MSZ-006 Z-GundamThe Deluxe (a.k.a. Super Heavy Duty - no line name features strongly on the packaging) range of Gundam figures were one of the first attempts to revive the franchise as an outright toyline after the valiant but inept efforts of Clover a few years before.

Since then, Bandai had largely produced plastic model kits when it came to merchandising, but in 1985 they brought out two of these figures. The Deluxe toys were in 1/100 scale, and moulded out of hard plastic. The first pair were the Gundams from the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam anime - the Mark II and the Z-Gundam. I'd guess beyond that there was little to support such a big-ticket item, though the following year the same treatment would be handed to the ZZ-Gundam.

All three were later reissued with samurai-style armour as part of the bizarre Gundam Cloth range.

MSZ-006 Z-GundamThe figure stands about 9" tall in robot mode, which is a good height for a toy - something has to be really special to be much bigger without looking oversized. The design is fantastic - it's not as slim and android-looking as many Gundams, with an almost boxy chest section, and thick, sturdy legs.

MSZ-006 Z-GundamThere's just the right amount of kibble on the robot as well - enough parts to give the body some substance, but nothing really interferes with the toy. Setting the red part on the chest correctly between the two white 'rib' parts can be tricky, but after a little practice it can be done. The figure is very complex - there are a lot of parts that lock into place, and if you haven't got instructions you need to take your time early on.

MSZ-006 Z-GundamThe Z-Gundam has exceptional articulation for the period - the shoulders and elbows both rotate and hinge, the wrists rotate, the hips hinge and rotate, while both the knees and ankles are jointed.. Balance is a little bit of a problem, and the ratcheted hip joints take a little bit of getting used to, but it's not hard to get him into a few decent poses. Not that my photographs really do him justice, though.

MSZ-006 Z-GundamThe head and chest design are slightly different to the Z-Gundam in the series, but both work very well on the figure. The toy is meant to come with a large laser rifle as well, though it manages to look pretty dangerous even without it. There's perhaps a lack of detail to the figure - scant stickers, and no paint apps - different coloured plastic is used for this. I suppose it depends on whether you're after a clean finish or an ultra-realistic model kit look - for the latter, I expect you can get the Z-Gundam in kit form at this size and just use the decals if it bothers you. Myself, I prefer the uncluttered look of this figure.

MSZ-006 Z-GundamIn terms of durability, the toy is quite solid. The plastic does feel a little brittle compared to modern compounds, or even the stuff used on most Godaikin figures, but it's not like I'm going to be dropping him onto a concrete floor very often, so that's a negligible concern. The plastic used does seem to be very prone to yellowing, however.

On many older toys with lots of joints, wear can be a problem on many examples. That aside, the whole thing is very well made, though, with no obvious breakable points, and most of the joints seem to have been made with durability in mind.

MSZ-006 Z-GundamThe toy can, as mentioned, fully transform into the Waverider spaceship mode of the Z-Gundam. This is a complex transformation - I'm struggling to think of much from 1985 that is as tricky to master, and in my experience only some of the more complicated Transformers Alternators figures come close on modern stuff. The sequence is generally well done, even if I've yet to define a 'set route' - there's usually still one or two parts I've forgotten to move, resulting in back tracking. However, there is one major durability issue with the transformation. The large shield-type thing becomes the underside nose of the Waverider, and this connects to the main toy through a pair of ball plugs. Now, these are very secure and give the Waverider a very sturdy, solid feel. However, these require a lot of force, both in being pushed into place and being pulled out. The shield is made of thin plastic, and I imagine it's pretty easy to fracture this with the joints - ordinary flush plugs would probably have done the job. The arrangement used is actually quite painful...

MSZ-006 Z-GundamAs for the Waverider itself, it does look a lot like a folded up Gundam - but then Gundam flight modes always do... It's not an alternate mode or a disguise, it's simply a practical configuration for travel. It's nicely done, all that said, with only the legs and hands left exposed, and it's very solid - lifting this up doesn't result in limbs dropping out of shape or anything like that. And it has retractable undercarriage - I'm a total sucker for retractable undercarriage, there's something about those tiny cute steel wheels Bandai came out with that I just find darling. It completely doesn't matter that the thing never had undercarriage in the cartoon.

The Super Heavy version lacks the detail and quasi-realism of the model kit offerings, but the complex engineering makes the figure very interesting, even if there are a couple of weak areas. The Z-Gundam has an imposing size, and makes an impressive display piece. It can also be found for a reasonable price, not much more than £15-20. Probably more one for the casual Gundam fan, but seeing as that's me, I love the thing.

With thanks to Roger and Drifand from the Toybox DX Invincible BBS for their help identifying this figure!