Tork's origins begin in the obscure Bandai toyline Zenmai Kahen Winch Robo. Two smaller vehicles (like several Japanese lines different sized figures based on the same vehicle were issued for Winch Robo), another 4 x 4 and a helicopter plus a motorised ATV (which had no winch, and may have been intended for a different line) were reworked slightly and issued as the Dash Robo Landfighter for the Machine Robo - Revenge of Cronos tie-in line. The smaller 4 x 4 been planned as a red Datsun originally, but for unknown reasons was substantially retooled (to resemble a Ford Ranger) and recoloured for release. This version was also released as one of the Robo Machine Winchers, simply designated 'Ford Ranger'.

However, the Machine Robo/Gobots version featured a new black/silver colour scheme and a new sticker set (the only difference between the US and Japanese versions was the former bore the legend 'Tork' and the latter 'Landfighter' to reflect the toy's name in each market). Tork managed to appear four times in the Challenge of the Gobots TV show despite his late appearance in the toyline - once as an experienced Guardian, once as an even more experienced Guardian, once as a Renegade, and once as a Guardian cadet. Good work, Hanna-Barbera. Even more oddly, they used the blue European colour scheme, which suggests it was at some stage planned for the American toy to use this look. I currently only have the earlier European scheme, which is what this review applies to, and what (as I hope you already worked out) the pictures show. It should probably be in the Robo Machine section, but it isn't and won't be until I stumble on a genuine Tork.


ALTERNATE MODE

Tork's alt mode is modelled on the Ford Ranger 4x4, and it's really not a bad off-roader - it's more of a proper off-road vehicle than the SUVs or Hickmobiles toylines usually go for. Tork probably isn't far off the scale used for most Super Gobots either, which means he displays nicely with the likes of Zeemon and Baron Von Joy.

The European colour scheme is far superior to the US one looking nicer and fitting the slightly overdone decals to much better effect. Despite being mainly plastic (only the truck doors are diecast) he's very high quality. There's a lot of detail on the vehicle, including some very nice beefy rubber tyres. Tork does have an obvious a transformation split running along the truck bed but aside from this and the rather unnecessary rooftop stickers, it's a faultless vehicle mode. The motors both add an element of fun too - the 'engine' is fairly powerful, and the vehicle's sturdy and well-built enough to rumble up over smallish obstacles rather than stopping at kinks in the carpet, while the winch is also effective.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation isn't quite as straightforward as might look. While there's nothing mind-bogglingly complex but everything in the sequence has to be done in just the right order with very little variation; go careful if you've picked up one without instructions. The resultant robot mode, at about 6" high, is one of the tallest from the line discounting the various combining figures, though Tork isn't stupidly big. Again the scale means he doesn't look out of place alongside other Super Gobots. The robot mode looks very impressive on the whole though the legs are perhaps too much of a solid block.

Proportions are quite good, though - he can reach quite far beyond his chest without the arms looking gangly and the head design's not bad at all - though one of the few places the US release scores over the European one is that the head is a different colour from the main body, and thus looks even better. And the usual arm poseability is well-used, with the elbows and wrists both moving nicely. I don't have the weapons, but the holes are those nice rectangular ones that you can usually get to hold a lot of substitutes. Best of all he's still motorised in this mode, with little wheels allowing him to scoot along on his feet quite nicely (as near as I can tell from my example, the little base that comes with the figure to support him while doing this is basically superfluous). The winch can still work in this mode too - although it's not good for much other than dragging items into the back of his head.


SUMMARY

While Tork does lack some of the refinement of truly great Gobots such as Defendor, Spy Eye, Throttle or Scratch, he makes up for it by being fun. Due to the motors and sturdy construction this is one toy you really can go mad with on the living room floor. He's very well built and can survive all sorts of collisions in either mode without any damage. Your biggest problem will be finding one - the European release seems to be slightly more common as Gobots didn't seem to burn out quite as quickly this side of the Atlantic, but neither is easy to find. However, he's not obviously a Gobot, so widening searches could yield a bargain. Tork is well worth the hunt.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1984, Winch Robo - Winch Robo
1985, Robo Machine Winchers - Ford Ranger
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos Dash Robo - MRB: Landfighter (black recolour)
1986, Gobots Secret Riders - Tork (black recolour)

PARTS:
1 x gun I
1 x gun II
1 x stand

WEAK POINTS:
None