Machine Robo / Gobots Regular Gobots

Photoshoot: Loco : MR-05

Took a few snaps of Steam Robo (Loco) the other day, he’s one of the models in the Machine Robo/Gobot line, and getting up close to this little guy reminded me of how awesome he was/is. The great thing with Loco is how easy he is to transform, yet how cool he is in both robot and vehicle mode, he literally folds in half and the arms pop out, yet it just works so well. And this is a solid toy, only Hot Wheels/Matchbox sized, very sturdy and has stood up well to years of mistreatment:) The arms are a bit loose, not too bad considering the age, but the challenge with Loco is that to fix that properly (like with Tank previous) you’d need to take him a apart, and there’s a sticker/decal in front of that main screw that would almost certainly be destroyed in removing it. So fixing up proper would probably need making up a new sticker to replace the removed one, doable but I’m not sure I’ll go there with this guy just yet.

Anyway here are some snaps of Steam Robo MR-05 AKA Loco that I hope do him justice.

Steam Robo MR-05, Gobot Loco
Steam Robo MR-05, Gobot Loco
Steam Robo MR-05, Gobot Loco
Machine Robo / Gobots Regular Gobots

Photoshoot: Tank : MR-02

Before I fixed up Tank (see previous post), I decided to take a few snaps. I really like the design of these old Machine Robo/Gobots, they are of course nothing like modern transformer toys, which have become very intricate, but still have a strong design with cool elements, lines & angles that photograph really well. Because there is a mix of diecast metal and plastic this also adds to the character that these things can build up over time, Tank is in pretty good nick but Screwhead (who’ll I’ll work on next) is more beat up, the good thing with diecast (and pressed steel) is that it takes on age really well and builds up these layers that you don’t really get with plastic alone. I actually like that look, also I think it suit’s something like a battle robot pretty well! It’s also actually quite difficult to reproduce that kind of aging artificially, so if you’ve got decent wear on a toy like this you may want to keep it that way. There are some cases where restoring them (not just functionally but also aesthetically) can make sense depending on what you’re after, I’ll do a post around that at some stage.

Here are a few photo’s of Tank/Battle Robo MR-02 that I hope do the toy justice.

Gobot Tank – MR-02 – Robot mode
Gobot Tank – MR-02 – Vehicle mode
Machine Robo – MR-02
Machine Robo – MR-02 / Gobot Tank
Machine Robo / Gobots Machine Robo / Gobots Regular Gobots

Service: Gobot Tank (MR-02)

So, as per my previous post, I’ve been reacquainted some of my old Gobots I had as kid, and this is another retro toy that has a lot of very cool qualities, that still work pretty well today. The only issue with Tank here was his arms (and his missing guns but I’m sure they’re in a box somewhere!). The joints there have become a bit loose and don’t stick in place as well as they used to. Solution – Liquid Plastic! Learned this from some googling about repairing Gobots/Machine Robo, and came across some very good YouTube videos by Mr Bobot.

Liquid Plastic is something I had never heard of before, but is perfect for this problem. It essentially works by hardening a liquid into solid plastic via ultra violet light, so where you need to build up the layer of plastic (to replace what has been worn away) this is perfect – and non-damaging to the existing plastic. It’s a terrible glue, mainly because if you try to bond 2 things together the ultra violet can’t get into the place where the two surfaces are actually joining together. But in this case that’s perfect – we don’t want (or need) a glue, just something to build the volume of plastic back a bit.

The liquid plastic I used was 5-Second fix, a cheap brand but seems to work fine, a more expensive version is Bondic, for for what needs to be done here not sure it’s worth the extra cost for same outcome.

MR-02 – Tank – Back

So, with this goal I took old Tank apart, pretty easy – one screw! There are other screws on the legs but they were fine so didn’t take him totally to bits. I could see quite easily where the problem was on the joint as the plastic was lighter with wear right where the arms were held by the body. What I found is that it is only a tiny bit of plastic that needs to be worn away for these joints to become loose, it is quite dense plastic and doesn’t wear easily, but enough rotations of those arms will do it eventually as it is just friction that is holding them in place. So a very small amount of liquid plastic, hardened, is all that was needed, then a squeeze together with the diecast body while rotating the arms just to carve into it and get the body to press together tightly again.

