TRADE FEDERATION TANK with "blow up" battle damage
Episode I Vehicles
Item No.: No. 84101
Includes: 4 rockets
Action Feature: Blow-up battle damage, firing rockets
Availability: Spring 2000
Appearances: The Phantom Menace
Column Notes: It's vehicle week! This week, we focus on the hardware created for our action figures, which gets too little attention. From giant space freighters to tiny bikes, there's quite a large variety of vehicles to be had, and we look at seven random examples over the next week.
Bio: One of the most menacing vehicles in the Trade Federation's arsenal, there is little that can stop an oncoming Trade Federation tank. Heavily armed with a powerful turret laser cannon, it also wields two side-mounted laser cannons and energy shell launchers. Despite the tank's heavy armor, it could not withstand a direct hit from Gungan energy balls during the battle of Naboo. (Taken from the vehicle's box.)
Image: Adam Pawlus' toy room.
Commentary: Behold, one of the finest modern era vehicles ever made! The Trade Federation Tank was designed with being a fun toy in mind, plus it's totally authentic to the movie. (Or it's close enough that I don't notice.) It meets every requirement for a fun vehicle, like firing parts, lots of guns, and storage for multiple figures. If you don't yet have one, you really missed out on something fun.
First, let's look at seating. A good vehicle needs to be able to seat at least one action figure, and a crappy vehicle can't hold any at all. This tank can hold six. There's an opening hatch on the main cannon which splits open and seats one figure. There's a lever in the back to raise or lower the figure to simulate a sort of "battle damage," and this alone would have been enough to make the vehicle a good one in my book. It goes the extra mile by having a control area inside the main body, with seating for one and a doorway with a dedicated "damaged" droid relief on the wall. Four more figures can be stored on the hull, there are two foot pegs on either side of the control room. You can opt to place battle droids there along for the ride, or have attacking Jedi, clones, or Gungans there too. This is a vehicle that was obviously designed with figure interaction in mind, which makes it a heck of a lot better than some other vehicles as time went on that can barely fit a single figure into the driver's seat.
Next, there's action features. Hasbro did a good job here too. There are four firing rockets, two on each side of the ship. They're small and shoot out nicely, and the integrated spring-loaded designs fit nicely into the ship without being an eyesore. This is tricky to do, so it's wonderful to see. You can't see them, but there are a series of wheels on the underside of the tank to allow it to roll around on a table or the floor. (Perhaps as small hovering devices go down in price, they'll redo it some day.) Each of the cannons can move-- the ones on the side of the tank can rotate fully, and the main cannon can spin around and be raised or lowered. As far as armaments and transportation abilities to go, it's great.
The real gem of this item is its "blow-up battle damage," which was unfortunately removed from subsequent releases. (See below for more on that.) There's a lever you can push that causes the figure sitting in the control room to fly forward, blasting through the front of the tank and taking a chunk of the vehicle with it. I'm rarely enamored by 'splosions and spring-loaded anything, but this is a clever feature that actually works.
You might note I haven't even touched on the sculpting yet, or the hidden details under the blast-off panel. Or the various rivets, panels, or other astounding details that Hasbro's engineers included in this top-notch toy. I personally consider this to be one of the finest vehicles ever made for Star Wars action figures, because it has excellent proportions, is priced nicely, and is loaded with fun features that actually work-- plus it was designed to be compatible with figures, and the figures can actually sit in it. Short of shoehorning in unnecessary lights and sounds, I can't imagine the tank getting to be any better. I love it and I hope if you get one, you will love it too.
Collector's Notes: This vehicle has been released in three unique configurations, each slightly different than the last. Here's a rundown of what you can find on the market today:
Episode I version: Shown above. Rich brown/tan, "battle damage" droid inside is a cream color. Features an ejector seat inside.
Clone Wars version: Similar to above. Much more unsaturated brown/tan, "battle damage" droid inside is a red color to match Episode II. Different battle damage deco, the black markings are similarly placed but different in appearance. The ejector seat mechanism has been removed for this and all future releases. Unless viewed side-by-side, it is very easy to assume the Clone Wars and Episode I releases are identical-- but they aren't.
30th Anniversary Collection version: same mold, completely new deco. Dark brown, features a Droid Army logo. There's no mistaking this one for the previous two releases.
Presently, the Episode I release is the cheapest and can be had for next to nothing on eBay. I suggest you get one.
Day 726: May 1, 2008