed to work with any of the four hard points, but you could also take Sound Attack guns from other vehicles and use them as well. The Sound Attack gimmick was a really clever modular weapon system, which I think could have been executed better. Nonetheless, I really dig the guns on this thing, particularly the chain gun under the chin with the removable ammo belt and laser targeting beam.

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You also get two missile pods, each capable of raining a payload of five envoys of death down on Cobra’s head. The pylons collapse into the sides of the aircraft for regular flight and deploy outward into firing positions. Wind up the back of the pods and then squeeze the trigger on the flight grip and both pods will commence their glorious symphony of destruction. I think I’d have to look back to the auto-load and firing mechanism on the Grizzly Tank for any Joe vehicle gimmick that even comes close to this. Those Spytroops people knew how to design some cool shit.

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As an indicator of this thing’s size, the NAC can seat three Joes in the cockpit: One at the pilot seat and two in the back. It also works beautifully with modern figures and the center seat is just right for my 25th Anniversary Wild Bill. There’s room for more figures and gear in the back cargo area, which features sliding access doors on both sides. It’s a bit awkward to get to and you have to deploy the missile pods into firing position to have access. Still, I love vehicles that can take a lot of figures and this one certainly does the job.

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I don’t often look back on Spytroops with a lot of fond memories, but I can’t deny that it delivered a handful of truly impressive vehicles. The Grizzly Tank was certainly one, and this helicopter is no slouch either. It’s an amazingly fun toy with a lot of clever gimmicks and it displays beautifully, provided you have the room for it. It’s also pretty rugged and hefty and surprisingly easy to find for cheap. And that’s probably another reason why I’ve hung on to it for so long. Even new in the box, you can usually pick this beauty up for under forty bucks, so apart from it taking up a lot of space, there’s not a lot of incentive for me to part with it, even if I wanted to. It’s also worth pointing out that this beast was resculpted and repainted into a Cobra helicopter too, and that one was in the same tote as this guy, so I’ll try to get around to looking at the Crimson Command Chopper sometime in the near future.

GI JOE SpyTroops: Patriot Grizzly Tank by Hasbro

Rounding out this impulsive little GI JOE week, I thought I’d throw in at least one of the Joe’s vehicles. It’s also one that I didn’t have to dig into a tote to get because a) it’s too big for my totes and b) I love it so much that I keep it displayed on a shelf. Yeah, it’s another one of those shining moments of the SpyTroops Dark Ages, the Patriot Grizzly Tank. Considering a tank is such a commonplace military vehicle it always struck me as odd that the Joes didn’t have more of them. Sure, there was the Mauler, but it was a poor substitue for a real tank… something like this one.

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No packaged shot, but like the Ringneck, the Patriot Grizzly came in a big window box minus the window. It’s a terrible design for a toy that actually had bits that could come off of it. I can remember seeing a bunch of these at KB Toys with all sorts of damage, missing bits, or other problems. Oddly enough, despite it’s size, the Grizzly required practically no assembly. As a result, it’s really sturdy hunk of plastic, so you can rough house with it all you want. Even the barrel is removable so if you snap it off, you can just pop it right back on. And did I mention it’s big? Big enough that I couldn’t shoot it in my usual staging area.

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The Patriot Grizzly features a beautifully detailed sculpt, complete with panel lines, vents, equipment, and other compartments. The treads are simulated and molded in plastic, but the tank rolls along on concealed wheels. The vehicle is finished in a desert camo motif and pre-applied stickers include the GI JOE logos on the sides and an array of Cobra emblems to catalog confirmed kills. The tank has a radar dish, a whip antenna, a minigun on the front, and two small swiveling gun emplacments. The machine gun pegs into one of the hatches, or you can remove it if you want to button up. The tank is designed to hold figures in three stations: One in the driving slot, one in the front gunner placement, and one in the machine gun hatch on the top. Of course, the tank is littered with pegs all over, so you can really load this baby up with figures. The only problem is that the pegs designed for the SpyTroops era of figures don’t work with the modern Joes.

