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RETRO REVIEW: The Convertors

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As I’ve said before…the 1980’s were all about transformable robotic toys. Toys that transformed were to the 1980’s as boy bands were to the 1990’s. Unfortunately for the Convertors, they were the Color Me Badd of the transformable robot toy world. They played third (or maybe fourth) fiddle to the likes of the Transformers and the GoBots.

Several of the Convertors designs were molds licensed from Bandai. This is similar to what both the Transformers and GoBots (Machine Robo) lines did. And some of the figures looked eerily similar to each other. It’s as if all of these transformer robots were cousins…and your toy box played the role of family reunion.

Of course, there were several different Convertors series, with each one based on a central theme. You had the good guys – the Defenders and the Avarians – and the bad guys – the Maladroids and the Insectors. And while cars and planes always caught kids’ eyes…it was the randomly named Spies series that I was always a fan of.

The Convertors’ Spies series was released near the end of the line’s run. It’s as if people had a few ideas for random robots and just decided to throw them all into one series. That series included robots that would turn into things like a slot machine, roulette wheel, cash register, pinball machine, Colt .45 gun, camera, binoculars, and a cassette tape. I was able to find a pair of them – for a reasonable price - on eBay. Those two figures would be Bandit – the slot machine – and Vegas – the roulette wheel.

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I’m fairly certain that I owned both of these as a youngster. It’s what led to me running an illegal gambling ring out of my third grade art class. Both figures actually work. You pull down Bandit’s arm and the reel spins. There’s only about six or so possible outcomes, since there’s one reel (not three like on a regular slot machine) with a predetermined sticker attached to it. Vegas works a little better, since it’s mechanism includes a little bb pellet that falls into one of odd or even and red or black holes.

As far as robots go…they look a little awkward. But looking back, a number of these 1980’s Transformer-like lines had designs that were just plain ugly. Maybe it’s that we’re spoiled by today’s toy production. I’m sure I was probably astonished by how lifelike Kenner’s Han Solo action figure looked and moved. “Wow! It’s like he can draw his gun. Amazing!”

But then there’s the whole “Spies” concept. If there was an intergalactic war, and the robots you were depending on to save Earth thought the best shape to take was that of a slot machine or a roulette wheel…then we’re in some major trouble. Now, if there were an organized crime ring of 80-year old blue-haired grannies that had been running Atlantic City in the 1980’s…you’d probably call on the Convertors.

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