Gobot Tank – MR-02 – Disassembled

Now Tank is as good as new! All up probably a 10 minute job at most.

Like I said before these old Machine Robo/Gobots are well worth preserving, they have a unique and interesting design and great fun to muck around with. I’ve got young kids who have some current Transformers and they love seeing and playing with these old Gobots of mine, I’m not precious about my old toys and are happy to fix them up to be played with again. I’m going to track down some of others, beat up ones I’ll share with the kids, others I’ll keep for myself 🙂

Machine Robo / Gobots Regular Gobots

Good old Gobots

Was digging through another old box of stuff from storage (slowing working through that), and came across a few of these old guys that bought back a few memories. I only had a handful, and another couple that I can remember but can’t find yet, and a couple of Transformers, and they certainly got some good use! They are in pretty good shape but the joints are a bit loose with arms only really hanging by the side, I think I’ll be able to sort each of these out and will do a blog post & video on each as I go.

Having a look on the net it’s great to see there is a decent amount of content on these things, I wasn’t hugely into the cartoons and was more into just the toys themselves, with my bro and friends and just making stuff up, good times :). I love the scale/size of these as well, I had a lot of Hotwheels and Matchbox cars, like most kids, and these fit in with that lot perfectly. Also something about the style of these I really like, very consistent, probably due to them coming from one core design team, definitely retro and kind of iconic in their own weird way.

These ones here are the most basic to transform and so got transformed a lot but have hung together surprisingly well considering, I think my Transformers didn’t fare quite so well from memory so will be interesting to see when/if I eventually find them.

Tank, Loco & Screwhead

There are loads more of these Gobots (Machine Robo) than I think I was aware of as a kid, so now I am keen to track down some of the others, preferably beat up ones that may need a work to bring back up to scratch, keeps things interesting:) With these ones I’ll work out how far I want to go restoring them, I like the wear they’ve got from use & years, but at the same time a little touch up here and there could be good too, will see how it goes.

In the meantime I’ve made a page listing out all the mainline Machine Robo / Gobots, and may generate a page for each with some information about disassembly and repair options, slowly probably over the next year or so. There is ample info about all the models online anyway and I don’t want to repeat any of that good stuff – I’ve added links on this page – Machine Robo/Gobots.

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels Legends

Here’s a cool story on on the process of taking a real life car (a 1970 Pontiac Trans-Am in this case) and turning it into a Hot Wheels model. Easy right? How about 9 months design, refinement, pre-production testing then manufacture. Even though these things are small there’s a fair bit of work going on behind the scenes to create a new model, especially to be part of the Legends series. If you ever wondered what that process was like check this out, this type of toy design and manufacture looks like a great job!

If you’ve got kids show them that, then maybe take another look at that old beat up Hot Wheels you may have lying around, maybe a bit more went into the making of that than they might’ve thought:)

Power Puncher Tonka Clutch Popper

Mini metal model matters

I’ve added a page on Power Punchers, as these are a pretty common type of Tonka Clutch Popper that are pretty easy to find, and can often be picked up for a bargain at your local buy/sell site/store. I have a couple of these from when I was a kid, they are in pretty good condition, mainly because these things run at a fraction of the speed of the larger clutch poppers, funny they decided to call them ‘Power Punchers’ as there is not really much ‘power’ there!

Having a closer look at the ones I have, the motors are miniaturized but simpler, much smaller flywheel and all nylon gears. Also the gears seem much ‘looser’, maybe that’s an age thing or maybe that’s just how these things are, I think it’s one of the reasons (together with the small flywheel), that make them move much slower.

Still a fun & cool little car for younger kids that may have trouble charging up the larger models, which do need a certain amount of strength.

Maintenance Tonka Clutch Popper

Maintenance: Fix slipping wheels

One issue I’ve come across with a very beat up Clutch Popper, which is pretty easy to fix is where one (or both) of the rear wheels slips around the axle, therefore not driving the motor. This can happen on very well used/beat up models, and they’ve effectively been written off as no longer working. It’s an easy one to spot, if you turn one of the tires and the opposite tire doesn’t also turn, then that tire is no longer fixed to the axle. Solution – glue it back on! This is another one you could get kids to do (with help), but they need to be a bit older as for a couple of the steps (particularly the gluing) you need to be careful what you’re doing and where you’re getting that glue – i.e. don’t get a 5 year old to give this fix a try on your dining room table:p

So first you’ve got to get the tire off, and even though it’s turning on the axle it still may take some force to lever it off. Easiest to put it in a vice, and with a large screwdriver between the wheel and the chassis, lever the wheel off a bit at a time until it pops off.

