I Made a Toy – Part 2


In Part 1, I mentioned that one aspect of the G.I. Joe Classified series I find a little frustrating is the lack of vehicles. Vehicles had a starring role with the original line from the 1980s. Granted, vehicles for figures 3 & 3/4 inches tall have a lot more advantages like friendlier price points, store shelf space, not to mention home shelf space, when compared to vehicles for figures just over 6 inches tall on average. Still, I want vehicles for my Joes and Cobra baddies.

Sometime around the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns, I came across this video by Adam Savage, the multi-talented designer, fabricator, and actor, who’s probably best know for his shared TV presenting role on the television series, MythBusters. That’s far too limited and simple of a description of Savage’s career and body of work, so if you’re a nerd about anything related to movie making, special effects or making just about anything mechanical and often mad, you should check out any and everything that he’s associated with.

Adam Savage demonstrating a spaceship scratch build using styrene

Adam’s video is a fun watch and I think, one of the best introductions to building with polystyrene, or “styrene”, for short. This material comes in sheets of different thickness, tubes, and beams of various profiles, and even specific items like scale ladders, doors, and surface textures. Typically found in model train stores or specialty hobby shops, there’s a decades long history of this material being used in everything from food containers to model making of all kinds. There are better resources than me to explain how to work with the material and I’ll leave links at the bottom of this post to some of my favorites.

So how does this apply to G.I. Joe toys, and specifically, vehicles? When it comes to G.I. Joe and their enemy, the terrorist organization, Cobra, the range varies greatly between real world military, science fiction, and James Bond influences, and the spectrum between believability and ridiculousness is just as wide. Still, most of the vehicles of the original toy line were visually exciting, very detailed for their time, and often had fun additional play features.


Before starting this project, the only model making I’d ever done were manufactured model kits of cars, trucks, military vehicles and space ships. The last time I did it was probably between 35 to 40 years ago. I did have experience with tools and have dabbled in various home repair and do-it-yourself projects, but never before this project had I worked with styrene or other surplus plastic materials, let alone fabricating something from scratch.

Now, for full disclosure, I do have some experience with cutting complicated shapes with X-acto blade knives, painting, and making things. As someone who went to art college and graduated with a Fine Arts degree back in the day when 95% of what we did was with our hands using physical media, working with small tools, glues, and different materials isn’t foreign to me. At the time, we were just being introduced to what one could create and design using a computer like the Apple Macintosh or Windows PC, but for the most part, it was still very hands-on and physical.

For this first-time build, I felt like I should try something relatively small even though I’d been dreaming of bigger and more complex possibilities. As a motorcycle rider myself, I thought a bike would be a fun place to start. In the G.I. Joe universe (which from hereon out I’ll refer to as the “Joe-verse”), the first motorcycle among several to be released was the R.A.M. It was more recently released in 6-inch scale as part of the G.I. Joe Classified line. We had the original toy in our household when I was a kid. It was a fun little toy, but the most recent version is on a whole other level.

The current G.I, Joe Classified toy series, which debuted in 2019, has had its hits and misses. But as far as I’m concerned, the latest version of the R.A.M. is definitely some of the Hasbro G.I. Joe team’s best work. The bike itself has a good amount of details including brake calipers, wrapped headers, clutch and brake levers, and toe shifters to name a few. And sure, even though the feasibility of someone the size and build of the included Breaker figure lifting, let alone firing, a weapon of that mass is highly doubtful, it’s still a cool play feature that I totally appreciate.

And although the original 1982 version didn’t have this feature, many of the subsequent vehicles from the original line of toys did have similar features of moving parts and pieces, providing a lot of variation of play and modularity. It wasn’t necessarily unique to the G.I. Joe toy line, but modularity and varying configurations on certain vehicles made them more dynamic as toys, and not just static display models. This is definitely an aspect I wanted to include into anything I’d be making.

So with this newfound knowledge of tools, materials, and techniques shared via YouTube by creators like Adam Savage, I was ready to get to it. But as a seasoned professional in my industry, I know that doing things for the sake of just doing them isn’t a smart way to proceed. So, I needed to come up with a design idea, establish my goals, and make a plan to achieve them. Even this “childish” endeavor needs the discipline of an old-guy to ensure its success.

To be continued…




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