Released in 1984, 3-Wheel Buggy Robo was the thirtieth figure in Bandai's Machine Robo Series. The figure was skipped for the US Gobots series I'd figure it was initially skipped as Tonka guessed it would be a bad seller, and then wasn't thrown into the desperate third series as Mr. Moto was already in the line.

I have a pet theory that Moto, a Machine Robo prototype that went unused until Tonka picked it up for the third series of Gobots, was a rejected version of this figure. Nothing to base it on, beyond it being a bit unlikely Bandai would try a pair of ATC figures that close together (though they did with bullet trains, so who knows?). A version featuring more black parts (notably the wheel hubs and robot forearms) was advertised in some catalogues, but not released - it was most likely a hand-painted prototype.


ALTERNATE MODE

3-Wheel's alt mode is pretty laughable. I'm not sure what model of ATC it's based on - by 1982/3 Honda's ATC200 series was industry standard and I can't see Bandai reaching much further back. I have a horrid, creeping suspicion it might be meant to be an ATC90, but as I know next to nothing about Trikes I can just assume it's just some other model. A very ugly model. Transforming figures fit into two categories - either a vehicle (or whatever) has been 'cut up' and the designers have worked out how to get a robot out of it, or a robot's been folded up to see if they can get a vehicle out of it. Most Machine Robo/Gobots vehicles slot firmly into the first category; a few (Battle Robo is another example) go into the second. 3-Wheel is firmly in the latter.

The toy just screams 'folded-up robot'. The leg panels running down to the front wheel are spectacularly obvious (and the stickers dutifully showing two-dimensional ATC suspension aren't fooling anyone). Beyond this, the metal thighs make a poor impersonation of an engine, and the arms are obvious under the saddle. There's also something just wrong with the proportions. I don't have anything the right size to sit in the saddle and test it properly but it looks like anyone who would fit in the saddle would then have to bend double to reach the handlebars. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it just looks wrong. Pluses are all but non-existent.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation is a fiddly little process. The legs are split vertically into two pieces, and he's a figure where nothing locks into place. The leg halves are dependant on gravity to stay together, and the rotating chest piece (which includes the head) is similarly inclined. Even the arms flap about a bit. The result is a figure that can barely stand. My example could be abnormally loose (though there are no visible signs of wear), but there's little to stop it going that way from sealed. There's just no rigidity to the thing. Bandai designed several figures for the series that are just lightning rods for wear (Fairchild Robo and Zero Robo being prime offenders), but this one takes the biscuit.

The worst bit is the robot isn't actually that bad looking. Very generic, as the wheels were about the only ATC feature the alt mode had, but competent, with a good head sculpt, fine proportions, respectable detail work and good articulation in the arms. But the shoddy design and construction make it all pointless. Despite his weird gawkiness, I'd genuinely say Mr. Moto has the better robot mode, even with his tiny head and mono-shins, as he actually works.


SUMMARY

By far the weakest of the Japanese exclusive figures, and arguably the weakest of the whole '600 Series' cycle (including the Western-exclusive moulds - at least with Bugsie you get what it says on the tin). The figure's probably getting a little bit more bile because it's not just a dud, but an expensive one (though I'm genuinely not bitter; pictures showed me it wasn't going to be great anyway, and the logic was I was going to buy it anyway, and I got a decent deal - though I'm still a bit shocked by Bandai's complete lack of quality control here, as even ¥600 would seem a lot for this one). To be avoided by all but the completists - I've suffered so you don't have to. 3-Wheels' devoid of redemption - get Mr. Moto instead. Yeh, I know he's awful, but this thing's worse again.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1985, Machine Robo Series - MR-30: 3-Wheel Buggy Robo

PARTS:
1 x front wheel
2 x rear wheels

WEAK POINTS:
Legs, chest, handlebars