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1983 was the first year of the GoBots franchise, released by Tonka in North America. It also saw Machine Robo continue in its second year, now under the auspices of Bandai. The same year also saw Bandai launch Machine Men in America, Robo Machine in Europe and Machine Men in Australia.

North America[edit]

Machine Men[edit]

In March 1983 Popy were reabsorbed into Bandai. Machine Robo continued unabated while Bandai's international reach meant the figures could be issued overseas. The first attempt was through Bandai America, who repackaged six figures on cards as Machine Men for the American market and Robot Machine Men for Canada. However, at the time the American subsidiary was a small operation lacking in experience, and the toys made little impression on the market.



Main article: GoBots (franchise)

Part of the reason for Robot Machine Men's failure was the changing market, meaning toys needed something to make them stand out. Kenner had revolutionised toys in their own way with the Star Wars license. Instead if focusing on large feature-packed figures of the main characters they had opted to make affordable 3 3/4" figures of the majority of the film's cast and kids lapped up the "Collect Them All" mentality, happily parting with their pocket money for toys of not only Darth Vader and Han Solo but also background characters. Kenner's competition scrambled to respond, with Mattel beginning their fantasy Masters of the Universe line and Hasbro rebooting the G.I.Joe doll series as the 3 3/4 scale G.I.Joe - A Real American Hero. Playing into this was the Regan government relaxing advertising guidelines for cartoons aimed at children, broadly meaning that shows that existed primarily to sell toys were now admissible.

Tonka, whose craft had largely been built around sturdy pressed-metal trucks, wanted in on this but had none of the engineering craft necessary. However word reached them of Hasbro's planned forthcoming Transformers line, which would take Takara's Diaclone figures and import them for the American market, tailoring a fresh mythos for the toys. The solution was obvious - Tonka's money, clout and experience in the North American market combined with Bandai's precision engineering. Thus Tonka took over licensing for the toys, rebranding them as GoBots. In order to mimic the Star Wars/G.I.Joe releases the toys were released on blister cards rather than the boxes of the Japanese versions, while some stickers were eliminated and instructions were printed on the reverse of the card rather than leaflets. The toys were divvied up between two factions - for the time being named just 'Friendly' and 'Enemy'. While profiles were drawn up and featured in Tonka's catalogue for 1984 they were omitted from the packaging, which instead bore a name, a faction and a vague description of "Friendly/Enemy Robot [Vehicle]".

An initial assortment of 12 figures, largely drawn from the 1982 Machine Robo Series range, was issued in Canada and test markets in the United States of America towards the end of 1983. Retailing at around $3 apiece, the toys were an instant hit.


Regular GoBots[edit]


Machine Robo[edit]

Meanwhile in Japan the colourful fantasy-based Super Robots were beginning to be replaced by the mire grounded sci-fi of 'Real Robot' franchises such as Gundam or Macross. As such Bandai decided there was little need in this climate for a separate licencing company; they reabsorbed Popy in March 1983, with the design team becoming PLEX. Due to its' ongoing success Machine Robo was only affected cosmetically and the range continued to expand, including larger figures as well as playsets and vehicles that interacted with the Machine Robo Series toys. As well as continuing the Machine Robo Series and Machine Robo DX range the year saw the release of Jet Garry, a transporter designed to interact with the smaller figures. January had also seen the launch of the Machinerobo Club fan club.


Machine Robo Series[edit]
Machine Robo Best 5[edit]
Machine Robo DX[edit]
Scale Robo DX[edit]
Machine Robo Carrier[edit]
Gun Majin[edit]


The 1983 Machine Robo Series figures all included instruction booklets that were styled as short comic strips, depicting the figures battling alien invaders. Meanwhile TV Land continued to run material based on the franchise, the Machine Robo Book in June.


Robo Machine[edit]

Main article: Robo Machine

Bandai retained the licence to markets outside North America and initiated the Robo Machine line in Europe. This used the presentation of Robot Machine Men, by using blister cards with minimal information but retained Machine Robo-style designations instead of names. After an initial batch of six figures proved successful a wider range soon followed.


Robo Machine[edit]
DX Robo Machine[edit]
Rectangular Box[edit]
Window Box[edit]
Robo Machine DX[edit]


Machine Men[edit]

Main article: Machine Men

Bandai also released the line in Australia, following a similar pattern to Robo Machine but under the name Machine Men. The figures also had a slightly different approach to naming, as all of the figures had the suffix "Man" added to their designations.