A regularly updated blog about my vintage Kenner Star Wars toy collection. Some stuff that I've recently acquired; some stuff that I've had since I was a kid. Some rare, some common, but all sharing the warmth, charm and character of the "first generation" of Star Wars toys - the ones we played with as kids in the late '70s and early '80s.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sonic Controlled Land Speeder

One of the more unusual toys in the Star Wars vintage line was the Sonic Controlled Land Speeder. Unusual for the technology used in its design and functionality, unusual for its rarity today, and unusual because it replicated with near-exact detail an identical but much less expensive toy in the range! 

The "sonic control" was of course the defining feature of the toy. The Speeder incorporated an electric motor which ran a shaft driving the front wheel. Some rudimentary control was allowed by incorporating a microphone in the top engine nacelle. The "remote control" was just a loud clicker... when the microphone picked up the clicking sound, it engaged a motor to turn the front wheel through ninety degrees.


Tough to find a boxed example of this particular toy. This box is missing one end flap but it's not the end of the world by any means.

A little bit of an illustration here on how the sonic control works.

Very clever of Kenner to design the sonic controller to look like Artoo-Detoo!

Now to the tableaux... not a very creative play scenario on the box art I'm afraid, so I've just replicated a few of the box photos showing the toy and figures from different angles.

Only two components to this toy: the speeder and the sonic controller. Watch out for yellowed and broken windshields as they are commonly seen on loose examples. Note also the pegs on the rear deck allowing figures to be secured to the toy.

A couple pics here showing the detail sculpted into the cockpit dashboard by the Kenner designers. Unlike the regular landspeeder where the dash detail was provided by a sticker, the sonic controlled version got some really neat sculpted detail on the dash and the console. "On-off" switch can be seen in the centre of the console.

See what I mean? Dials and gauges galore... pretty cool.

Some more of the dash detailing.

Here's the bottom of the speeder. You'll note I've photographed two different examples here as neither one has a complete set of warning stickers. The driving wheel is at the top right of this photo. You'll note that it's mounted to allow directional rotation.

Note the two battery covers at left and right of image - these are often missing from loose examples of the toy.

The sonic control itself is just a little marvel of industrial design. Fortunately the sticker is quite white on this example - they tend to get quite ragged and yellow on loose examples.

Some copyright information included on the controller.

Here's a comparison shot showing the Sonic Controlled Land Speeder (R) and controller alongside the regular Land Speeder (L). As you can see there's really no mistaking one for the other - aside from the size difference, the Sonic Controlled model is distinguishable by the vented centre engine nacelle, non-retractable wheels, and battery compartments!

Now here's what you've been waiting for - some video of the Land Speeder in action. Listen for the clicks and note the response of the toy, quickly turning 90 degrees with each click.

I want to send out my thanks to JJ, a local collector who sold me this Speeder. He fixed the electronics and motor but a problem remained for me to address. The motor drives a shaft that extends vertically down through the Speeder body. A plastic gear fits onto the shaft and drives the toothed driving wheel in a bevel configuration. However a design flaw in the toy means that most will fail - over time the plastic gear slips on the shaft and while the motor might still drive the vertical shaft, no rotation is transmitted to the rubber driving wheel. This can be remedied by simply using superglue or JB Weld to firmly re-attach the gear to the vertical drive shaft. It's easy to see what needs to be done once you take apart the mechanism - there's a good video on Youtube that shows it all.

Until next time stay healthy, friends!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Ewok Village Action Playset (Kenner Canada)

OK, so back to this blogging thing after some time away from it. As I'm sure many of you also feel, 2020 has been the worst year I can remember so far, and it still has four months to go... Oh well, I guess the thing to do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other and making the best of it. And that includes some Star Wars toy blogging. So here goes.

