Two weeks ago, I spent quite a bit of time working on, and posting the article, 1986: The Year Santa Became Real, for the Christmas season here at Retro Ramblings. In it, I go into detail about how my Christmas experiences took a huge upturn in 1986, and mentioned several awesome toys that I got from Santa Claus that year. I didn’t have the space in the article to go into a lot of detail on each of those toys, so this whole article is dedicated to just that!
The big one that Christmas morning in 1986 was the G.I. Joe Cobra Terror Drome. At that time in life, my world revolved around four toys. G.I Joe, Masters of the Universe, Construx, and Legos….with G.I. Joe being at the top of the list. Knowing this, it was no surprise to my parents that the biggest hit of the holiday season would be this huge G.I. Joe play set.
It had room for plenty of figures, so massive battles were a foregone conclusion. I stockpiled this sucker with every bad guy I had in my collection, and then began a full on assault with all of the good guys I could find. Even Bo & Luke Duke in their 3 3/4″ figure form and the General Lee got in on the action on the side of the Joes!
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The initial battle was a stalemate, with Cobra barely able to hold off the tremendous might of the Joes, as they retreated back a little ways to regroup and plan for a second assault. Now of course this stalemate was only to ensure that the Terror Drome was intact to play with again the following day. I spent a while Christmas afternoon interacting with various parts of this set. The Cobra vehicles re-fueled at the re-fueling station built into it, while some of the top Cobra brass interrogated a captured Joe down in the holding cell area.
The shine of this toy didn’t wear off anytime soon, but I had gotten quite a few other new toys this Christmas that required my attention, so I had to let the action cool down a little so I could get on to some of the other stuff like…..
Even though Construx was probably third on my list of favorite toys, getting a Super Set like this one requires almost immediate attention. I can’t remember exactly what the structure was that this set was designed to build, but I knew from the looks of it that would come in very handy to members of the Joe team on their next assault on the Terror Drome.
Once I had this thing put together, it could drive right up to the Terror Drome and lift several Joes at once to the top of the Drome and unload them right in the heart of the command center! What better way to strike right at the heart of Cobra than a direct assault on Cobra Commander and the Barroness?!?
Once the great battle of the Terror Drome was over, this set of Construx went on to be featured in lots of other play time. I used the pieces to create all kinds of new toys. I once built a scaffold to put over top of my wrestling ring with which to re-create the infamous Scaffold match from Starrcade ’86. Along with building “steel cages” and assorted other wrestling related toys, Construx seemed to go along with most other toys I played with.
I had a smaller set of Construx, but getting this Super Set for Christmas gave me plenty of pieces for projects all year long.
I had plenty of hand me down Tonka trucks from my brother through the years, but this may have been the very first one that was mine first. It doesn’t quite look like your normal Tonka truck. This one seems to be more inspired by Mad Max than construction sites which were the norm for Tonka. And I didn’t have any of the other vehicles from this particular line, but that didn’t slow down the play time.
Now I didn’t take the photo above, but as you can see, it was perfectly sized for G.I. Joe figures, and I made great use of it, as it became the main vehicle for my Dreadnoks figures. They themselves seemed to be inspired by the post apocalyptic world of Mad Max as well, so it seemed a perfect fit. With the bladed grill on this bad boy, it seemed like the perfect counter-offensive to the new Construx weapon that G.I. Joe had in it’s possession.
One thing that Cobra didn’t count on on that fateful Christmas day, was G.I. Joe achieving air superiority. And why should they? The Terror Drome had the awesome Firebat that could launch right from the Drome itself. But G.I. Joe had brought a new weapon to the fight in the form of the Tomahawk helicopter.
The Tomahawk held the pilot and a co-pilot in the cockpit, Two more Joes in the back manning machine guns, and room for several more who could repel out of the rear hatch right into the middle of any hot zone on the battlefield! It would go on to play a key role in the battle of the Terror Drome, and many other battles in the years to come.
The Tomahawk was one of my absolute favorite G.I. Joe toys through the years. It probably saw as much play time as any other toy I ever owned, and I actually still had it years later when I was too dumb to hold onto all that old stuff and sold it off in a mass sale. If anyone is looking for a last minute Christmas gift for me THIS year, put this on the list!
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I had accumulated a nice size collection of Masters of the Universe figures since ’84, but had few Hordak figures. This was okay to me though, since a bad guy is a bad guy, and they could just easily align with Skeletor in his battles with He-Man.