Then you just need to glue it back on, but not any old glue for this one. You’ll really need to use an epoxy type (2 part) glue to make sure these wheels stay stuck on for good! Mix the epoxy according to the instructions, just need a very small amount, then apply a little to the axle (use a nail or something like that as an applicator), and put a little into the hole in wheel where the axle will go. Push together until the wheel is fully on, if any extra epoxy has bunched up on the axle near the chassis, then carefully scrape that away – you don’t want to epoxy the wheel to the base!:) Let it sit for a good 8 hours to fully cure/harden (even if it says it cures in 30 minutes or something like that), and it should be good to go.

I had/have one like this, very beat up, but once the wheels were fixed back on (both of them slipped around the axle) it turned out to be one of the best!

Maintenance Tonka Clutch Popper

Maintenance: Fix curving (hook/slice)

It’s pretty common for one of these clutch poppers, particularly well worn in ones, to curve off to one side when going at full speed. Some may do that extremely, some only a little, and some by some miracle go pretty much dead straight. Why they curve at speed is complicated and probably a combination of several things. But the first thing is whether you really need to care much about it at all, if it curves just a bit then just pointing it on a angle from the start can help, but if it’s a bit extreme there are some things you can do to straighten them up. If you are doing this with your kids it can be quite a good little project as there is a bit of physics involved here.

So as to why this curving happens, I think it is a combination of a few things, but almost always is relative to the speed the flywheel is turning, which as you may have noticed is very fast. There is a lot of kinetic energy stored in that flywheel and I think that is part of picture. Another part is surface it is running on, and how flat that is and how much grip the car can get on it (for this you may need an anti-slip grip mat for the first couple of meters where there is maximum torque applied). And another is how much side to side movement there is in the rear wheels which can cause the body to shift slightly on the axis, which at speed magnifies this in a small (or large) direction change.

With all of these, adding weight to the right place more or less addresses the issue. This is because it can:

  • counter the force of flywheel if it is shifting and causing movement
  • push the car more firmly into the ground to counter surface variation and give more grip
  • center its weight more and make it more difficult to move much on it’s axles if there is some decent movement there

Generally you’ll want to add about 20grams of weight (maybe more maybe less, depends) to the opposing side that the car is tending to turn/curve. You could use coins or a lead fishing sinker hammered into the right shape. Add the weight to either the far side tray (between the front and rear wheel), or right up the front by the bumper, I’ve found for some right up by the bumper works best, not entirely sure why! Use blu-tack or similar to hold in place so can easily rejig if needed.

Here’s an example, do the opposite if curving to the right.

Where to add weight to help counter curving

You may still need to use some PVC anti-slip matting for the first meter if running on a very smooth surface – like this stuff:

PVC anti-slip matting

So one thing I have found, I think, is that the more horizontal movement in that rear axle is a pretty good indicator of how much it is going to turn. I think this movement is caused by many repeated big hits on the axles after crashes, which causes the internal brass gear and ring on either side of the axle to push the steel side wall out just a tiny bit each time, resulting in a larger gap and therefore more movement. Thing is I’ve got one that is extremely beat up, and not a huge amount of movement, and one that is not too bad that had quite a lot – and that one spun out like crazy, so its not always about how beat up they are. Pushing the side walls back in a bit to close that gap more or less fixed the bad one – but that was very difficult and I very nearly stuffed it for good (and required drilling the motor out and putting it in a vice).

So I wouldn’t really recommend trying to fix like that, and actually the right amount of weight should still more or less sort out even those bad ones, and I wouldn’t worry too much about small veering off – with kids they can even make a game out it as it can make a challenge to go through a certain gap/ posts/ finish line / bowling pin targeting:)

You could also try putting in an e-clip/circlip in this gap, with some grease (white lithium), if you don’t want to push the frame. I haven’t tried that yet but could be a good solution – just need to make sure it’s not too tight as getting one of those clips out once in could be difficult/near impossible:)

They actually addressed/solved this issue in the single clutch Dune Crawler, by adding brass sleeves to the exterior part of the axle between the wheel and the motor which stops/absorbs any horizontal movement before it is translated into the motor gears. Unfortunately for whatever reason they decided not to add that enhancement to any of the subsequent models which is a shame as is quite difficult to add something like that post assembly.

