VAMP (with Double Clutch)


"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jerry Reed steps in tonight with a look at a far too neglected line. Tell us about the VAMP, Jerry!

Hey all!  Jerry Reed (A.K.A.Barbecue17) back again with another review.  With Hasbro's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero 25th Anniversary line proving to be a smashing success, Hasbro has really pulled out all the stops by introducing a plethora of new product into the one year old line.  G.I. Joe fans are getting DVD packs, comic packs, Mighty Muggs, Combat Heroes (preschool versions of Joe characters much like the Star Wars Galactic Heroes), and finally vehicles.  Other than three exclusive vehicle and driver sets sold exclusively through Target stores earlier in the year, the new G.I. Joe vehicle and driver packs are the first mass released vehicles in this line.  I'm sure that for most Joe fans this is a welcome addition to the line; alongside ninja angst, lax uniform regulations, and slightly questionable code names (Skidmark, anyone?), a comprehensive fleet of unique vehicles is one of the primary things that G.I. Joe is know for.

This first wave of vehicle boxed sets includes the Cobra H.I.S.S. with Cobra H.I.S.S. Commander, VAMP with Double Clutch, RAM Cycle vs. Cobra Flight Pod, and Armadillo Tank Vs. Serpentor's Air Chariot.   Today I’ll be attempting to review one of these sets, the VAMP with Double Clutch.  I’ve purchased all of these except for the HISS Tank, solely because I already own too many HISS Tanks and didn’t feel compelled to by another one.  Even without the HISS Tank and driver set, that still equates to 5 figures and 5 vehicles; quite a bit of product for one review, so I’m only going to review the VAMP and Clutch.  If I get more time, I might get to the others as well.

Why am I deciding to review these?  After all, this summer alone I’ve managed to pick up plenty of new G.I. Joe figures, most of the Indiana Jones line, Mattel’s Batman Movie Masters and DC Universe Classics, Hasbro’s Iron Man line, and a bunch of Hellboy stuff.  Why did these vehicles stick out?  Simple: something about them compelled me to drag them out to the empty creek bed behind my new house and photograph them.  It has been forever since I’ve gotten an action figure dirty and seeing some mud on the VAMP’s tires really put a smile on my face.  I had a great afternoon picking up both some great pictures and some ticks, and I decided to share my youthful exuberance with the readers of this fine website!  

Packaging: ****
I appreciate good packaging, but the packaging my action figures come in rarely ever makes it home intact.  Still, these G.I. Joe vehicle sets look great in their packaging.  They come in a window box, making the sets each look like a miniature diorama.  The sides of the box also contain some original artwork for each pack, giving these toys some nostalgic 1980’s flair!  These would be easy to store for someone compelled to keep them in the package, and they would even look nice on display.  While I don’t have much interest in the boxes, the cardboard inserts which the vehicles rest on in the box do make a nice backdrop for some mini dioramas.

While it really does not relate to the packaging, I will point out that the file cards for each figure are no packaged inside the box, and no longer as part of the exterior package.  The Target exclusive vehicles that appeared earlier in the year had the file cards printed on the box itself, making the file cards themselves extremely thick and difficult to cut out.

Sculpt: Clutch ***, VAMP N/A
In order to keep cost down, Hasbro has chosen to reuse a large number of body parts in the 25th Anniversary line.  Sometimes, this works quite nicely and other times, it fails miserably.  Because the original 13 G.I. Joe figures released in 1982 relied heavily on reused parts, it is reasonable that the updates of those figures would reuse some parts as well.  Clutch was one of those original 13 Joes, and he manages to be a nicely updated figure.  For the last few years, Hasbro has been calling Clutch “Double Clutch” for some reason (most likely because they lost the trademark) but I’ll be calling him Clutch here.  Clutch a torso with Snake Eyes arms with Duke, and legs with Steeler.  Since these parts are all pretty generic, they work fine for Clutch’s uniform.  In order to get Clutch’s look just right, Clutch includes a nice removable vest that looks great and bears a nice resemblance to the original figure.  Clutch also features a great head sculpt that portrays just a hint of a scowl or a smirk, which matches the early comic depictions of the character nicely.  On his original file card, Clutch was portrayed as being the kind of guy that “greases his hair with motor oil, rarely shaves, and chews on the same toothpick for months.” The positioning of the mouth on the sculpt also appears as if Clutch is chewing on a toothpick, and since he has a beard we can assume he hasn’t shaved in awhile.  All in all, I’m quite pleased with this update of Clutch.