Honestly the Ewok Village playset had been pretty low down on my list of stuff to get. Although I do have vivid recollections of seeing Return of the Jedi in the theatre (our family traveled down to Minot, ND to see the movie at the Dakota Square Cinema 9 or whatever it was called) and later ransacking the local Target for mini-action figures (my mother got Chief Chirpa, and I got a Biker Scout), I have never been a big Ewok fan.  I still have both figures though. But we digress... 
"Contents: One playset with elevator, throne, prisoner poles [?], escape chute, simulated boulder, net trap." 
So I never found the Ewok Village playset to be particularly compelling... although the Endor scenes with the speeder bike chase were SO COOL, the encounters with the Ewoks never really excited me. But in the spirit of completism I picked up a Canadian boxed example of the toy, and maybe it's started to grow on me just a tiny bit.
The box is bilingual of course, with French as well as English text. There aren't so many tableau-worthy play images on the Village box as there are on some other earlier Kenner toys, but that's OK. The Village actually has some pretty neat aspects to it.
Of course the net trap our heroes get swept up by is a main feature of the playset. Later on in the post I've photographed detail of the intricate way in which the strings are set up under the base of the playset. This did cause me some consternation as I was restoring the playset in pieces to its former glory. The elevator feature is also shown above.
The coolest thing is probably the "spit" that Han gets (nearly) roasted on over the firepit. The "escape chute" is merely a hollow trunk with openings at top and bottom.
The reverse side of the box is a line drawing of the same image as appears on the front, again with bilingual text.
The box ends alternate English with French text.

The opposite long edge has some interesting line art and bilingual text.
On to the photos! I've set up the playset outside as it was a nice summer day yesterday and the greenery adds something to the background. Also this playset is quite large!
Threepio's throne/litter/sedan chair is one of the cooler inclusions in the playset. It's pretty awesome. But one of the strange things about the box art is the homogeneity of the Ewoks... only Chief Chirpa and Logray were featured on the box. However I only have three Chirpas so I had to substitute Lumat... can you spot him?
The net nestles underneath the playset base and easily scoops up Luke, Chewie and Artoo as seen on the box front.
I find this hilarious... roasting Han on a spit. You'd expect that even our friendly peace-loving Rebels would have shot their way out of this mess before it came to this, but no. Faith in the power of negotiation (and Threepio the Golden God of course).
The "spit" itself is made of a kind of flexible rubbery plastic that holds the figures well. Note that I'm missing the "fire" sticker in the firepit... aaargh.
One from the box art here.

And another one.
Elevator with a Chirpa.
Threepio's litter. I like how the chair part separates to be used as a throne.
Overhead view of the toy. When you get one, be sure that it includes all of the railing pieces (there are three) and the brown wooden platform support pieces (example shown at lower right under the platform)... plus the boulder, stool, firepit, elevator car, spit and supports, net...
Detail shot of the underside of the platform with strings from the net.
Here's the copyright information.
And HERE is a piece that's often missing. It's the piece for the end of the strings from the net.
It's actually a really important part for the function of the playset, as the pegs on the bottom of the playset deck (seen in the "string thread this direction" photo above) fit snugly into the round hole on this part, holding the strings securely in place.

Well, that's the Ewok Village for you. Takes up lots of space, is only marginally cool, but no production toy collection is complete without one :-)

Stay safe everyone...

Friday, August 23, 2019

Die Cast Series III

The diecast line wound down to its conclusion with Series III, comprised entirely of vehicles from The Empire Strikes Back.

First up we have the Twin-Pod Cloud Car. Not sure exactly why this was chosen to be immortalized in the diecast range, as it barely appeared in the movie... but of course this was a mini-action-figure scale vehicle as well, so who knows...

Make sure that your loose Cloud Car has glass in the canopies!

It's relatively easy to find Cloud Cars in nice condition, as many were barely played with! The movable feature on the vehicle, of course, is the landing gear that manually extends and retracts from the fuselage.

Copyright info is on the underside of the central spar.

Slave I was also part of Series III. Unusually, there's no graphics or colour on the hull - just plain metal. You can just see Boba Fett in the cockpit in this shot.

There he is!

Action features on Slave I are the rotating wings and cannons.

Copyright info (as well as kind of an ugly scar) on hull bottom.

Lastly, here's the Snowspeeder, showing a bit of play wear. This seems typical for this ship and I think it demonstrates the love that kids showed them back in the day.

Like the X-Wing, the Snowspeeder features (two!) non-removable pilots, molded in orange plastic.

Harpoon launcher is present on the rear of the fuselage, but no harpoon or string, of course.

Cannons have gotten a bit warped over the years but the ship still looks good.

Copyright info on the wing bottom. Landing skid retracts into the fuselage.

So that's the diecast range - all three Series.A very fun and mostly economical run to collect (except for the TIE Bomber of course) and they look good on display too. If you're not into boxed or carded stuff they're even more appealing.

Anyway, I hope this tour through the world of vintage diecast has been amusing and informative!