While Gobots began to falter a little in America in 1985 Machine Robo was also floundering in Japan. By now Bandai had perhaps got all they were going to out of the stalwart 600 Series and tried something a bit different. They came up with the idea of two vehicles that combined to form a single robot (two years before Takara came up with the dreadful Transformers Duocons ), the Double Machine Robo. Six of these were made - three in 1985 (with the Helitanser coded as W-MR-02) and three in 1986. The Helitanser even made some brief appearances in the Revenge of Cronos anime series.

At this point, the haphazard worldwide marketing of the line meant Bandai were still handling the line in Europe and most releases still came out under the Robo Machine banner. As well as a few oddities like Sky-Spy and Carry-All Europe also got the first three Double MR, released as Combinators. The Heli-Transer was issued as 'Helicopter and Transport' (which I've shortened to Helicopter Transport for ease of flow), the only change being the Japanese insignia being changed to British ones. Quite why the toys were omitted from the American Gobots line I don't know - they released Dart and went to the 'effort' of making the Boomers after all. Incidentally, the Combinators aren't to be confused with the larger, uglier Dread Launchers that came out at the end of the Gobots line.


ALTERNATE MODES

The vehicular modules are around the same size as regular Gobots - the helicopter is probably a fraction smaller (though it's difficult to tell with a narrow craft like the Huey Cobra) while the tank is a bit larger, around the same size as Defendor. They're both nicely detailed. The Huey Cobra isn't my most loved helicopter but it's well-rendered with some lovely detail. It's a little bit of a pain we have a painted cockpit rather than transparent plastic, but the blue does add a splash of colour to the ensemble. Not sure of the Huey Cobra actually served with the RAF but it's better than having to put up with a Gazelle or something. There are some nice extra bits like the chin turret, though.

The APC module is the most impressive of the pair, very solid with some excellent detail work. Bit of a shame the budget couldn't be found for painted tank treads but it still looks very good. I'm not sure if helicopters were ever really launched from the top of APCs so the transport angle is a little screwed - thankfully though both vehicles work well by themselves, with the connection on top of the APC being nice and subtle, at least.


ROBOT MODE

Combining him is the fun part of course, and this is where he really thrashes the Duocons. On them, you basically stuff one vehicle on top of another, and end up with something resembling a robot. Bandai however have actually thought about it. The tank module splits down the middle (remaining connected) and extends to form the limbs and the sides of the chest, while the helicopter wraps neatly (and firmly) around the connecting bar.

The result is about as seamless as these things get, managing to blend the two vehicles together while keeping the features of both visible. The final robot mode is a little idiosyncratic, but I like it. The figure is stocky and bristling with weapons - very much a war machine designed for fighting. The arms are probably a little bit too long but thankfully are jointed at the elbows, and moving the forearms to about 30° makes him display a lot better. The head is perhaps a little thin but manages to add character (when someone doesn't even have an official name, it all helps). Articulation is limited to the shoulders and elbows (well, his head can also move forward to simulate a broken neck, but this isn't very helpful), which is a shame - though it's perhaps a bit unrealistic to expect more - most Gobots only have shoulder articulation, after all. Overall it's a great robot mode, if a little static, and the figure is very unique for the line.


SUMMARY

While the Helicopter Transport won't be to most tastes, being a bit too unusual for those who like their robots to look like people in armour plating, it's certainly worth a look for the inventiveness of the design. Thought has been given to all three modes rather than blindly hoping the concept holds up enough on its' own. A highly recommended figure that deserves to be better known.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1985, Machine Robo Double Machine Robo - W-MR-02: Helitanser
1985, Robo Machine Combinators - Helicopter and Transporter
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos Double Machine Robo - MRJW-2: Helitanser

PARTS:
1 x helicopter module
1 x APC module
1 x two blade rotor
1 x machine gun

WEAK POINTS:
Fixed machine gun