It was only natural that one of the most popular television series of the 1970s gave rise to one of the most popular action figures of the decade. Queue the bionic sound effects, please, and welcome Colonel Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. Steve is wearing a lovely red NASA tracksuit with matching sneakers. Try not to stare at his wonky eye.
Steve Austin the doll was released by Kenner Toys in 1975, at the height of the show’s popularity. The action figure came chock full of accessories which were literally packed inside its body. The aforementioned wonky eye was a representation of the TV character’s bionic eye—which looked normal in the series—and was actually a tiny telescope which kids could look through from an eyepiece in the back of the figure’s head. The right arm was covered with elastic “skin” which could be peeled back to reveal Steve’s bionic implants. The mechanical parts were removable in early editions of the doll but were fixed in place later on. The bionic arm even had super strength—for a 13” inch doll—and could lift up to two pounds. To top it all off, the arm made the signature bionic sound while going through the lifting motion.
The overall coolness of this action figure sold units like hotcakes and over the show’s run it was reissued several times with new and better accessories. In 1977, the right arm featured a “Bionic Grip” and Steve came packaged with a little steel girder so he could show off for the other dolls. A 1978 reissue gave Steve a “Biosonic Arm” that could karate chop the dickens out of any object. Other accessories included a Back Pack Radio—actually worked! —and Critical Assignment Arms and Legs that you could substitute for the doll’s standard limbs.
The Bionic Mission Vehicle was a futuristic, snazzy little number complete with see-through plastic cockpit ceiling, good for driving and flying (it looked a bit like a DustBuster). The Bionic Transport and Repair Station was an activity center that was also a combination rocket ship, surgical bay and carrying case. Obviously, the Six Million Dollar Man didn’t mess around where playtime was involved. Also available in the toy line were other characters from the series, like Oscar Goldman (Steve’s handler) — and villains such as Bigfoot and Maskatron.
When the TV show was canceled, the Six Million Dollar Man toy line was discontinued as well. Gone but not forgotten, Steve and friends (and enemies) are highly collectible today and it’s no wonder: how many dolls do you know that come with Oxygen Mask Arm as an accessory? Some versions of Steve—especially the rare Biosonic Arm issue—can fetch thousands of dollars at an auction. Early editions with the removable bionic implants are very rare because duh, removable tiny doll parts equals lost tiny doll parts. When will children learn to keep their toys in mint condition?
If you were the proud owner of any of these memorable toys as a kid, share your adventures with us in our comments section as we tip our hats to Steve Austin for inspiring such a cool line of toys.