In the great robot toys wars of the 80s, the clear winner was Transformers, but that’s not to say they didn’t have some stiff competition in the field. Three years earlier, Tonka issued the Gobots line, a worthy adversary to be sure, but one that couldn’t quite push their competitor off of their perch. Still, they managed a strong second place finish and remain quite collectable in their own right.

Released in 1984, Gobots were actually a reissue of a series of toys originally produced by Popy of Japan (who later became Bandai) called Machine Robo. Rebranded by the famed yellow dump truck company, they set out to conquer the emerging market, despite the Transformers being hot on their heels.

GoBots were divided into two classes, “Friendly” and “Enemy.” With the launch of the animated series Challenge Of The Gobots shortly after the release of the toys, the designations were changed to “Guardians” and “Renegades.” The story began on the war torn planet of Gobotron. A disgruntled Guardian named Cy-Kill rebelled with a group of followers and formed the domination-bent Renegades to usurp power and threaten the freedom of the planet. But quick to thwart the Renegades were the leftover Guardians, led by the gallant Leader-1. The show picks up the story in the midst of this great conflict as the GoBots have taken the fight to planet Earth.

GoBots toys predated the show, largely to build its hype. The sheer number of GoBots that hit the market was staggering. Each robot was typically three to four inches tall and made of die-cast metal and plastic. And of course, just like The Transformers, GoBots alternated between robot and vehicle form. Hoods buckled, trunks split apart and flipped over themselves, heads emerged from exposed consoles, all serving to convert machine into metallic man.

Unlike Transformers, GoBots came with no distinction – no heat sensitive decal – to help discern who fought for which side. The packaging was labeled, but once the toy was out of the box, you either had to wing it or tune in to the show and become an authority. Among the more recognizable GoBots were the aforementioned Leader-1, a jet fighter, and the despotic Cy-Kill, who, as his name suggests, turned into a vicious looking motorcycle. Aiding Leader-1 was the crimson sports car Turbo, while helicopter menace Kop-Tur did Cy-Kill’s bidding.

Eventually, GoBots began to change in size and function. The Renegades brought forth Zod, the rolling, rearing, roaring robot dinosaur. Soon enough, Power Warriors also joined the Renegade ranks, foot high robots built out of smaller ones. Various spin-off merchandise came out such as books, toy guns, bedsheets, and the popular GoBots transformable walkie-talkies. New toy lines were eventually released such as Power Suits and Secret Raiders.

Because of their compact size and affordability, GoBots experienced noteworthy success until 1986 when they gambled on GoBots: Battle Of The Rock Lords, an animated feature whose box office and merchandise (robots that transformed into rocks) bombed.

Still, despite the fact that the original animated series only lasted three years, GoBots made an admirable run at the Transformers throne with a deft combination of affordability and accessibility. Fans today still collect them, for while GoBots may not have been the champion, they were still a winner in the eyes of many a robot-loving kid.

Were you a loyalist to the Gobots toy line, or did you crossover to to Transformer competition? We’d love to hear all of your memories of these classic 80s robot toys in our comments section below.

One Response to “Gobots”

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  1. Great trip down memory lane with this article. Loved the Go-Bots.

    I just wrote an article for my blog about the Go-Bots cartoon!

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