Issued in 1985, the Big Eagle Robo was a scaled up version of the standard Eagle Robo - better known as Leader-1. The Japanese version had fairly austere stickers but when Tonka brought the thing over for the second series of Super Gobots, they decided to Yankee the thing up with some extra Stars 'n' Stripes (also incorporating the text 'USAF L-1' as a registration code). Hrrrm.

The toy was also released in Europe as part of Robo Machine, complete with fresh box art. The European market would get another release in 1993 - the toy being used as the De Luxe F-15 for the Robo Machines line with the registration code switched to read 'ROBO MACHINES'. This version is what I've got at the moment.


ALTERNATE MODE

The Super version of Leader-1, of course, turns into a bigger F-15 jet. But it's better than that - this is a proper model of the Eagle. The smaller version suffered from a more botched execution than most of the small Machine Robo figures - gone is the ridiculously boxy fuselage and ugly fixed undercarriage. Instead, aside from a sizeable indent just behind the nose the underside is smooth and contoured, with some lovely detail. The tail planes are sorted out, properly blending into the fuselage this time. Unlike with the Super Cy-Kill, Bandai have refined the mode, working on the scale and adding a large number of new engraved details all over the plane - there's even stuff inside the cockpit now. The chromed jets are a nice touch too while the larger wings mean the screw housings underneath aren't as painfully obvious.

The undercarriage is now retractable - it looks fantastic (and is actually accurate to the F-15 layout), though the rear wheels can be fiddly, requiring either very thin fingers or long nails. The mode's only real problem is its' fragility - a lot on ebay turn up minus the various wings and fins. I'm not really sure how so many people manage to knock off the main wings but the screwed-on tail-fins and moving rear wings do actually look like they could come off pretty easily. It's a great piece of sculpting, though rather smothered by the OTT stickers. I keep meaning to take the things off mine entirely, even if it would make Leader-1 look bare.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation is again exactly the same as the smaller version (well, the rear wings are slightly different - more on this in a minute), but somehow more satisfying - I especially like the old-fashioned clicking noise the legs make as they extend. The arms can foul slightly when coming out, but this doesn't seem terminal. Much like the jet mode, Bandai might have largely scaled this one up but they've taken the time and effort to refine him as well. The proportions are immeasurably better - the limbs look less boxy and oversized, while the head cast is a much better size. The plates either side are less dominating too. The big shoulder connections are gone too, with more subtle extending diecast pieces keeping the arms closer to the torso, without costing the articulation.

There are some faults, however - the 'jodhpurs' are still present - the toy would probably have looked a lot neater if the wings folded away at the root rather than half an inch along. However, the biggest problem is the revised tail plane arrangement. Whereas the smaller version had the tail-fins (unrealistically) a few millimetres higher up, on this version they're swept back over the jets, and this the legs actually sit around 5mm off the ground - the puts a lot of strain on the plastic in supporting what is a heavy figure. It's also only fair to note that he doesn't have any more articulation than the smaller version, which is a bit of a shame - hip joints wouldn't have been too hard, surely? Pleasingly, though, most of the excessively stickered surfaces fold out of sight in robot mode.


SUMMARY

Overall, despite a few imperfections Leader-1 is a very classy figure. Well-crafted and stylish, it looks pretty decent in both modes even if it retains the ever-so-slightly bland trappings of the original. It is a little bit more regal, but still lacks that special something that would make it an inspiring leader. Sadly the fragility is a real issue, and finding one of these in decent condition is very difficult indeed. Worth hunting down - though it's a shame that the Leader-1 figures are the inverse of the Cy-Kill toys (which had a good small version and a disappointing Super), which limits the display possibilities.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1985, Machine Robo Big Machine Robo Series - BMR-02:
Big Eagle Robo
1985, Gobots Super Gobots Series 2 - 024: Leader-1
1985, Robo Machine - Super Gobots: Leader-1
1993, Robo Machines - De Luxe Robo Machines: F-15 Eagle

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
Tail-fins, rear wings