All in all I think real kudos needs to go to the designers of these things, the fact that they continue to operate at all with the force and speed they crash at, repeatedly over years, is a credit to the design engineers, end to end.

Chevy Monza Tonka Clutch Popper

REMIX: Chevy Monza

Here’s an example of recombining a couple of broken models into one new and improved one! I had a 1987 Tonka clutch popper – Monza (Scorcher) that had a stuffed motor (broken teeth on one of the gears), and another ’83 model with a smashed in wheelbase, so the kids & I thought swapping the bits around might make a good experiment. Turned out pretty good and probably better than the other two we reckon. This is because the ’83 model with a silver wheelbase has a flaw – those white coloured wheelbase’s/chassis are not UV stable (by the looks of it), which means they can become brittle over time and one good smack and they’ll crack. Also the ’87 model does not have as heavier gauge steel for the body and not quite as good a paint job (more a print), but does have a black turbo piece for the hood. So the two combined together actually work pretty well, maybe even the perfect combo! It did involve drilling the rivet out of the good motor to remove from the broken base, then riveting (just with a pop rivet) into the ’87 black base, pretty quick and easy job.

So a good example of reusing broken toys, recombining parts and making something new, fun little project you can do with kids with these kinds of toys that have modular inter-changeable parts. So if you see any of these around that are going cheap ‘for repair’ or ‘for parts/salvage’ then grab a couple and give the kids a little project, and you could chip in too:)

1983 Chevy Monza – broken wheelbase
Chevy Monza Remix – ’83 & ’87
Chevy Monza Remix

Here are the original catalog pictures of the two models recombined into this one.

1987 Tonka Clutch Popper – Chevy Monza – Scorcher
1983 Tonka Clutch Popper – Chevy Monza
Tonka Quickshifter

Service: Corvette Quickshifter

Got a hold of one of these old Tonka Quickshifters the other day, Corvette model, in pretty good condition with the usual wear of paint scratches and small dents, no big deal with these things. Flywheel motor wasn’t working too well, but I could tell all it would really need was a bit of lube and it would be back in normal function.

These old Quickshifters are a pretty solid unit, pressed steel top and chassis with quite a chunky flywheel motor. All that adds up to quite a heavy vehicle for a toy car of this size by todays standards. Which is good and bad, an angry kid hurling this thing across a room could do some serious damage, though the car itself would probably come out ok:) These are a fair bit heavier than the Clutch Popper, which essentially replaced these, improving the motor with the clutch mechanism, and giving them a high density plastic chassis that incorporated the front and back bumper, a natural refinement of the design really. Here’s an example of the size comparison.

Interesting thing with this one is that it has tamperproof (System Zero) screws in the chassis, unusual for a toy car like this I would have thought, and from what I can tell they only did this on a few models so I suspect it was a particular factory quirk as opposed to some kind of design decision. What this means is that it is very unlikely this thing has ever been taken apart, as this is not a common driver bit and without one these types of screws are practically impossible to remove. Luckily I did have one of these driver bits lying around, as luck would have it, as I used one to fix up some old Japanese hifi gear a few years ago, maybe these tamperproof screws were big in Japan in the 70’s? Anyway got the chassis off and disassembled, and all looked pretty good really, as expected just a bit old and dusty and seized up. Dust cover had done a good job protecting the motor, and on these was glued in place. Bit of a clean up and lube and everything was running smoothly again.

Tonka Quickshifter – Corvette – Disassembled

I’m not sure what age group they pitched this at initially, but you need a decent bit of strength and force to really charge this motor up, so I would have thought minimum age 6, and older kids would get more out of it as they would be able to thrash it a bit more:) Bit of car polish on the body shined it up nicely, quite a slick looking piece actually! And I’ve got no problem with it getting a few more scratches from here on in:)

Update: gave this a go and it is very quick if given a long charge, and straight as an arrow, warning – don’t fire it towards anything you don’t want damaged, this thing put a sizable dent in my front door:|

Tonka Quickshifter – Corvette – Post Service
Tonka Quickshifter – Corvette – Rear view