MOTORIZED BATTLE TANK — MOBAT (W/ STEELER)
GI JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO (HASBRO)
“Steeler comes from a blue collar middle-class background. He put himself through college on an ROTC scholarship and work as a heavy equipment operator. Familiar and proficient with all NATO and Warsaw Pact AFV’s. Graduated Armor School, top of class. Special Training: Cadre-XAFV Project; Artillery School; AFV Desert Exercise; Covert Ops School. Qualified Expert: M-16; M-1911A1; MAX-10; Uzi.”
The first year of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero didn’t just serve up its original 13 Joes and their two enemies, it also took a page out of the Star Wars and Micronauts playbook and went hogwild on giving them some vehicles with which to play around. There were eight vehicles and playsets that first year, but perhaps the most impressive was the Motorized Battle Tank, or MOBAT for short. Though lacking in some of the fancities of later vehicles, the MOBAT gave the Joes some serious offensive power, and definitively gave us the sort of vehicle to which the old 12-inch line could never really do proper justice. And, of course, it had one of the cooler launch-Joes driving it, which is always a good point in its favor.
THE VEHICLE ITSELF
The MOBAT is definitely the main focus here (well…for most people; at my heart, I’m still a figure guy), and is a pretty straightforward “tank.” It’s specifically patterned after the MBT-70, which was a scrapped US/German tank design from the 60s. It’s fitting that it would get repurposed here, and really fits that experimental angle that the Joes were getting into, while tying them more to the real world than they would be later. It’s also a fittingly “all-American” design that just looks like the average US tank to most people who don’t spend their time researching these sorts of things for toy review sites. What an uninformed life that must be…with so much free time! Though it would be dwarfed fairly quickly as the line progressed, the MOBAT was the largest vehicle in the line at the time of its release, measuring about 10 inches at its longest length, and sitting about 5 inches tall. Its mold was brand new at the time, but has subsequently been re-used for both re-releases of the MOBAT, as well as both versions of the Crimson Attack Tank, Cobra’s equivalent. While not a high-quality scale model, the sculpt on the MOBAT is still pretty solid for the time, and certainly looks a bit less dated than the figures it was meant to accompany (which is why it was still able to be used 25 years later, when the figure molds had been long since retired). The details are all clearly defined, and there are lots of great little bits, with all the panelling and grates and rivets. It’s mostly a hard plastic construction, but uses a more rubbery material for the treads, as vehicles tend to do. There’s only space for a single figure (probably this vehicle’s main drawback), in the turret at the top, and the rest is a solid construction. And I do mean solid; this thing’s got some definite heft on it, with a potential for even more. The name’s inclusion of “Motorized” isn’t just a fancy naming scheme, it actually refers to the tank’s special feature, which was a full working motor that could run off of two D Batteries. Sadly, my MOBAT doesn’t move, a common problem with most vintage MOBATs these days. I’ll have to tinker with it to see what’s up. Still, I bet that was pretty cool when it worked. Paint’s not really a thing on the MOBAT, which instead has a whole ton of decals. They haven’t held up super well over the years, but they do offer up some nice extra details to give it more of a finish.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
The MOBAT’s driver was Pennsylvania-native Ralph “Steeler” Pulaski. Steeler, like a number of the original Joes, sort of fell by the wayside as the line continued, and was never a major focus in the first place. He did get a pair focus episodes thanks to the cartoon’s alternate-reality-based “Worlds Without End,” which gave a respectable send-off to Steeler, as well as fellow O13-members Grunt and Clutch. This (and the 1983 swivel-arm re-issue) would be Steeler’s only figure for the entirety of the vintage run. The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 12 points of articulation. Like all of the original ’82 figures, he was available straight-armed or swivel-armed, and mine is the former. Additionally, there are two different styles of thumb thickness, and mine is the thin-thumbed version, which is something I’ll be touching on a bit later. Steeler was largely made from shared parts, with the most egregious being his head, which he shares with both the previously reviewed Flash and Hawk, as well as the as of yet un-reviewed Short-Fuse. It’s generic enough to work, and in Steeler’s case there’s a unique helmet, which further helps in masking it. Unlike Hawk and Flash, Steeler does actually get one new part on his person: his torso. He’s got a zippered jacket (instead of the usual sweater) and a shoulder holster that goes across the chest. It’s a nice, unique look among his companions. Steeler follows the trend of rather basic, rather drab paint for the original Joes. He’s a slightly different shade of green than the others and gets a darker hair color than Hawk and Flash. He also gets gloves, because he’s very special, I guess. Steeler included a standard helmet, but had a non-standard, and in fact quite distinctive visor. He also included an uzi, making him the only vehicle driver from the first year to actually be armed, and with a fairly standard weapon at that.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
Okay, so first of all, I need to throw in a very, very important shout-out to my Super Awesome Fiancee, without whom this review would not have been possible and I might very well still be a quivering mass on the floor of my toy room. Remember how I mentioned that Steeler was a thin-thumbed figure? Do you see how he still has both of his thumbs? Yeah, that’s actually a pretty big deal, and I was pretty excited to have found him that way. Then I was a big dumbo who decided to stick Steeler’s uzi in his hand, and when I went to take it out, off came the thumb, which went flying into the oblivion that is the floor beneath my photo stage…before I had even gotten a single shot of him. I was feeling pretty dumb, but Jess was having none of that, and marched upstairs to help he search for the missing piece, which she managed to find in a few short minutes, thereby allowing me to repair this guy, get the photos taken and regain a good deal of my sanity. Truly she lives up to the “Super Awesome” monicker.
With that out of the way, where the heck did this guy come from? Well, recent reader’s will likely guess correctly that it came from All Time Toys, who got in a really huge GI Joe collection last month. I got the pleasure of sorting through all of them to get all the figures, vehicles, and parts matched up, and this was one the somewhat expensive haul of figures I picked up. I’ve only recently gotten the opportunity to collect the straight-armed Joes, which is a set that’s always fascinated me. Steeler called out to me due largely to his slightly more distinct look among the basic grunts. He’s pretty cool for what he is, and the MOBAT is certainly a nice centerpiece to my Joe display.
As I noted, All Time Toys are absolutely swimming in vintage Joes at the moment, so check out the Joe section of their eBay page here. If you’re looking for other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.