In 1984 the initial incarnation of Machine Robo was in full swing. The main thrust of the line were still the small ¥600 robots of the Machine Robo Series, now regularly being added to the range, based on vehicles suggested to Bandai by children. This led to some slightly less than exotic vehicles, notably a garbage truck (later issued as the Gobot Fly Trap), a Doubledecker bus, a forklift (destined to become the Renegade Spoons), and a Mini Cooper 1300S. Minis haven't always been the symbol of Cool Britannia, and by 1984 were pretty low down the rung especially in the rest of the world, so quite which Japanese nipper came up with this one I don't know.

Some catalogue pictures showed a prototype red version but only the white version was made available. The figure was then skipped for the Gobots range - quite what logic there was to this I don't know, as it's about the only "conventional" Machine Robo figure skipped bar the Doubledecker bus (which was probably deemed too unglamorous - similar reasons saw Fly Trap suffer a restricted release). It can't simply be the British-ness of the vehicle mode, as Royal-T was still in there. Why Bandai didn't use the figure in Europe as part of Robo Machine is more of a mystery - possibly because at the time the Mini itself was such an unglamorous vehicle. The upshot is you can only find the Machine Robo version now, which can fetch between £50-100, depending on condition, packaging and so on.


The Mini mode is actually pretty big - pushing for twice the height of most car Gobots while still being about the same length. This is largely due to the proportions of the mini - in scale to someone like Hans-Cuff, the car mode would be tiny.

It looks pretty sharp with the Union Jack on the roof - Mini Cooper Robo is the swinging sixties in toy car form. The regulation high detail is here (though the larger scale makes it less obvious), and while it's a shame the windows are painted plastic, but then I suppose this is integral to the robot mode having some substance. The grille is perfect and that as much as anything else screams "Mini". The car mode isn't particularly solid, all the parts largely resting together rather than fixing in place, but it displays nicely.


Of course, though, I won't be displaying this in car mode, because I can pick up a model mini anywhere. The robot mode is much more important. The transformation is very good, with the bonnet forming the best, the sides of the car becoming the arms, and the roof section the legs. It's actually moderately complex for a MR600 figure though this may be partly because as this one cost me £50 I'm going particularly carefully.

It's well-done though, with the only real problem being the feet not locking into place, though this isn't a serious negative. The robot looks fantastic, well-proportioned and solid. The head design is nice, and the Mini bonnet looks great as a torso. Those Union Jacks on the shoulders are a great touch, too - he's not just disguised as British, he is British. Considering they're hollow the legs hold up very well too. It's a shame, if perhaps inevitable, that the arms have no elbows and than the hands are depicted by raised plastic marked on these. There's articulation in the shoulders through the usual metal ball joints and you can even move the legs around a little, though not too much without them looking silly. Likewise while the waist can turn as part of the transformation it can't be moved in robot mode without knocking the chest out of place.


The toy is generally very sturdy and well-built, being devoid of any specific weak points, though the transformation is awkward for the first couple of tries. However while Mini Cooper Robo is a very good figure, he's not the absolute best of the range - even if they were available at the same price I'd still recommend Scratch, Stallion, Flip-Top, Royal-T and Crain Brain over him, and given his high price you'd have to be a dyed-in-the-wool MR/Gobots fan to avoid disappointment. However in the million-to-one event you stumble across one dirt cheap (hey, it happened for me with the Apollo Robo) and you like any transforming robots, pick him up.

[Corrections? Let me know!]

1984, Machine Robo Series - MR-38: Mini Cooper Robo