When the G.I. Joe toy line began in 1982 it had a strong foundation in real military branches and hardware. Kinda. It still had a flair for the dramatic and the fantastical and blended common military vehicles with high-tech weaponry. Some of the vehicles were very simple and looked awesome but over the years you begin to realize that vehicle safety guidelines were tossed out the window in favor of a huge laser turret, not like there’s anything wrong with that…
During the first couple years of the toy line things were pretty down to earth. Sure, you had hang gliders (not safe to begin with, now add weapons), hovercrafts (not very efficient, now add weapons), and bulky battle armor (it could happen, now add weapons), but it all had a sense of realness.
As the years went on Hasbro needed to keep the G.I. Joe vehicle market fresh, so things really started to take a turn towards the weird. Which was one of the best decisions Hasbro ever made.
1. Cobra POGO (1987)
“Cobra’s “hoppin” mad and he’s coming after Joe in this one man ballistic battle ball…no battlefield obstacle can get in its way!”
Just imagine how goofy the sight of a red metal ball with spring legs bounding down the battlefield, lobbing missiles and firing machine guns…wait a minute, that actually sounds pretty awesome, albeit chaotic, dangerous, and not very efficient. If the main purpose of the Cobra POGO is to get around any obstacle, I would think that the engineers at Cobra R&D could come up with something a little better…or safer.
Cobra Commander (in his battle armor) was always kinda partnered up with the POGO in the packaging and advertising, so maybe it was his idea. I could see him throwing open the door to some office with a bunch of Cobra engineers and throwing down a cocktail napkin with notes scrawled on it. In a panic to please the boss, the engineers (who wear white shirts, ties, sensible slacks, and the red cobra mask) snort a mountain of cocaine to pull an all-nighter. When they awaken the next day in a haze, Cobra Commander is already there looking at their blueprints. He loves the plans and leaves with them in his clenched fist, laughing at the terrible fate G.I. Joe has in store. The engineers all look at each other in horror trying to remember what the hell they created.
To be honest I had the POGO and I thought it was pretty rad. I loved the plastic dome canopy over the cockpit that could open and close. And for a kid the idea of jumping up and smashing down on your enemies was cool.
2. Buzz Boar (1987)
“With its large rotating wheel, the Boar digs underground to cache top-secret implements of destruction.”
Here is a commercial for the Buzz Boar, along with the Road Toad…which didn’t make this list but may find a home on a Part Two or Three down the road (there are a lot of funky vehicles).
3. Pile Driver (1993)
“Rapid-Assault Tornado Attack Vehicle”
Part of the day glow ninja branch of G.I. Joe, Ninja Force, the Pile Driver came towards the end of (the original) G.I. Joe’s life span. I think it makes perfect sense to have a vehicle driven by ninjas use large melee weapons, you know the weapon being an extension of one’s self and all. Ugh! I get it, I really do but why the hell wouldn’t a ninja just want a cannon or missiles like everyone else? Why would they want to be speeding along at top speed and spinning at the same time praying that they score a hit with a large metal club? To be fair Cobra had the exact same vehicle but instead of a club it was a large axe blade. Ninjas!!
They do have mounted guns and apparently the “cage” that the driver stands in is made of bazooka proof metal. Even though it doesn’t have walls, it can withstand high ordinance explosions while protecting the driver. Sure, ok.
The idea of ninja vehicles using melee weapons came long before this 1993 toy. The Chuck Norris Karate Kommando toys from 1986 used this feature ’til the cows came home. It’s sad when a once mighty toy line like G.I. Joe had to play catch up on something that was approaching seven years old, and out of fade. Damn, the end was not kind to Joe.
4. H.A.V.O.C. (1986)
“The roving vehicular fortress is an extremely versatile machine with pivoting duel track system for the toughest terrain. Its part of the new modern army G.I. Joe collection of vehicles, weapons, figures, and accessories. Use it to help G.I. Joe defend democracy and battle his evil enemy – COBRA”
It’s hard to separate myself from my fanboy love of all things G.I. Joe and look at some of the G.I. Joe catalog for its utter silliness. I personally love the H.A.V.O.C. and for some reason I was blessed enough to get two of them one Christmas for two different family members. It was super cheap but you got so much for the money. At the time this was only a 10 to 12 dollar toy and it came with a figure, Cross Country. It could hold up to 12 figures and it was good sized. Made me feel like I could stand toe-to-toe with the rich kids who had all of the big and expensive vehicles in the G.I. Joe toy line.
But now for the cold hard facts. Firstly, H.A.V.O.C. stands for Heavy Articulated Vehicle Ordnance Carrier. Ok, it indeed is definitely that. It has two large cannons with a central seat and rests on two arms, allowing it to raise up. But, when I say central seat…it’s just that, a seat. Not very safe when speeding into enemy gun fire. Also the canopy lifts so two drivers can lay on their stomachs to pilot the H.A.V.O.C.. Yup, lay on their stomachs, doesn’t sound very comfy or safe to me. One of the stand out features though was the hidden flying recon vehicle that was housed in the back of the H.A.V.O.C.. Always loved it because you got two vehicles for the price of one, but as the box says “Fan Propelled Reconnaissance Craft”. Did we have high hopes for fans being a mode for transportation in the ’80s? I’m all for fans but this was a one person, missile covered, armored vehicle with two little fans to power its flight.
5. Cobra Flight Pod (1985)
“Cobra’s ultra hi-tech jet-propelled one man flying vehicle. Insert one of the COBRA enemies into the “jet-propelled” FLIGHT POD for a secret spy mission or “preprogram” it for special drone flight reconnaissance. Watch out G.I. Joe! This futuristic pod is based on COBRA Commands top secret design, including the most sophisticated technology in the COBRA weapons arsenal.”
More affectionately called the Trouble Bubble, the Cobra Flight Pod is a very iconic vehicle used by Cobra. It really stings to have to add it to the list, but come on. Like the Pogo, I think these top secret designs are just a collection of cocktail napkins with doodles on them.
It was a very well made and thought out toy with a moveable canopy, rudders, and a sweet aerial mine. I had one and I loved it and it was featured A LOT in the cartoon. the only reason I needed to add it to the list is because it lacks all common sense. I have a feeling if the Trouble Bubble was real it would be very front heavy. On top of being front heavy the thrusters are on the back, so I can envision the Trouble Bubble spinning head over tail, launching its missiles, and then smacking into a mountain side.
I love G.I. Joe. I love unbelievable super science. I love concepts and designs that throw common sense out the window. But sometimes for the sake of a little humor and ranting we all need to look at some of our childhood toys and memories from the outside. To be honest, some of the most crazy and off the wall stuff from our childhood are the things we hold most dear in our (stupid) adult lives.