Meanest machine you’ve ever seen

I suffered a random wave of hopeless curiosity about a toy I had as a kid a while ago and decided to indulge myself by snagging one off eBay for a few bucks. The toy in question: the Dreadnok Thunder Machine from the G.I. Joe line. I had a sudden realization about how utterly odd it was: in a line of military realism (back when it was more or less about military realism, mind you, and not a pro wrestler driving around on a neon open-top battle tank), this vehicle possessed a different sort of realism. The Thunder Machine was basically a chop shop special — a hodgepodge mess of random vehicle parts welded together and covered with makeshift armor plating.

It appears to possess the body of a truck with a jet engine bolted to the back and a Camaro grille bolted to the front — no doubt for vanity. Strategically-placed bits of armor protect the drivers, and there are twin gatling guns on the front. I’m not too certain about the jet engine, but the rest of it is uncannily convincing as a sort of urban guerilla armored vehicle. As a kid I thought it was simply cool-looking, but now I really wonder who came up with something so offbeat yet appropriate.

Anyway, I just noticed tonight that there’s a set of police flashers bolted to the top, which pretty much pushes it over the edge from “great toy” to “greatest toy.” You kids these days don’t know how bad you got it. Playthings were way more awesome when I was your age.

[Image from Yo Joe]

14 thoughts on “Meanest machine you’ve ever seen

  1. I wish I played with more toys when I was younger. The only toys I remember playing with now are these little Star Wars playsets and then larger (but still small) Star Wars Vehicles.
    I had such a blast with that stuff, though.

  2. I remember THE one to get was the Killer W.H.A.L.E. – the big hovercraft with depth charges and the little boat that shot out.

    My favorite though was the diver who had the pump mechanism to make him dive. I loved the vehicle that came with him too. Good God, that was 23 years ago.

  3. Oh, yeah, that was the SHARC. They’ve just rereleased that along with a new version of the diver, who has been resculpted to be more modern but still is basically just a big hollow lump of plastic with a bellows attached. Good times.

  4. I think the juxtaposition of the pink and blue really sell it for me…garish, yet chic.

    The only thing I remember about my GI Joes (and my twin brother and I used to play with them a lot) is that the rockets/missles I had were bright green, like chartreuse (wow I spelled chartreuse right on the first try, I really am gay!).

  5. It definitely has a “shit, we need to protect ourselves from I.E.D.s because George Bush isn’t going to” vibe going on.

  6. It looks suspicously like a vehicle from the Mad Max films. And the driver looked a lot like an extra from Beyond Thunderdome.

  7. Wow, that takes me back. That car is one of the toys I inherited from my brother as a kid. When I got it it was missing a bunch of parts, but I still played so hard with it and my G.I. Joes. By the time I outgrew playing with action figures, the car was nothing but the one big central piece, and was missing everything else.

  8. I’m pretty sure this is what Murdock and Face Man put together in one of the few A-Team episodes ever where their awesome montage-induced device FAILED. The other one involved an open hatchback with hay in the back…on fire.

  9. Oh wow, I had that one as a kid. I never really appreciated its odd design until now; much like you, it was just a “cool vehicle” to me as a kid. I never even noticed the Camaro grille before this. Then again, I didn’t really know or care what a Camaro was, either; it was all just cars and trucks to me. I’m only marginally better now.

    Also: White is a neon color?

  10. I think “neon” was a reference to the red, which isn’t nearly as saturated in reality as this image has it. (And I bumped down the saturation considerably from the source image.) It’s actually a deep blue and maroon — tastefully muted given its design.

  11. I got this one for xmas one year. I didn’t get too many vehicles, and nothing larger than this size. I distinctly remember putting together this one because it only has one rear view mirror. At the time I thought it was preposterous that any car would have only one rear view mirror, concluded that I had received a defective product, and elected that it would be better to have no mirrors rather than one shameful mirror reminding me of how the inspector of my toy totally screwed up. So I threw it in the trash.

    Later, I realized that it actually only had the one on the driver’s side after studying the art on the cover but the tiny piece of plastic had become so mixed with the rest of the garbage that I couldn’t find it.

    Yes, a multicolored mishmash of different cars with guns mounted on the engine block and a jet engine would look stupid with only one side mirror. I really thought that.

    I have a lot of gift memories that have some awful twist that almost but not quite totally ruins them. Except for the time I dropped my new Prowl off a bunk bed and broke him to pieces. That sucked.

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