While in general after the initial batch of releases the Machine Robo toys stuck to realistic vehicles, the line's selling point of child-submitted vehicle modes meant the odd mad one got in - like Drill Robo. This came out in Japan in early 1983, and by the end of the year had arrived in America as the Renegade Gobots figure Screw Head.

The toy wasn't a massive seller in the West, being discontinued by the end of the first year, and only briefly being available in Europe. Screw Head would managed a fistful of appearances in Challenge of the Gobots, managing to get three different animation models - he turned up in "The Battle for Gobotron" looking almost exactly like his toy, but had gained piggy little eyes by the time off his wonderfully surly appearance in "The Gobotron Saga", and would adopt a hybrid of the two for the remainder of his showings.

However, this paled in comparison with his antics in Japan, where the Drill Robo inexplicably landed the key role of Rod Drill in the Revenge of Cronos anime series. And by 'key' I mean genuinely hilarious comic relief guy - Rod Drill's eating, sleeping and general un-robotic behaviour provides a valuable break from every other character's po-faced pretensions. To tie in, the Drill Robo figure was reissued as the leader of the Battle Tribe (coded MRB-1), and a non-transforming version was made for the Chara Collection. In 2001, the figure was re-imagined for the Machine Robo Rescue series.


The vehicle mode is one of the best futuristic types from the line. Previous to this (with experience based on the Transformers attempts - Technobot Nosecone and the European version of Breastforce's Drillhorn) I'd never really liked the idea of drill tanks - futuristic tanks of any description are often an excuse to design some chunky, low-detail mess without the designer wasting time on real research (see Tank). The influence here could well be the Mole from Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds show; toys of many TB vehicles had been imported by Dinky and then produced by Popy. In between, drill tanks had featured as segments of several Super Robots, including Zambot 3.

This one really comes off. The vehicle is sleek and well-sculpted - I especially like the tracks on the top as well as the underside, while the robot mode features blend in beautifully (aside from the face underneath). The black and silver colour scheme works rather well, capturing that retro futurist look most of the best Bandai designs of the time tapped into. There's plenty of chrome on the figure, and the orange cockpit works well. The only real downside is the large gap between the legs at the rear of the vehicle - it's a shame the drill can't turn, but perhaps not unexpected (I'd probably only whinge about the face on the underside like I do with Block Head's drum; Bandai must've known they couldn't please fanboys like me, so it's not worth bothering).


The transformation follows on from the rough theme for the first series of Popy designs, as seen on Fitor, Cop-Tur, Dumper etc., with the arms coming from the underside and the back end forming the legs. The slight variation is this case is that Screw Head has moving feet - this is worthy as it helps streamline the alternate mode without leaving the robot mode unbalanced.

The colour scheme continues to work well even when joined by the bright red chest, and Screw Head really does look very nifty. The drill head is just right - the proportion of the face to the head is spot on, avoiding the character looking like he's wearing a pointy hat The claw hands work surprisingly well too - often these can be a half-arsed substitute from a lazy engineer, but they really do gel nicely with the slightly archaic look of the rest of the figure. Articulation is limited to the arms as usual, though the legs are well-balanced enough that you can just about manage a walking pose.


Across both modes, Screw Head is the best of the futuristic vehicles (excepting maybe the larger Psycho), blending two memorable configurations with a smashing colour scheme. He's very well built and nicely designed for a small, simple toy. While he can be slightly more expensive than most Gobots in the first series (he's one of the more famous ones not to be reissued later, as opposed to the relatively obscure Crain Brain, Pumper etc.), but we're still talking less than some monstrosity like Hornet, and he's a good starting point for people after a charming Gobot to win them over.

[Corrections? Let me know!]

1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-22: Drill Robo
1983, Robo Machine - RM-22: Drill
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 22: Screw Head
1985, Gobots Renegade Gift Pack - Screw Head (packed with Stallion and Zero)
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRB-1: Drill Robo