Van Guard was one of five figures created by Bandai for Tonka to pad out the second series of Gobots. Stamped MRT-42 (denoting Machine Robo Tonka, most likely) he was added to the second series of Gobots in early 1985. The figure wasn't released outside of North America, with Bandai deciding against releasing him as part of Machine Robo (Japan) or Robo Machine (Europe).

The character did go on to have a moderate presence in Hanna-Barbera's Challenge of the Gobots cartoon, however, though he didn't get to do much beyond acting as one of the usual friendly, brave Guardians.


ALTERNATE MODE

You can probably guess roughly what kind of vehicle Van Guard transforms into. As with the rest of the MRT range, Bandai purposefully chose American vehicles, and so he's modelled on a Dodge Caravan. The rendering is a little underwhelming, possibly due to the uninspiring nature of the subject. It's a bit of a shame a silvery plastic was chosen - while this fits nicely, it is perhaps a bit too close to the colours used on Scratch. I personally feel he'd have looked better with his colours reversed, with black as his primary scheme (there really aren't enough black Gobots) and silver windows.

The actual quality of the toy isn't quite there, either - the front halves don't join up quite right, resulting in the windscreen having a slight kink in it, while the thing's nearly all plastic - only the front grille/robot thighs being diecast. On the other hand, he does have rubber tyres and a passable level of detail.


ROBOT MODE

Like many Gobots from the second series of regular figures, Van Guard is blessed with an excellent transformation. This involves the front section of the van swinging down to form the legs, and the rear end flipping over the other way, splitting in half to complete the torso, reveal the arms and give him these great-looking 'wings' on his back. Comparing this to comparable Transformers of the time (such as the Minibots) or the small Convertors figures is a bit of a cheap shot, but worth thinking about.

The resultant robot isn't too shabby either. Despite the chunky legs and thin arms, he looks surprisingly sharp. The colour scheme gels nicely, and the stickers work well too. The head sculpt isn't bad, if a little small, with Van Guard having a bit of a different face to the usual chrome jobs. The articulation is about par for the range, though the figure's good stability means you can perhaps do a bit more with him than some more poseable toys. It's a shame there isn't a bit more detail on the arms, however, these resembling little more than sticks.


SUMMARY

The MRT range is a pretty varied bunch of toys - Stallion and Scratch are masterpieces, Stinger's rather mediocre and Sparky is pretty laughable, bless her. Van Guard slots into third place. He's a bit too plain and underachieving to make the top bracket, but with an excellent transformation can hardly be described as average either. Overall, though, he falls just short of greatness, but still represents a worthy figure. The toy can be found fairly cheap in America, and will probably have to be imported by anyone else. How much does it cost to ship a Gobot? Not much, so take a punt.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1984, Gobots Series 2 - 51: Van Guard
1985, Gobots Series 2 - 51: Van Guard (reissue with sticker)

The figure was stamped MRT-42, though this code was not used on any packaging.

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None