After launching with a quartet of futuristic vehicles, the Machine Robo Series largely switched to realistic designs for its' remaining years, with more fantastical designs generally used as Devil Invaders. The line mixed common-or-garden vehicles with more exotic types such as sportscars and jet fighters. Also chosen was the iconic NASA Orbiter, emerging as the Shuttle Robo in 1983. Later that year, the figure was included in a 'Best of Machine Robo' 5-pack, unchanged except for some modified stickers.

Given the vehicle mode's American origin, it was little surprise than the figure was offered in the debut series of Gobots from Tonka under the name Spay-C, though it was among those pruned from the line after the first year. Meanwhile in Japan, the Orbiter was used as a vehicle mode for one of the larger Big Machine Robo range. Despite this using a completely different robot mode configuration, it came to America in late 1984 as the Super Gobot version of Spay-C. However, it continued to be used as the animation model in the Challenge of the Gobots (where Spay-C was a rarely-used female character).

Early adverts for the Eagle's Robo Machines strip also mentioned Spay-C as a featured character, but instead he/she only showed up once, and that was because of an art error. In Japan, the original toy was reissued in 1986, joining the Jet Tribe (hence a new code for the toy, MRJ-4) and getting a few appearances in the Revenge of Cronos anime series.


ALTERNATE MODE

Considering the very small scale (1/300-ish), Bandai did make a valiant attempt at detailing this thing. The most obvious touchstones of the Shuttle are all present, including black in most of the right places, the famous booster arrangement, and some whacking great big stickers. The undercarriage actually works well despite the lack of realism - it'd be impossible to make wheels for this at such a small size, so at least the designer decided to make it display nicely.

Sadly, Spay-C suffers from a lack of cohesion, with a surprising amount of vehicle mode quality sacrificed (it's usually the other way round with these figures). The whole cabin section has a habit of rotating on its' own, especially on older examples, while the tail fin tends to slip down as well (it's also only tentatively attached to the main body, and very thin). The lines around the arms and between the legs are huge. On top of this, there's an obvious bunch of circuits for the robot chest on top of the fuselage, which is a shame, not to mention surprisingly sloppy.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation is straightforward, though make sure you turn the cabin through 90° before pulling out either arm; the easiest way to free these is to align the gap on the underside to each arm in turn so you can get at the shoulder notches. The rotating nose is a nice touch, however. On a similar note, while it is delicate it's nice the fin flips up completely out of the way instead of cluttering up the legs, also adding a feature to the back.

While the cabin/helmet is a bit different, the face (which is a respectable, if obvious design - not particularly female, though, I'm not sure exactly what criteria Hanna-Barbera actually used when assigning genders to the characters - some sort of lucky dip, I guess) sits too far back in it. This makes photographing the girl a real pain in the arse. Aside from this, the figure is pretty well proportioned, and has a few nice touches - I like the engine cowling as feet, for example. Ironically, the silver chest details that impede the shuttle mode don't look that good at all - just a plain white chest might have been better for both modes.


SUMMARY

Spay-C is sadly a bit of a forgettable toy. Despite a couple of minor ideas that wouldn't be found on many other figures, such as the head design (used on the Japanese exclusive Highway Robo and Shinkansen Robo figures, but little else), and there not being anything chronically wrong with the toy, Spay-C just doesn't make a lasting impression. The Super version is a lot more interesting in both modes, and is easier to get hold of than this one. An inessential figure.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-14: Shuttle Robo
1983, Machine Robo Best 5 - MR-14: Shuttle Robo (new sticker sheet)
1983, Robo Machine - RM-14: Shuttle
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 06: Spay-C
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRJ-4: Shuttle Robo

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
Helmet, tail fin