Among the first Machine Robo figures designed by Popy, the Buggy Robo was released in Japan in 1982. The toy received two new colour schemes for the 'Best of Machine Robo' boxed sets - being released first in red, and then in a blue scheme that stretched the definition of 'new' considerably. A gold version was also offered as a Mailaway with Bandai's abortive American Machine Men figures, but I have no idea if any of these got made. If it was, it went under the name Buggy Man in line with the line's naming conventions.

The figure was chosen to be one of the earliest Gobots in 1983, and was given the prosaic (even by Gobots standards) name of BuggyMan, using the original blue model. This figure wasn't one of the American line's best sellers, and was deleted before the start of the second series in 1984 - though the blue version stayed in production in Europe. It was also twice reissued in Japan - once when Bandai took over Machine Robo in 1983, and then again in 1986 (when Buggy Robo was assigned to the Battle Tribe and coded MRB-6). Additionally Mimo issued the figure in Brazil as part of Convert, and the 'Best Of' red version was issued in Australia in 1985 as part of Machine Men, in an exclusive Staks Transport Giftset.

BuggyMan would go onto make several appearances in the Challenge of the Gobots TV series despite his toy coming off American shelves relatively quickly. In 1985, Tonka gave the figure a brand new orange colour scheme for the final year of Gobots. Tonka were trying to save money at the time, and a number of Gobots recolours were scheduled to join the new-style leaders, though only BuggyMan made it out before the line was cancelled altogether. All in all, it's probably the mould that went through the most uses.


ALTERNATE MODE

I've never been a fan of dune buggies. I don't like Beachcomber, Sureshot, Jargua, Joyride, Gripper or Jetstorm; it's my least favourite mode for Sandstorm, and Fizzle can just fuck right off. The myriad Lego dune buggies that I always got for Christmas in the late-1980s have all been recycled into other vehicles. But I like BuggyMan, and I don't really know why. It's probably because his alt mode is very well crafted - this is modelled heavily on a real dune buggy (the Meyers Manx, based off the frame of a Volkswagen Beetle), rather than some designer just being too lazy to work the thing around a real car.

The detailing on it is very nice - especially the chromed interior, which even has a tiny steering wheel and dashboard. The tilting windscreen and chrome headlights are also nice touches. There's a fair bit of quality on here too - I especially like the chunky rubber tyres and diecast parts. The whole vehicle is nice and sweet, without getting super-deformed cutesy. Cool stickers, too - though those on the sides and front were only on the European and Japanese releases. Lazy cheap Tonka.


ROBOT MODE

After that, there's a simple transformation, typical of the early Popy figures, but it gets the job done. The robot mode is nicely sculpted - it's not hard to see why Tonka elected to make this one a Renegade, as he really does look a bit mean, especially as a contrast to the dune buggy, with a blank but somehow charismatic head sculpt. This is why they're disguises.

They've put a fair bit of effort into the relief and paints apps on the torso and legs, which is laudable. Articulation is limited to the arms, which is par for the course for most small Gobots, but the chap displays nicely - he's also not as small as he can look in pictures, with a thuggish build for a figure of the size. Neat touch - when he's in robot mode, the racing number "80" becomes "08" on his legs, the figure's MR serial number. I like that.


SUMMARY

BuggyMan is neat and simple. Both modes are embellished nicely, and the materials can't be faulted. He's also sturdy, though chrome wear is likely to set in on many examples - the windscreen also seems to be a weak spot. The diecast, the rubber tyres and the chrome all help lift this above other simple car figures, and BuggyMan is a solid entry in the 'cheap and cheerful' bracket.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1982, Machine Robo Series - MR-08: Buggy Robo
1983, Machine Men - Buggy-Man (offered mailaway; gold recolour)
1983, Machine Robo Best 5 - MR-08: Buggy Robo (red recolour)
1983, Machine Robo Best 5 - MR-08: Buggy Robo (blue recolour)
1983, Robo Machine - RM-08: Buggy
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 08: BuggyMan
1985, Machine Men Staks Transport - Buggy-Man (red recolour)
1985, Gobots Series 2 - 39: BuggyMan (US-exclusive; orange recolour)
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRB-6: Buggy Robo

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
Windscreen connection