Kinsman rangeNow, this is a bit of an obscure one. Dah Yang are a Taiwanese company who made all sorts of toys, and back in the 1980s Kinsman seems to be their line of robots - the most spotted (i.e. what came out of Google...) is something called the Robot Machine or Robot Conveyor, a rather neat battery-operated item (see picture to the left - it's the big crazy thing just over the horizon). Dah Yang themselves are actually still going, take a look at their site .

Until recently, I knew next to nothing about this line. I still don't know a whole lot, but I did recently acquire a boxed Andro-Bike from the line. As well as some other interesting snippets (such as the toys apparently being licensed from Bandai), this also featured a picture of the range on the back, or at least some of it. As well as showing off some of the larger, electronic toys, this has pictures of the smaller plastic transforming figures that I'm particularly interested in.

Despite only having owned three of the figures, one of which is a bit pathetic, I rather like the Kinsman line - while there only seem to be a small handful of moulds, these are pretty imaginative for a line of such small standing, at a time when most second division manufacturers were making very simple, childish toys, or just grabbing whatever they could from other companies. Shame they're so bloody hard to find, really.

I'm not going to waffle on about the larger toys, seeing as I know nothing about them whatsoever. Instead, I'm going to cover the smaller toys that I either know something about, or can at least make some educated guesses in that direction =)


'NISSAN'

KinsmanNo idea what this figure was actually called, of course, but the car mode is clearly based on a Nissan 300ZX Fairlady (the same car was used by Bandai for the Machine Robo Fairlady Robo, released in the West as Gobots/Robo Machine Major Mo). The toy is 4.5" long and made entirely from plastic, but it's respectable quality stuff, meaning a solid, sturdy vehicle.

KinsmanThe detail level is fair - there are some engraved details, and the transparent windscreen is a nice touch. Best of all are the big chunky wheels - slightly out of scale, but is does lend a rough and tumble look to the thing. An interesting feature is the front bumper rotates so (I'm guessing) the robot head can look out. I mean, it looks weird, but it's interesting. The only sticker on the car is the line logo - a drawing of a robot head pretty much the same as this one's robot mode (and the same as the one on the Kinsman packaging).

KinsmanThe transformation sequence itself is quite nice - while the layout is the same old arms from doors, legs from the back end, face underneath thing, it's nicely done, and having the legs slide instead of flipping around is a quality move. The figure is filled with these, such as the elbows on the arms and the separate feet, and the head can look up a little because of that weird gimmick mentioned above.

KinsmanOverall, the thing does look impressive, standing around 5" tall and covered in chrome. And is it me, or do those legs and feet look rather similar to those of the Transformers figure Tracks? The level of detail on the robot mode is terrific, and the chrome adds an extra layer of quality. Even the head cast is great - this is often where more obscure robot lines fall down, but this one is a detailed sculpt with a noble character to it.

KinsmanThe only real blemish is the shoulders being attached at the hip - the erstwhile front wheels are placed to hide the joints somewhat, but it does hurt any articulation. Regardless of the minor faults, this is a pretty neat figure, and one I'm glad I picked up.

As well as this blue version, the toy was also issued in two other colour schemes - red and white. I only have the blue one; click here for a picture of the red example, courtesy of Super Toy Archive owner Alex Bickmore; or here for a tiny picture of the white one, taken from the back of the box.


'TOYOTA'

KinsmanI actually had this one as a kid... Christmas 1985, along with the Transformers Sideswipe and Tracks. Actually, Tracks was my brother's, I was just older and bigger (at the time, anyway - these days he could probably throw me through a wall). Anyway, this one had a friction motor as well, even if the design was along the same lines as the Jeep and the Nissan. The poor chap doubled up as Hoist for a few years (as it was the green version) - not sure what exactly happened to him when Hoist proper arrived, either a stint as Hound or retirement seems likely.

