TOP 10 LIST: We salute the best G.I. Joe vehicles of the 1980s

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Today a guest post from one of our faithful readers, Ambrose Kalifornia, who was given a very special set of marching orders by the command staff here at Hero Complex: Come up with a great Top 10 list for all those toy-saluting G.I.Joe fans out there. Here’s what A.K. came up with...

G.I Joe: A Real American Hero is arguably the greatest toy line ever made. The characters, brought to life by Larry Hama, have stood the test of time, outlasting and outselling everything from its time with the exception of Transformers and ‘Star Wars’ toys. The toys were the most popular of its day; The Marvel comic book outsold even the “X-Men.” But what really made the toy line stand out were the vehicles. G.I. Joe was not just an array of action figures, it was a military force waiting to happen, which meant tanks, planes, boats and some weird gear too. These are the best -- the best of the best, in fact -- the Top 10 G.I. Joe vehicles of the 1980s.

10. G.I. JOE MOBAT (1982) You can’t have G.I. Joe, or any army-toys-for-boys line without having a tank. The Mobat was the first big bad of the line, dwarfing other vehicles with massive working treads, thick slabs of (plastic) armor and battery operation that let the Motorized Battle Tank literally roll right over Cobra.

9. G.I. JOE RAM (1982) This is an entry on the list that may be unpopular, but look at the fine history of motorcycles in action flicks: The Nazi motorcycle chase in ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,’ Kaneda’s bike from Akira, the Bat-Pod from ‘The Dark Knight,’ the gloriously ridiculous bike from Delta Force, the Steve McQueen fence-jump from ‘The Great Escape’ and of course, the X-1 from ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.’ And what does G.I. Joe bring to the table? Well, what we have here is a motorcycle -- a motorcycle with an aircraft Vulcan cannon strapped to the side. This is a pretty good example of how this whole toy line goes from here. Straight to Awesome Town.


8. G.I. JOE KILLER WHALE (1984) This olive-drab combat hovercraft has been the absolute favorite for many Joe fans since 1984. I’ve never had one, so I don’t know anything about it, but I put it on the list so I could interrupt this countdown to show the amazing photo below...

Look at that! It’s so cool! If such baked-goods ambition and audacious geek pride are the province of world class nerdery, then I saw that G.I. Joe stands tall right next to ‘Star Wars’ and Nintendo as ways to keep geeks from bothering actual girls. Now, back to the countdown...

7. COBRA MORAY HYDROFOIL (1985) Another boat I’ve never owned, but just look at this thing! It looks like it’s doing 40 knots while it’s just sitting there. There has been some argument and speculation as to what inspired the design of a combat hydrofoil that looks like a cigarette boat with the Punisher’s armory strapped to the top, but everyone can agree that that this ship is one of the swiftest snakes slicing seawater.

6. COBRA NIGHT RAVEN (1986) G.I. Joe might have had the advantage in troops and tanks, but Cobra had the coolest planes. The SR-71-inspired Night Raven was a sleek, sinister black aircraft in a scale you just don’t see much of anymore. Around 3 feet long, with room for two in the cockpit and a detachable spy craft, the Night Raven still stands out in a collection. As beautiful as Chad Hucal’s photography is, you really can’t appreciate this until you see it in person and feel its heft in your hands…and make whooshing jet noises.

5. COBRA HISS (1983) This tank was the iconic mainstay for Cobra in the comics, toy and cartoons. I’ts fun as a toy has no relation -- or does it? -- to the fact that it’s a deathtrap for tank crewmen. This is an armored vehicle with both an open cockpit and a glass canopy. Those poor, poor Hiss drivers.

4.G.I. JOE TOMAHAWK (1986) What tanks were to older generation, helicopters have become to the contemporary one. Battlefields move faster now and you can do more with a helicopter than a tank. And so it it is with the Tomahawk; you could use it for aerial assaults, behind-the-lines troop deployment or in rescue missions to pull out wounded Joes. The fun of toys lies in living in your own little world, and in my world, this chopper could do anything.

3. G.I. JOE SKYSTRIKER XP-14F (1984) If you had to pick one piece out of the entire line, something to put up in a museum, and show to future generations how amazing G.I. Joe was, it might be this one. It’s a work of art; a swing-wing triumph of toy engineering based off of the ultimate Cold War fighter plane of the 1980’s, the F-14 Tomcat. Big, beautiful, and a contender for the top spot on this list on any other list.

2. COBRA RATTLER (1984) If I had to go out on a limb, and name the single most awesome toy ever produced for the G.I. Joe line, this might be the winner among fans. First introduced in the Marvel comics as the Destro-designed Tank Smasher, the tilt-wing VTOL Cobra Rattler is like the anime stepchild of an A-10 Warthog, all nose cannons and bomb racks, wrapped up in lovely Cobra blue. Ever-present in the cartoon, and depicted with incredible detail in the comics, the Cobra Rattler is such a fan favorite that Hasbro was making them as recently as 2008, so that a new generation of kids could run around and carpet-bomb the living room.

1. G.I. JOE USS Flagg (1985) This is it! This is the big, bad daddy of the whole line G.I. Joe series and in the opinion of many collectors, the king of the entire action-figure sector. Again, pictures fail to do this thing justice, because this is to my knowledge, the biggest action-figure anything made, ever. It’s over 7 feet long, and the deck of the U.S.S. Flagg was big enough to hold every vehicle and figure produced in the previous years! This is the vehicle/playset that every kid in the 1980s wanted. It was massive. It was so big, you needed to get rid of your bed, your dog and your little sister just to make room. Which I would have -- in a heartbeat -- if only I had the military budget required for this floating piece of heaven.

They used to retail for $89.99 but now by some estimates a sealed Flagg might go for $10,000! That number is way higher than I’ve ever seen but if it’s on the Internet it must be true. Sigh. I still can’t afford it.

So what do you think? Should the Rattler have been No. 1? Run your opinions up the flagpole in the comments section. Special thanks to and Yo Joe! photographer and archivist Chad Hucal for providing pictures that look better than my collection.

-- Ambrose Kalifornia


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