Pro or Con? Using Modern Technologies to Add Authentic Sounds, Weapon Effects & Lifelike Realism to 1:6 Scale Action Figures & Vehicles

This portion of an old Hasbro ad reveals how GIjOE fans played with 1965's "state-of-the-art" 5-star Jeep: They got down in the dirt! Looking back at it now, this revered Hasbro vehicle was indeed a lot of fun to play with and quite advanced for its time, including a unique "Moto-Rev" engine sound, working spotlight and "firing" projectiles. (Scan by: Mark Wright)

This portion of an old Hasbro ad reveals how GIjOE fans once played with 1965’s “state-of-the-art” 5-star Jeep: They got down in the dirt! Recent advancements in RC technology have begun to change how fans play with such toys in backyards around the world. (Ad scan provided by: Mark Wright)

Consider this supposition:

Cost factors aside…What if, as a kid, your original GIjOE 5-Star Jeep had been a fully RC product, complete with motion and sound effects, a remotely rotating and elevating gun with remotely fired rocket shells and an animatronic driver and gunner that actually moved, looked around, etc. Would such high-tech, “hands-off” enhancements have made it a better toy?

Your gut reaction might be to say, “Heck yeah!” But let’s think it about it for moment. Would such a radically enhanced Jeep have been as much fun to play with? OR…would such a “superior” product have lessened the need for Andy and George’s mutual “imaginative interaction,” thereby making them mere operators of a toy with a predictable series of mechanized movements? Hmm…

Make Room for Daddy! “Backyard Battles” aren’t just for kids anymore.

Ramon Mendoza (left) prepares to demonstrate his $8,500 1:6 scale RC Tiger Tank the 2012 Chicago GIjOE Show. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Ramon Mendoza (above left), prepares to demonstrate his fully remote-operated 1:6 scale RC Tiger 1 Tank from Armortek ($8,500) to attendees of the 2012 GIjOE and Action Figure Show in Algonquin, IL Mendoza admits owning and operating such massive, high-tech toys is hardly “child’s play” as his all-metal Tiger weighs in at over 300 lbs and has numerous sharp, pointed edges, making it too dangerous for children. (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

Is it time for aging GIjOE fans to finally get up off their knees and stop playing down in the dirt? For some, the answer would be a resounding, “YES.” To such fans, recent advancements in RC technologies have opened up a whole new world of 1:6 scale collecting, customization and “play” possibilities.

By contrast, many “old-school” Joeheads continue to assert their belief that the more things a toy can do by itself, the less “hands-on” it becomes, and the lower actual play-value it possesses. According to this perspective, “Simpler…is Better!”

But regardless of your collecting preferences, it’s undeniable that 1:6 scale action figures and their vehicles have come a LONG way since the time when Hasbro’s 5-Star Jeep and its working spotlight, firing rocket shells, and (delightfully annoying) “Moto Rev” sound made it a “state-of-the-art” toy.

For vintage "Joeheads," playing in the dirt, either inside or outside was commonplace and second nature, as this '60s Hasbro ad clearly demonstrates. Are today's "high-tech" fans getting further from these early "hands-on" days? (Photo: Hasbro)

Playing with GIjOEs and 1:6 scale vehicles in the dirt (inside or outside) used to be commonplace and second nature to most fans, as this ’60s Hasbro ad clearly demonstrates. Are today’s tech-savvy adult fans moving 1:6-scale play too far from the past’s “hands-on,” imagination-based methods—or merely expanding upon them? (Photo: Hasbro)

Hasbro's mid 1960s ad for their "Capture Hill 79" GIjOE contest clearly reflected the company's awareness of how children were playing with toys at that time; down on the ground, hands-on, and imaginatively. (Ad scan: Mark Wright) Click to enlarge.

Hasbro’s 1967 ad for its “Capture Hill 79” GIjOE promotion clearly reflects the company’s awareness of how boys were playing with toys at that time; down on the ground, hands-on, and engaged. Are these innocent, imagination-fueled days gone forever? (Ad scan: Mark Wright) Click to enlarge.

Cue “Old Codger” voice here…

“Back in MY day…Before we had all these new high-tech ‘gizmos,’ kids had to use their IMAGINATIONS —and Saturday morning cartoons— to fill the hours. We played OUTSIDE, right down on the ground, like a bunch’a little monkeys! In the rain, snow, water or MUD. We didn’t care. We knew how to have FUN with our toys; ESPECIALLY with our GIjOEs!

