Now, this figure has rather a tenuous connection to Gobots. Originally produced for Bandai's Winch Robo line (the source of the Secret Riders moulds) in 1984 they issued the figure as Robot Winch Truck in Europe under the Robo Machine banner, as well as in Machine Men in Australia. Lots of stuff got issued in Robo Machine, including Godaikin overstock such as Dancougar (who was actually packed in an all-new Robo Machine box),not to mention stuff like Robot Arm Machine and Robo Kong. So what makes this guy so special that he's linked to the Gobots? Truth be told, it's a little bit of a fudge with his connection to Tork being the main reason.

The figure did come out in America where at the height of Transformers-mania it was licensed to Mattel and issued as Towbot, one of the Powerbots (the Robot Helicopter - another large Winch Robo figure issued as a Robo Machine - was the other toy in the range). Presumably Tonka passed it over for the Gobots range, or as it belonged to a different series to Machine Robo it wasn't covered by their agreement with Bandai, who just sold it to the highest bidder. The European version wasn't assigned a faction but the Machine Men toy was advertised as a Friendly Robot. Indeed, in Australia, the toy (stoically named as Winch Truck) even managed to have a cameo in the Machine Men toy pack-in comics.


ALTERNATE MODES

Robot Winch Truck's vehicle mode is a Toyota New Hilux 4WD (something mentioned clearly on the packaging, though don't read too much into this - licensing on this sort of thing was a lot more lax in the 1980s so I doubt Toyota were asked or anything). This is rendered in 1/22 scale meaning it's a 6" long beastie. The figure's main selling point is the motorised actions so the emphasis here is on durability. The red/white colour scheme looks rather good especially with some nicely over the top stickers proclaiming this to be 'The Winch'. It's all-plastic and relatively low on detail. The usual stuff like lines for the doors and so on is there, but as a scale model it hardly gives the Transformers Alternators a run for their money. I do like the big chunky tyres, though.

And despite being at the time of writing 27 years old, there's still something very cool about a motorised toy. This one not only drives all over at a decent speed (with the aid of a neat four-wheel drive system) but it's rugged enough to actually go over moderate-sized obstacles. Best of all is the winch, which is surprisingly strong - for best results attach the hook to a windowsill, and watch as the truck pulls itself up with a surprising lack of effort. This is all operated by a switch under the right hand door which can mean a light jog to catch up with the bugger.


ROBOT MODE

Transformation is very straightforward - the layout wouldn't be particularly complex on a small figure which means on this beastie it's very simple indeed. Simply pop the bonnet up, swing the legs out from underneath the 4x4, flick the feet around the bottom, split the rear of the truck in half, bring the arms down and watch the box cover drop into place on his back, and that's pretty much it. Unlike the Robot Helicopter (which is all but a scaled-up version of Twister) the robot mode bears next to no resemblance to Tork, with only the 'cab as chest' part carried over. This isn't a bad thing though as it gives Winch Truck a bit of a different look. Well, to be fair the thing stands out well enough anyway - at 10" tall, it's one of the biggest Gobots-related figures. The robot mode is very blocky but charming for it. The colour scheme is killer, especially with the stickers, and there are some great touches - the white box looks like a backpack while the head cast is very good thanks to the thick black visor and chromed plates on the side.

Articulation is limited - because of the gears and everything for the motor, the legs are a single unit moulded together. Most of the movement is in the regrettably hollow arms, which spin where the shoulder connects to the body, and pivot where the shoulder connects to the arm. Sounds complex, but in reality it's not good for much beyond impressions of Frankenstein's monster and comedy fist-shaking poses. The real money in this mode is in the motors once again - the winch remains accessible and can help the robot climb things (as long as they can take his weight) but the best bit is the motor can also make Winch Truck walk at a fairly swift if overly-jaunty pace. Good fun.


SUMMARY

The toy lacks refinement in both modes and the large size makes him a potential storage or display nightmare. However he's still bloody good fun, especially if you're old enough to remember when battery-powered toys along these lines really were amazing stuff. As a collectable action figure the thing is full of faults, but as a cheap bit of fun one with working electronics is well worth hunting down.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1984, Winch Robo - DX Winch Robo
1984, Robo Machine - Robot Winch Truck
1985, Powerbots - Towbot

PARTS:
1 x gun I
1 x gun II

WEAK POINTS:
Walking mechanism