Highway Robo was the sixth figure issued by Popy as part of their Machine Robo Series in 1982. The figure was repackaged and reissued the same as the other Popy designs when Bandai took over the line in 1983 (the only real change being the 'diagonal' style box replacing Popy's silver design).

However after that the Highway Robo failed to come out anywhere else - the toy was skipped for Bandai's Machine Men and Robo Machine lines, while Tonka also passed it over for Gobots even when they were gasping for new moulds. This could have been due to poor sales in Japan, or possibly because the idea of a futuristic bus or truck was a little weird, being an odd combination of the exotic and the bland which was unlikely to appeal to Western kids. Who knows?


ALTERNATE MODE

The first question about Highway Robo's alt mode is what exactly is it? The window stickers have always led me to think it's a bus rather than a truck, though it goes without saying that it's like no real model of either type. As a design it's not bad, just a little odd. The toy looks tiny in this mode, and it's one of the smallest Machine Robo Series alt modes - not quite as tiny as the Sanitation Robo, but not much bigger. The lines are pretty good, but even so it does look eerily thin. As with the Shuttle Robo, the robot mode belt spoils the look a little as it really doesn't look like anything other than part of a robot. The colours are nice, however - a good tone of blue with orange highlights (the windscreen looks very nifty), but they've opted for a slightly sparkly shade of paint which doesn't blend perfectly with the plastic.

The stickers are a nice idea, but sadly in the case of my example, they haven't been put on particularly well. Those, incidentally, are factory stickers. My Highway Robo did come with an unused sticker sheet, but the four labels are geared towards the robot mode, being circuit-type panels to go on the toes and shins. While these aren't particularly offensive I've left them off as they'd only serve to break up the alt mode even more. Another problem is that quite a bit of force seems to be needed to make the arms go completely flush into the vehicle body, the pins tending not to go all the way into the moving shoulder sockets. Twice now I've had to open mine up to do this manually and it isn't fun.


ROBOT MODE

Like the rest of the Popy designs, Highway Robo has a simple design that bears a striking similarity to some of his stablemates - in this case, Supercar Robo with a twist. The arms and legs are identical (well, after allowing for the different shaped vehicle, of course), the only changed mechanism being the head - the cab of Highway Robo rotating to reveal the head. Pretty much exactly the same transformation was used on Popy's last design for the line, Shinkansen Robo.

The resulting robot performs the usual Popy trick of seeming to be very large compared to the vehicle mode. It's more of an illusion, though - the robot is very thin which makes it look tall, but it isn't significantly bigger than most of the '600 series' robots. The design is adequate and sadly little more. Popy's designs put much stock in simplicity, and that's what you get here. However, most of their other designs had a small amount of style and panache to them, and Highway Robo is a bit lacking in this respect. His body is bland to look at, despite the detail moulding and the belt breaking it up a little (personally I don't think the stickers would be the answer either). However, he does have a very neat intricate head cast - the inset face, complete with a massive visor, makes him stand out a little and adds some much-needed charm. It also adds an extra point of articulation, which brings the total up to a staggering three. Hey, it's one more than most of Popy's designs. And indeed most of Bandai's too.


SUMMARY

Sadly Highway Robo is a bit average. He's the second-weakest of the Japanese exclusive moulds - not that he's anywhere near as much of a disaster as 3-Wheel Buggy Robo, he's just distinctly average. About the only reason anyone really knows the figure is simply because it didn't come out in the West - had it been added to the Gobots line, it probably would have been discontinued at first opportunity and become one of those Gobots no-one really remembers, like Pumper or Loco. It's not a bad figure, just a largely average one, and I'd advise others to be weary of spending a large amount on Highway Robo without being prepared for his mediocrity.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1982, Machine Robo Series - MR-06: Highway Robo
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-06: Highway Robo (Bandai reissue)

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None