We thought nuthin’ of pushing our Jeeps and MSVs around on our hands and knees for HOURS. Heck, half the fun was making our own sound effects like “Vrroom! Bang!” and “POW!” We used rulers, rubber bands and rocks to make catapults, and if we had any, lit REAL smoke bombs and firecrackers! We didn’t need no fancy ‘RC toys’ to have fun. We just made it up. And we LIKED it!”

This "screen grab" from a video shows two nude animatronic figures and how their electronic "guts" are housed in the chest and pelvis area. (Photo: Ylms) Click to enlarge.

This “screen grab” from a video shows two nude animatronic figures with Dragon headsculpts and how wiring connects to the electronic “guts” housed inside their chest and pelvis regions. (Photo: Ylms)

Our “Old Codger’s” dialogue is, of course, all made up. But his viewpoint is actually shared by many. Regardless, times and toys are always changing, and as the children of the past turn into today’s adults, a growing number of them now seek to improve and enhance the detail level of toys they previously believed to be perfect. They’re known of course, as “customizers.”

We’ve profiled many of these talented individuals in previous articles, and at the top of this fortunate group are the ones who are technologically (and financially) able to upscale their 1:6 scale products with advanced RC capabilities. With built-in digital sound effects, cameras, movable, recoiling and sometimes firing(!) weaponry, smoke-makers, powerful motors and drive-trains, their creations are QUITE amazing. A quick search of YouTube revealed hundreds of 1:6 scale RC, but these three videos demonstrate the advancements we’re discussing:

Video #1: Animatronic 1:6 Scale Action Figures w/RC Tank

In this first video by Wolfinger13, a German animatronic tank crew scans their surroundings for targets before firing off a shot into the woods. Absolutely real-looking and convincing. The crew moves, the turret rotates, the gun fires (with smoke and sound effect!), and the tank RUMBLES away at the end. Watch after the cannon-shot is fired. It seems as if the two crewman exchange a few words before driving away. So cool!

Video #2: Animatronic Figures w/RC Motorcycle & Sidecar

In this second video, Wolfinger13’s has built an outstanding, fully RC, 1:6 scale Zundapp KS50 WW2 Motorcycle with a scratch-built wooden sidecar and 2(!) animatronic Dragon figures. We’ve seen other WW2 RC motorcycles, but none with animatronic figures and sound effects added. With the camera mounted on a tripod, and no human hands visible, the officer and his driver take a few laps around the patio, interact with each other, and just seem so REAL. Superb work!

What happens when you combine a GIjOE, customized Mercury Space Capsule and a giant 1:6 scale Redstone rocket? The answer can only be: FUN! (Photo:

What happens when you combine a GIjOE, customized Mercury Space Capsule and a giant 1:6 scale Redstone rocket? The answer can only be: FUN! (Photo:

Video #3: The “Mercury Joe” Flights

Let’s not forget GIjOE pilots, astronauts and their assorted air and spacecraft. When I was but a wee lad of 7 years, I received a brand-new, bright blue, IRWIN Panther Jet for Christmas. I remember pushing that big blue bird across my living room floor, its built-in noise-maker going “click-click-click.” For a 7-year old, that was pretty high-tech. And the next Christmas, I received my first GijOE Space Capsule. Come on! What could be cooler than that? Such great toys!

But now, over 40 years later, my viewpoint is altered somewhat by adulthood, and in this third video, we’ll discover what happens when an RC model-rocketry experts mounts a heavily customized GIjOE Space Capsule onto to the top of 1:6 scale Mercury Redstone rocket. His resulting “Mercury Joe” missions have become legend with fans, and all been captured on video. Here’s one of the best…

What does the future hold for the way fans play with GIjOEs?

We don’t have a crystal ball, but clearly, the evolving interests of many adult GIjOE collectors, combined with an increasing consumption of sophisticated RC technology, seems to indicate that many future 1:6 scale “Backyard Battles” will be waged from the comfort of Dad’s lawn or easy chair. It may be time for some Joeheads to get up off their hands and knees, after all!

