The Scalerobo DX Machine Robo range was initiated by Popy in 1982, the first release being a licensed transforming version of the Psychoroid car from the anime Space Cobra. Subsequent releases under Bandai's auspices fell in with the present day vehicle direction the main Machine Robo series was taken instead. The fifth figure in the range was modelled on the 1973 'super' variant of Volkswagen's evergreen Beetle car, the 1303S. Apart from the Leopard A4, all of the Scale Robo DX figures were issued in two different colour schemes; with a couple of exceptions (the two Datsun Fairlady-Z variants were issued in the West - the bright red version coming out in America, while the metallic red version was released in Europe; whole both versions of the Porsche 928S, blue and metallic blue, were issued in Europe, though the former is still hard to find).

The Beetle was issued in yellow and red; the yellow version was issued world-wide as the Gobots figure Bug Bite, but the red version was only issued in Japan. In terms of the Machine Robo release, I'm not sure what sort of ratio the red figure was issued in compared with the yellow version - Japanese Scalerobo are quite hard to find as it is.


ALTERNATE MODE

The 4.5" long Volkswagen Beetle mode is beautifully done. The vehicle is solid and well-built, with a diecast bonnet section - the paint-matching from Bandai is superb as usual (don't let the slightly over-bright photography fool you on this). There are some big join lines, but there is a lot of detail packed in - doors with handles, an engine grille on the rear, the correct contours on the bonnet. There are even transparent red plastic lights on the back and silver stickers for the wing mirrors. Inside there's a steering wheel and chromed driver plus the robot feet put on a passable impression of rear seats.

The lush red is very striking. It's weird looking at a toy I've known in just one colour for twenty-odd years in a different scheme, but it does work. Add in some subtle stickers (the lower-case 'beetle' stickers on the side and a discreet silver '1303S' plaque on the back) and the chromed bumpers and rubber tyres and it's a very nice model. The gun can be added to the top of the windscreen in this mode, but as usual with these things it looks rather out of place. Points for trying though.


ROBOT MODE

Transforming the figure is straightforward and largely smooth, resulting in a slightly unusual robot mode. This is more like a mech than the usual Machine Robo fare with less a head and more a cockpit. However, on these terms it works rather well. The only bit that lets the design down in aesthetic terms it the rather obvious gap between the top of the body and the head. There's also a well-designed back with circuitry and grommets moulded into the panel hanging there.

The Volkswagen mould's biggest failing is it's fragility - while it'll stand up to most usual stress and isn't something you shouldn't touch, it's cursed by relatively brittle plastic and some thin metal parts. The chromed arms can snap quite easily, while their rotating shoulder housings aren't hugely secure. Similarly, the top of the fork that attaches the legs to the chest isn't particularly strong. Articulation is largely restricted to the shoulders and elbows, though the head can tilt a little - sadly, the latter exposes the thin neck even more. The weapon can be attached to either the head or just about grasped in the claw-hands, but the latter is only really an option if the figure has good stiff joints.


SUMMARY

Despite the idiosyncratic design, the Beetle is a great figure. If you can find a bright unbroken one it's well worth a look just for the quality of production and engineering, even if it's not on the same level as the better end of the Takara Diaclone Car Robot spectrum. In terms of a variant, the red version isn't really worth hunting down - it's a nice change to the common yellow version but not really an improvement, certainly not to the tone of adding a zero onto the end of the asking price.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Scalerobo Series - MRDX-05:
Volkswagen Beetle 1303S (yellow version)
1983, Machine Robo Scalerobo Series - MRDX-05:
Volkswagen Beetle 1303S (red version)
1983, Robo Machine - DX Robo Machine:
Volkswagen Robot (yellow version)
1984, Gobots Super Gobots Series 1 - 028: Bug Bite (yellow version)
1984, Robo Machine - Super Gobots: Bug Bite (yellow version)
1993, Robo Machines - De Luxe Beetle (yellow version)

PARTS:
1 x Gun

WEAK POINTS:
Arms, claws, gun, waist, shoulders