GoBots, informally known as standard GoBots, regular GoBots, small GoBots or carded GoBots by collectors were the blister-packed releases that made up more than half of Tonka's GoBots toy line, running throughout its life on the toy shelves. 71 releases were made with one cancelled, though as some figures were recolours or running changes how many toys were actually released in the range depends on how one chooses to count. With the figures priced at $2.99 the range was a solid seller and included the vast majority of the line's best remembered characters.
The entire first series of GoBots, the bulk of the second and a handful of figures in the third were drawn from Bandai's Machine Robo Series of figures, informally known as the 600 series. Due to high demand during the second series Tonka also commissioned Bandai to create five moulds exclusively for GoBots, informally known as the MRT series due to their copyright stamps. For the third series Tonka resorted to using rejected Machine Robo prototypes.
Packaging and changes
For GoBots Tonka divided the figures up into two factions, initially Friendly and Enemy. Each figure was mounted on a blister card, with each faction having their own background and each figure having card art of the robot mode added (for the first series) or both modes (for the second and third series). Each toy was packed in robot mode, and had instructions printed on the rear of the card. No biographical information was included apart from the name and a vague description in the format [Faction] Robot [Vehicle Mode]. Unlike the Bandai releases Tonka's versions of the figures omitted the toys' individual sticker sheets. Instead all stickers were factory applied and some of the smaller detail stickers were omitted. From the second series onwards Tonka began modifying the colour schemes of selected figures.
The third series saw the factions updated to Guardian and Renegade, while all figures had one of 12 holographic 3-D GoBots Stickers mounted on the card. As was common in the 1980s, popular figures shipped in multiple series, sometimes updated in line with the current packaging for the latest figures. Notably all the older figures in the third series featured the 3-D GoBot Stickers.
Each figure was allotted a GoBot Number to encourage collecting the lot. One - #43, Snoop - was unreleased which would in theory leave 71 figures, though how many were actually released depends on how you count. Recolours of Crasher and Tail Pipe reused the same number but recolours of Leader-1, Cy-Kill, Blaster and BuggyMan received new numbers. A mail away recolour of Creepy didn't feature a number at all.
The actual numbers themselves are an oddity. Initially Tonka made an attempt to carry over the Machine Robo numbering, presumably so it matched the production number stamped on each figure - meaning Cy-Kill was GoBot #1 while Leader-1 was #25. However, as some were skipped they decided to fill in the gaps by shifting some figures up to avoid gaps, creating more gaps later on, and then seem to have largely given up and just used whichever number was next - especially as they started using toys without an "MR" number.
Initial cases of the figures shipped in late 1983 and 1984; initially both were a mix of Friendly and Enemy figures. A similar mixed assortment followed later in 1984 before the assortment was reorganised, with one assortment of Friendly GoBots, one of Enemy GoBots and a third mixed 'Hot Shots' assortment. This pattern was retained for the third and final series of figures, aside from the renaming of Friendly to Guardian and Enemy to Renegade. From the switch to three assortments onwards (no case packaging has yet surfaced for earlier releases) each case consisted of 48 figures from a selection of 16 per assortment; it is not yet known if the cases contained equal ratios, i.e. three of each figure.
How long a figure from the range was available for varied. Some popular characters, such as Turbo, Scooter, Cop-Tur and Fitor, remained available unchanged throughout the line's life. Others, most notably Tail Pipe, were only shipped for a much shorter period. As with the numbering, handling of recolours varied - while the updated versions of Crasher, BuggyMan and Blaster replaced the originals in distribution the updated versions of Leader-1 and Cy-Kill were offered by Tonka alongside the originals.
The GoBots Gift Packs also drew from the range, packaging three figures together.
Not Released as GoBots
For one reason or another several of the Machine Robo Series moulds were not issued in America, in addition to the cancelled Snoop.
These were: -
New Shinkansen Robo
3-Wheel Buggy Robo
Mini Cooper Robo
Jumbo Jet Robo
While the reasons for some figures not being released are obvious - for example, Shinkansen bullet trains were little known in the West and Jumbo Jet Robo was exclusive to Japan Air Lines - for others the reason is less clear, especially when Tonka had to resort to rounding up unused prototypes towards the end of the line.