Bottom Line: How you choose to play with GIjOEs is up to you. But we wonder: How far will technology take our 12″ heroes? You have only to look at real-world developments in RC drone technology and miniaturization to conceive of a possible future scenario like the one depicted in the fantasy film, “Small Soldiers” (see trailer below). But that couldn’t REALLY happen. Right? Hmm…


10 thoughts on “Pro or Con? Using Modern Technologies to Add Authentic Sounds, Weapon Effects & Lifelike Realism to 1:6 Scale Action Figures & Vehicles

  1. kneonknight says:

    I wouldn’t have been too thrilled to have my joes requiring a crapload of batteries when I was a kid, it was enough of a pain to keep batteries in the jeep. It would have pretty well ruled out all the deep sea and scuba divers as well. A Remote or Radio Control Tank like the 21st Century M5 would have been way cool, however. I recall that Remco (I believe) made a large scale remote control tank for the Tomy Tigers figures, but there weren’t many other vehicles like that, and the only electronic figure I remember was Mattel’s Captain Lazer, who saw very little play due to his stiff limbs and insatiable hunger for batteries.

    Everyone needs to remember that the more complex you make an item, the more that can go wrong with it, and most average consumers do not have the technical know-how to repair electronic devices.

  2. Steve York says:

    New Bright made a number of RC vehicles that were roughly 1/6th scale and had opening doors and seat-belts compatible with action figures. I own a Hummer H2 (in yellow, with some subdued Adventure Team markings added) and a couple of New Beetles. And 21st made the M4 Stuart Tank. I’ve got one of those too. There have been some smaller RC vehicles that are figure compatible, like snowmobiles, quad-bikes, trike motorcycles, and ATVs. I’ve got an RC Yamaha Rhino utility ATV that, after “raising the roof” on the roll cage about half an inch, works great with Joes.

    And a classic-style RC Jeep would also be awesome. It’s hard to see why someone, especially 21st, has never taken that on.

    But what I’ve always wanted to build, and haven’t gotten around to, are some heavy duty RC Adventure Team vehicles in the tradition of the MSV and Big Trapper. I’ve done non-motorized versions based on Barbie campers and the 21st Schwimmenwagen, so I have the cosmetics down, but I’d love to have an RC one with some off-road capability, and action features like working lights, spinning radar antennas, maybe launching missiles or drones, and maybe even a live video feed.

    I’m less entranced with motorized figures, though a driver whose head moved and a turning steering wheel would add some nice realism, and I can see the attraction of adding a motorized crew to an RC tank. But in general, I don’t want my Joes turned into little robots, and I want my RC vehicles to accommodate any figure I choose, at least in the passenger seats….

  3. Wayne Faucher says:

    Personally, it never even occurred to me to ask for a Talking Joe as a kid. I wanted to have him say what I wanted him to say. So, I kinda always felt that way about automated toys. But as soon as the first crying baby doll was introduced and sold well, the direction for more animated toys was decided. Nothing wrong, if you have a yen for it. I DO admit; a 1/6 scale tank barreling across a field can be a pretty cool looking thing….

    • kneonknight says:

      Heck yeah! I churned up a metric crap-ton of Colorado bakelite clay with my “Honey” one afternoon. The local sheriff was astounded that a 1/6 scale Stuart could create such a ruckus…one of my neighbors was concerned that I was “undermining” the neighborhood for some nefarious purpose, thus the visit from Johnny Law.

      In all fairness, the same neighbor was sure that a chupacabra lived under his house and was stealing his disability checks.

  4. Wayne Faucher says:

    Just as an addendum; That Mercury launch is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life… although I don’t quite know why the capsule is blue…..

  5. kneonknight says:

    I took a look at the Wikipedia article on Freedom 7, and the actual capsule appears to be three different colors in each of the photos. During launch it looks dark blue; during recovery, charcoal grey, and at the Naval Academy it is silver.


  6. kneonknight says:

    I just remembered that Joe did have a working aerial vehicle – the Skyhawk! It was little more than a glorified kite, and probably resulted in the loss of more Air Adventurers than any other cause, but it was still neat. It appeared at about the same time that the sport of Hang Gliding was just taking off (ahem), and was pretty popular with the kids in my neighborhood. Interestingly enough, it simply did not fly properly without a Joe at the controls. The added weight was just enough to stabilize the rig. No batteries required, either.

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