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One of the coolest things about the Patriot Grizzly is its electronics. There’s a handle concealed in the back tha folds out like a joystick. Using this control you can rotate the turret left and right, move the tank forward and backwards, and rapid fire the huge stock of missiles that are fed into the main gun from the hatch on the main turret. Just about every movement the tank makes is accompanied by nice sound effects. The engine rumbles, the treads squeal, and the machine gun fires off bursts. It’s lots of fun to take this baby for a spin and it usually sends my cat running for cover.

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The Patriot Grizzly remains one of my favorite Joe vehicles. It has a great sense of realism to its design, it’s sturdy enough to survive storage and rugged play, and the electronic gimmicks actually enhance the toy without crapping all over its design or aesthetics. I still long for the day when Hasbro might build a Joe tank with a removable top so that you can actually have access to the interior, but the until then this one will have a place of honor in my collection.

GI JOE SpyTroops: Cobra Ringneck Armored Transport by Hasbro

What the hey. Since we kicked off the week with a couple of GI JOE vehicles, and I promised to go Lego-Free for the rest of the week, let’s just stamp a GI JOE theme on the week and be done with it. I’ve dragged a couple of totes out from the bowels of my closet to see what we can come up with. Today we’re going to look at another of my favorites in the Cobra arsenal: The Ringneck.

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No packaged shot, as I’ve had this thing for quite a while. It was released as part of the SpyTroops line way back in 2003, and it’s one of the shining moments of what was largely kind of a dark time for GI JOE, at least in terms of my interest in the line. If you’re curious, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a shot of the box via the InterWebs, but it’s worth noting that like most vehicles in this series, it was released in what was basically a window box without the window. Yep, it exposed the toy to the elements, which often increased the chances of it getting broken, having kids stick gum to it, or just have the shit beaten out of it right there on the store shelf. I bought mine new and it was full of dust right out of the package. Fun!

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The Ringneck is an armored transport and the main reason I love it is because it looks like something right out of World War II. It doesn’t really look like a Cobra vehicle, because it’s grounded too much in reality and it’s missing some of the Rube Goldbergesque stuff that Cobra engineers seemed to love. Yeah, there are a few odd gimmicks, which I’ll get to in a minute, but overall, it looks more like something you’d get in the Forces of Valor line than GI JOE.

The Ringneck rolls along on six heavy wheels and it features a main cannon attached to a great looking armored dome. The viewing slits and heavy riveting really give it that vintage vibe. There are also two smaller gun emplacements on each side. Pull the lever in the back and you can make the two gun emplacements swivel in unison while sound effects are activated. The main turret rotates and the cannon does fire a missile, but I removed mine a while back because I liked the exposed borehole of the barrel better, and now I can’t find it. As for the sound effects, I can’t remember what they are. The batteries in mine must have died a long while ago and frankly I’m afraid to open the compartment because the batteries in there have probably fused into one piece from corrosion. You can remove the two gun pods and set them up as gun emplacements, which seems like a really lame tacked on gimmick that I try to forget even exists.

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By design, the Ringneck holds four figures, with one riding in the main turret and one in each of the smaller gun emplacements. The fourth, which may be the river has the unlucky job of riding directly under the main cannon, while being the most exposed against enemy fire, and all he gets is this little pea shooter that must be hard to work with while driving. There aren’t any peg holes for other figures, but there’s plenty of room for troops to sit on the back and ride along.

The Ringneck came with a Neo Viper figure, which I’m sure I don’t have any more. At least I’m sure enough that I didn’t want to invest in a fruitless search through half a dozen totes of GI JOE figures. But that’s cool, because as far as I’m concerned, this thing belongs to my Battle Armor Cobra Commander.

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I don’t know that the Ringneck is high on most fans’ lists of favorite Cobra fighting machines, but I really dig it. It’s a pretty simple toy and what gimmicks it does have don’t really wreck it in anyway. It’s also a really solid toy. You could probably roll this thing crashing off your front porch and it would come away more or less unscathed. As I mentioned earlier, SpyTroops wasn’t a stellar time for GI JOE figures in my book, but there were a handful of really good vehicles turned out around this time for both sides.