Police Robo was one of Bandai's first designs for the Machine Robo Series, coming out in 1983. After Popy's initial dalliance with futuristic vehicles they decided to opt for a more realistic ethos, choosing vehicles the target audience of children might see in real life. Thus we got a figure based on one of the primary police cruisers in Japan, the Toyota Crown. A yellow version was released in the first of Bandai's 'Best of Machine Robo' gift packs, and a blue version in the third. As if this wasn't enough, a Machine Robo catalogue featured pictures of a very fetching yellow/red taxi version, which sadly doesn't seem to have been released.

The same year, the figure was issued in the initial batch of Gobots figures from Tonka in the USA (with "police" stickers replacing the Japanese text of the Machine Robo release). The toy was allotted to the friendly Guardian faction, and charmingly christened Hans-Cuff. It would seem his figure was not a massive seller, however, as it was omitted from the later reissues that came packed with hologram stickers. The figure also appeared in the early days of Robo Machine in Europe, while the toy became Galian in Glasslite's licensed Brazilian series Mutante - as well as the original, a blue/white version was issued, while a red version came out as Mega Man.

Like most early Machine Robo, he was also bootlegged for various ranges - though these use diecast, they invariably get the colours wrong (the black generally covers the front and back ends instead of the bottom half). Hans-Cuff would regularly appear in Hanna Barbera's Challenge of the Gobots cartoon, where he was lumbered with being a fairly unmemorable guard type. The character made a much better impression in the Eagle's Robo Machines serial, where he got to be one of the leads. In Japan, the original toy was reissued in 1986, and even got to appear a little in the Revenge of Cronos anime.


ALTERNATE MODE

The Toyota Crown is, like several other Machine Robo moulds of the period, a very functional, practical and slightly unimposing vehicle. This is probably much more realistic than Takara's Fairlady-Z and Countach cars, but is also much less exciting. The rendering itself is rather mixed, though there's something very endearing to the blocky child's drawing style look of the thing. There's some real effort gone into some parts - there are nice rubber tyres, a well-sculpted chrome radiator and set of bumpers, plus engraved details such as doors (with handles!), a fuel cap, seats and even a rear-view mirror moulded onto the windscreen.

However, there's a massive line down the back half of the car, clearly showing the two robot legs. These are plastic, and the rear passenger windows are just painted black, while the back windscreen isn't even painted at all. This lets the look down a little - in a way, it might have been better if the front half was given opaque windows too, which may have cost some detail, but would have made the car look consistent. While the toy is remarkably solid for something so small and old, it can suffer from wear - the front half is white paint on diecast metal, the back half is white paint on black plastic. Both ends are highly susceptible to paint chipping.


ROBOT MODE

Hans-Cuff has only minor variations on what I tend to think of as the 'default' way of making a robot from a car - rear becomes legs, arms come out of side, underside becomes chest. The slight difference is that the sides slide forward and out from the sides, instead of just folding down. This does give the impression of a bit more thought having gone in, but at the same time it leads to one of the figure's main weaknesses - the arms are mounted on plastic rails, clamped between metal runners, and thus the plastic wears down noticeably over time, leading to many examples' arms descending to hip level. The legs also seem prone to wear - somewhere behind the knee there's a small notch or something that holds them in place in robot mode (I haven't taken him apart to find out what in case I make the problem worse), and when this starts to go, it can be difficult to stand Hans-Cuff up. This can be exacerbated by the figure's construction - the top half is nearly all diecast, and the bottom nearly all plastic. That's a bit of an innate design fault in itself - surely it'd be more sensible to have the heavy stuff on the bottom? When the notches wear, it's possible (if not easy) to slide a slither of tape in to compensate, but this is hardly the point.

However, the robot mode does actually look good - some heavy-duty details liven him up a bit, as do some well-conceived blue and yellow paint apps and a nicely placed sticker. The face has a bit of character to it (oddly, the cartoon chose to make this a bit more stoic), and the wheels being at the wrists rather than the shoulder looks pretty good. Articulation is limited to the arms at the shoulder (Hell, when isn't it?), but putting them at 90° to the body is pretty much mandatory to get most examples to stand up (not mine though, mine is in gorgeous condition).


SUMMARY

Despite his faults, there's something very likeable about Hans-Cuff. Maybe my judgement's clouded by him being my favourite character from the comic, but he's just very neat, in a workmanlike way. The robot mode looks good if you can get him to stay that way, and he's got that simple vibe most good Gobots have, where he's just really good fun to have on a desk and switch from robot to car and back again a couple of times while something loads. Hans-Cuff does seem to wear quicker than most Gobots , and so it can be tricky finding one in decent condition, but if you can do so - he's a fun, unassuming figure.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-13: Police Robo
1983, Machine Robo Best 5 - MR-13: Police Robo (blue recolour)
1983, Machine Robo Best 5 - MR-13: Police Robo (yellow recolour)
1983, Robo Machine - RM-13: Police Car
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 12: Hans-Cuff
1984, Gobots Gobots Gift Pack - Hans-Cuff (packed with Royal-T and Dive-Dive)
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRB-2: Police Robo

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
Shoulders, knees