American Mini Bot

He has great vision and patrols a wide area in his search for invaders.

Baron was modelled on a contemporary American vehicle, the convertible (zing!) version of the Chrysler LeBaron. The toy was one of five Mini Bot moulds designed by Mark for Select's American market.

Three versions of Baron were issued - one with red plastic parts, one with yellow parts and one with black parts. It would seem all the American Mini Bot figures came out in three variants.

Convertors Mini Bot BaronThere's one word to describe Baron's car form - square. And not really in a good way. The LeBaron is a wedge of metal at the best of times, and the choice to go with a cabriolet version just highlights this - I would have put this down to uncaring Japanese designers (even though the figure was made for Select, I'd suspect Mark were still responsible for the actual engineering, similar to the way Bandai designed the MRT Gobots moulds for Tonka) making it up, but apparently people bought and drove around in these horrible bricks.

The rendering doesn't help, and the contrast between the austere-but-dull silver main body, the almost jaunty red plastic interior and the trademark oversized wheels make this look like a teenager's taken his father's company car and customised it for dune racing. I've probably made it sound a lot more interesting than it is... While the mode is largely sturdy (something in common with all the other Mini Bots), the windshield does seem to work lose. And I think I'm going to get rid of those stickers - I doubt white-on-silver looks good minty fresh, but in that state they just add to the malaise.

Convertors Mini Bot BaronBaron's robot form is also a bit of a mess. Once you accept that all the Mini Bots, without exception, have the exact same simple transformation, they're easy enough to like, and pretty hard to stuff up - especially with a regular car that gives solid proportions.

And yet, just about everything that could possibly go wrong with the very basic layout does for poor old Baron. Intentionally or not, the square, flat ethos of his vehicle mode is carried over to the robot - most notably for the face. The actual design isn't bad, possessing a little character, but it's almost flat, protruding by barely a millimetre... it's not quite a Zybots-esque sticker-face, but it's alarmingly close. Other little problems mount up, too - the arms are once again sprue mounted, but for some reason the red plastic seems a lot softer than the stuff used on Bird, and thus the weight of the arms causes these to bend. Just the way they have to be pulled out that little bit further to allow arm movement makes the shoulders look more awkward than they have to as well. Even the legs - with their weird concave feet and cabriolet on the shins - look bad.

The Mini Bots are simple little figures, and to be fair there's not an awful lot outright wrong with Baron - as a cheap toy, he just about does the job, even if it's an ugly one. It's just the sheer amount of bad decisions made by the designers add up on the poor guy. If he was the only type of this toy, he'd be a little easier to recommend, but the sad truth is none of the other Mini Bots make quite so many mistakes, and are thus all more highly recommended than Baron.