The Winner Robo were intended as a replacement for the '600 Series' figures, taking over the cheapest price point in the line. However, the Battlehackers toy line was a costly failure, and the Winner Robo were to be the last figures produced under the Machine Robo banner in the 1980s. The eight released toys were actually sold alongside remnants of the Revenge of Cronos tie-in reissues.

Winner Robo were around the same size as 600 Series figures, but with two significant differences - they had spring-loaded 'automatic' transformations and free-rolling wheels that allowed them to move along Hot Wheels-style track. A play set featuring a launcher and some track, Roboshooter Gaiden, was issued to tie in with the smaller figures. The fourth figure in the series was Buggy Winner. Like all the Winner Robo the toy was exclusive to Japan. A blue prototype appeared in some early catalogues.


ALTERNATE MODE

Buggy Winner's vehicle mode is obviously a dune buggy-style thing, though it owes a lot more to Paris/Dakar Rally entrants than the more casual style used on BuggyMan. The basic design isn't bad-looking to be honest. I'm not a fan of dune buggies but unlike Hasbro/Takara Bandai used them sparingly, and at least styled them nicely. However the gimmicks work against this one somewhat. The small, axle-mounted wheels mean that the most obvious thing about dune buggies - big all-surface tyres - aren't reproduced, giving the thing an odd look.

The other problem is that the toy is just straining to switch to robot mode. The mechanism is solid enough that it doesn't tend to spring into robot mode without you wanting it to but the toy just looks tense. On the plus side the yellow works nicely and the sticker work is still just about subtle enough (the gauze on the cockpit is a nice touch). Buggy Winner works as something of a novelty, though the vehicle lacks the refinement of most, if not all, 600 series toys.


ROBOT MODE

Of all the automatic transformation gimmicks I've seen the Winner Robo is the best one. The little silver button on the underside is a very satisfying little device with a good mechanical 'click' when used, and it seems to wear a lot better than any of the Transformers attempts. On Buggy Winner it does all the work, popping the arms out of the side and releasing the bottom end which automatically twists around. It's a very neat piece of work made well enough so it doesn't activate without you wanting to. It is slightly more difficult to compress him back into buggy mode, but that only takes a little practice to master.

The robot is simplistic it has to be said. Perhaps, though, no more than some of the earlier 600 series toys. The only fault caused by the mechanism is the single solid lower leg part - the rest of it's plain ol' laziness (well, cost-cutting by this stage is more likely). Buggy Winner is a simple little thing, though sadly he lacks the refinement and nostalgia of Popy's early efforts. Still, there's some charm to him that's hard to put a finger on.


SUMMARY

The Winner Robo gimmick is good fu, though the toy lacks much beyond cute appeal. It does this quite well though, and it's one of the best looking Winner figures across two modes. The gimmick is fully executed here rather than the halfway house given by others (such as Eagle Winner). Everyone who's much of a fan of Machine Robo should definitely get a Winner Robo just for this satisfying little feature and I'd recommend this one as a good example.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1988, Machine Robo Winner Robo - W-04: Buggy Winner

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None