By the third series of Gobots, there were only a handful of Machine Robo figures that hadn't been issued. Half-a-dozen wouldn't make it out at all, while some would have to make do with very limited releases. Skyline Robo had been released in Japan in 1985, and would be reissued there in 1987 to tie in with the Revenge of Cronos anime series. In between, the figure had a very small-scale release as Tail Pipe in the Gobots line. Unusually, there were two simultaneously released versions - one identical to the Japanese issue, and another with an all-new Tonka-designed colour scheme (card art of the new version was used for both figures). The figure arrived too late to appear in the cartoon, and failed to come out in Europe at all. Tail Pipe was released at roughly a 50/50 red/black ratio, though the black version is much rarer by simple dint of only being released on one side of the Pacific. Quite why the figure was held back until so late is interesting - maybe there were already too many cars in the second series?

The upshot of it all, though, is that Tail Pipe is the only genuinely rare small Gobot. The Machine Robo exclusives are just about rarer, and some of the other Gobots might be more common on one side of the Atlantic than the other, but you can find the rest of them with little effort. Mine took ages to find, and cost me around £45 (with eternal thanks to Notabot for helping sort out the deal ) - the same guy had the black version for twice that. Another mooted version of Skyline Robo was a white variant, shown in several catalogues (largely in shots for Playsets). The figure was never released in this scheme, however.


ALTERNATE MODE

While the Skyline 2000 RS Turbo might be a cult favourite (it says so on Wikipedia so it must be true), it isn't much to look at - a very ordinary family saloon shape, even if it is two-door. It's not an ugly car, just a little average - but then, generally speaking, Gobots didn't dabble in exotic cars to quite the extent Transformers did, being the line that gave us figures based on the Pontiac Fiero, a rubbish truck, a Dodge Caravan and a Toyota Crown.

Now, normally round about here I'd start whining about the proliferation of red Gobot cars (seven of the thirteen regular cars were red), but in this case at least Tonka made the effort of changing it (unlike Street Heat, who had a perfectly good Machine Robo scheme ignored for no readily apparent reason), and I did sort-of have a choice - if I bought the red version, I'd have food for the rest of the month. As it is, he doesn't look bad in red, with some nifty black trim and rather a cool ensign on the bonnet. There are a couple of minor negatives - the red painted plastic on the roof isn't quite the right tone, and it's a shame there aren't paint apps or stickers for the headlights. It's a very well-made, sturdy car, with the usual decent amount of detail engraving. The car body is entirely plastic, but it's good stuff, and it means the thing won't chip.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation sequence is very nice - broadly reminiscent of Stallion, though make sure you pull the arms out of the sides first thing in Tail Pipe's case. The robot is is nicely proportioned, tall and svelte, and the layout is terrific. I do like figures with this sort of transformation, and that he looks good from all angles (with the parts forming a proper, solid torso unit complete with a back) is the icing on the cake. The thigh-mounted wheels are a nice change from them just being fixed to the rear of the car in these sorts of transformations.

The figure has got a decent head design too, a bit different as well - he stands out on his own quite nicely. Articulation is respectable, with ball-jointed arms and some movement in the legs. No hands though (aside from some minor sculpting on the tips of the arms), which is a shame if not unexpected at this sort of scale. Overall, though, it's a terrific mode, one of the very best from the line.


SUMMARY

Is Tail Pipe worth £45? Probably not, I don't think you're ever going to get value for money spending that much on a 20+ year old 3" figure. But Tail Pipe is a pretty good Gobot - a slightly plain car mode keeps in from the top tier, but to be honest if you're going to spend a fortune on a Gobot, this'd be a good one to go mad on. The black Gobots version does look a little better, but the red version is sharp in its' own right. The robot mode is superb, and he'd be essential if it wasn't for the price tag.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1985, Machine Robo Series - MR-42: Skyline Robo
1986, Gobots Series 3 - 57: Tail Pipe
1986, Gobots Series 3 - 57: Tail Pipe (black recolour)
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRB-3: Skyline Robo

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None