Grizzlor was a cool one though because of all the fur. And as a side note, to anyone who still has this figure, I wouldn’t suggest having him get trapped in the Horde Slime Pit. That stuff is near impossible to get out of his fur.
I’ve mentioned in articles before that I used G.I. Joe figures to simulate my wrestling play time. I would rename them to popular wrestlers of the day like Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair, Wahoo McDaniel, and others. But I had always had a hard time finding any G.I. Joe figures that resembled my favorite tag team of the Rock and Roll Express. That problem was solved on Christmas Day 1986, and when the greatest tag team of all time arrived at my house that Christmas morning, Grizzlor had met his match!
This awesome 2-pack of Cobra figures was kinda highly sought after if my memory serves me. I know I personally had been asking for them for months on end, and they finally arrived that Christmas morning. With the matching outfits and the silver boots, the minute I opened them, I knew I had finally found my Rock and Roll Express!
Now to this day, I have no idea why I chose this as the first way to play with Tomax and Xamot. I didn’t use them in the great battle of the Terror Drome. No, I held them back and later in the day they squared off against Grizzlor on my Dad’s pool table in a weird two on one wrestling match with Grizzlor. Come to think of it, I have no idea why I didn’t get out any of the MOTU figures for play with Grizzlor either.
Either way, this Rock and Roll Express went on to the defeat their hairy tormentor that day, and for probably at least a year, didn’t lose a tag team match in my wrestling rings either. Still to this day, Tomax and Xamot are in my top five favorite G.I. Joe figures. Whether they were winning tag team gold in a toy wrestling ring, battling hairy beasts from another universe, or being their intended bad selves on the side of Cobra, they were some of the best action figures I ever had.
I mentioned earlier how Masters of the Universe was one of my favorite toy lines. Now what a treat it was on that Christmas morning to find that they had merged that line with another favorite of little boys everywhere….Hot Wheels!
This was one of the cool Hot Wheels sets that featured the orange pieces of track, a launcher for the car, and some kind of obstacle. In this set, the obstacle was a cardboard rendition of Snake Mountain that the car had to jump through at the end to escape, hence the name, Snake Mountain Challenge.
It even came with a cool silver car with the MOTU logo on the sides of it!
My Dad set the short track up on the pool table, and him, my brother, and myself took many turns that day trying to escape Snake Mountain with little success. While my Dad and my brother each picked other cars from our Hot Wheels collection to try and make the jump with, I stuck with the great looking He-Man car for all of my attempts. It was a super fun way to spend part of Christmas afternoon that day. But as the hours wore down, it was time to take a little rest and watch some TV.
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The VCR was new in our home, and I hadn’t had anything to watch on it really. That is until Christmas morning when Santa saw fit to leave me my very first VHS tape. It was a single episode of the G.I. Joe series titled Satellite Down.
It told the tale of a G.I. Joe satellite that crashed in the wild, and both Joes and Cobras raced to the scene to recover it. There, they met with a weird group of creatures called the Primords who found it and had taken it as a God. When all was said and done, G.I. Joe came out victorious once more. I had to watch it twice in a row just to be sure they won both times.
After those viewings, it was time for the second offensive on the Terror Drome. The goal was no longer to destroy the Terror Drome, nor to capture Cobra Commander. Now the mission was to retrieve a downed satellite that Cobra had captured and were storing at the top of the Terror Drome!
I won’t bore you with too many details, but the assault was a success. Using the new Construx weapon to lift Joes to the top was a failure since the Dreaknoks new Destroyer dump truck rendered it inoperable. Cobra thought they were going to have the advantage when they launched the Fire Bat, but it was knocked out of the air by the Duke boys jumping the General Lee off a cliff and knocking it out of the air. That left the Joes and their Tomahawk with air superiority, and they used it to lower Joes to the top and hook up to the satellite and fly away. All’s well that ends well I guess.
I’m sure I went to bed that night with a smile on my face, and hugging some toy like Ralphie did his B.B. Gun in A Christmas Story. The events and gifts of that Christmas are burned brighter into my memory than any other Christmas, because like I told you in my last article, Christmas up to that point was somewhat lacking. But this mega haul of awesome toys solidified my belief in Santa Claus that has lasted through today, and it all started on December 25, 1986.