KinsmanHaving recently got one again, he's smaller than I remember, but this is probably more a case of me being bigger. The truck is modelled on a Toyota Hilux truck - this was possibly the most ubiquitous toy in 1980s toy robot lines, with versions appearing in Diaclone/Diakron/Transformers (Trailbreaker and Hoist, or their predecessors), Gobots/Machine Robo (Small Foot/Offroad Robo), Winch Robo/Robo Machine (Robot Winch Truck) and Convertors/Robocar (Wagon) - and that's probably just for starters. This one is quite a nice version. It's almost exactly the same size as the Transformers version, and the green isn't quite as gaudy as I remember it being. The plastic is generally quite sturdy, while the wheel hubs are chromed and the tyres are rubber. Not bad. The head is clearly visible in the back, but in mitigation the thing should come with a chromed roll-bar and the rifle could be mounted in the back, which might otherwise distract from this problem.

KinsmanTransforming the truck is quite simple, but neat at the same time - the walls of the back fold out to form the arms and properly reveal the head, and then the bulk of the cab/bonnet slides along black rails to form the chest. The front corners then turn up to form the feet. Simple, but rather effective.

KinsmanThe arms are a bit weird, they don;t go any closer to the body than is shown in the picture. The weird thing is they're not entirely unlike those of the Trailbreaker mould, with the sides of the truck forming 'trays' for the arms, just facing outward and less complex. At least the elbows can move; the toes can move too, he's like a Soul of Chogokin. Or not.

KinsmanThe friction motor the truck mode uses can also be deployed in robot form. It's hinged, and can either stay on the robot's back out of the way (pleasingly not upsetting the balance; the figure rests on the flat tips of the black 'rail', with the nominal feet not actually used for balance, more for decoration), or fold down to 90° so he can race around on a smooth surface at a crazy angle.

Truth be told, the Toyota isn't the same slick minor masterpiece that the Nissan is, but it is an interesting enough figure that doesn't just look like a knockoff.


'JEEP'

KinsmanThis figure seems to follow much the same lines as the Nissan, simply being a transforming vehicle. It's difficult to make too much out from the pictures I have, but the design owes a fair amount to the Transformers figure Hound I think it's fair to say.

KinsmanThe legs and arms are less complex - the former seem to come out of the sides of the jeep, while the legs are a single piece that folds down through 180°. The chromed gun would seem to be capable of being mounted in the back of the jeep mode as well, which is a nice touch.

KinsmanAs well as the red version, the back of box scene shows the olive green version twice. I think this was an error - I'm 73% sure I've seen a yellow variant on ebay about a year or so ago - regrettably I didn't bid on the thing; even though I had no idea what it was at the time, it did look neat, I think I just didn't have the money. I've included both pictures of the green version here anyway, just because the toy looks pretty neat.


ANDRO-BIKE

KinsmanThis guy is a bit of a different direction. The three moulds shown above are covered because either they're well-made, or they look well made. The Andro-Bike is covered because I have him.

KinsmanThere were three Andro-Vehicles made - Andro-Bike, Andro-Plane and Andro-Tank. They are small figures, roughly the size of a standard Gobot, entirely made out of plastic and with friction motors. These motors work in both modes, either allowing the vehicle mode to move along, or the robot to walk.

KinsmanThe toy's a bit of a freak, to be honest. While the alternate mode does vaguely resemble a motorcycle of some sort, it's very stumpy - the picture to the left is not distorted, believe it or not.

KinsmanThe transformation is trickier than it looks, mainly because the little posts you can just make out on the rear wheels slip inside the handlebars, forming the legs (well, they don't actually touch the ground, but it's clear what they're meant to be). The payoff is the motor moves these and Andro-Bike's weird little arms along when the motor's used. Aside from this, there's really not much else to do with him (though the neck does turn...). Andro-Bike is cute, but only for about five minutes...


If anyone has any more information on Kinsman, or would like to sell me the jeep, please contact me =)