The real selling point of this set is the VAMP, and it looks quite good.  While at first one might believe this is simply a reissue of the original VAMP from 1982, a closer inspection proves that this VAMP takes elements from both the VAMP and VAMP mk2, and blends them together in a newly designed model scaled for the 25th Anniversary figures.  Nothing is super detailed, but there are plenty of small sculpted details that look fine.  If you’ve ever seen a G.I. Joe vehicle from the 1980’s, then you know what to expect in terms of detail.  Clear plastic is used on the headlights and taillights to give them the illusion of glass and a number of panels are removable, showcasing gears and engines beneath.  Any collector of military toys could definitely put the VAMP on display without the vehicle sticking out like a sore thumb.  The VAMOP certainly walks more closely to real military technology than many other G.I. Joe vehicles do.

Paint: Clutch ***, VAMP N/A
Clutch doesn’t really feature too many paint details.  The head and vest have the most detail, and everything is fairly neat and clean for a mass market 1/18 scale figure.   The Vamp only has paint on the seat covers; everything else is molded in the proper color of plastic.  The VAMP does include stickers, however.  A few are pre-applied in the package for display, but you have to apply the rest yourself.  The stickers look good and are nicely detailed, adding to the model like feel of the toy.

Articulation: Clutch ***, VAMP N/A
Clutch features the same articulation as most other 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe figures: Ankles, double jointed knees, hips, torso, neck, shoulders, elbows, and mid arm cut joints.  The only downside to Clutch is that he uses the arms that originally came with the first 25th Anniversary Duke action figure.  The mid arm joint on that mold is flimsy, looks terrible, and really is unable to function properly.  This mold has become known simply as “Duke arms” and has become the most hated feature in this new line.  Fans have been complaining to Hasbro since the line started last summer, begging them to stop using this mold; here we are a year later, and Hasbro is still using it.  Way to go Hasbro!

Accessories: ****
While one could argue that the VAMP is Clutch’s accessory (or that Clutch is the Vamp’s accessory) this set still surprised me with the number of removable and functional parts.  Clutch comes with a helmet, a removable vest, a knife to fit in the sheath on his right thigh, and a pistol to fit in the holster on his ankle.  The VAMP has 2 removable gas cansthat fit in a rack on the back of the vehicle, a shovel that stores on the hood, and a removable tool bag that also can be stored on the hood.  Throw in a stand for Clutch (that thankfully says “Clutch” and not “Double Clutch”), 2 file cards (1 for Clutch and 1 for the VAMP) and some blueprints, and you have a nice set of extras for an already remarkable set.

Vehicle Features - ***
The VAMP has a few nice play features that really work well and enhance play.  While these are definitely not bell and whistle type play features, they really do add some extra fun to play time.  The hood opens revealing the engine, the shovel and tool bag are removable from the front of the hood, the gun turret rotates, some panels on the rear of the vehicle are removable, and the gas containers can be stored on the back of the vehicle.  I prefer features like this that really enhance the vehicle and lead to imaginative scenarios rather than electronic features that overpower everything else.  I certainly enjoyed fooling around with this vehicle outside, and I’m sure most other Joe fans will as well.

Fun factor- ****
I’ve enjoyed playing around with the VAMP.  It is a great, sturdy little jeep with tons of play value that also manages to look great just sitting on a shelf.  I’m sure a child with no inhibitions about looking silly would have an absolute blast driving this thing around the house or through the backyard. 

Value: ***1/2
In a time when I find myself paying $7.99 plus tax for a single G.I. Joe action figure, and $15-20 dollars for speciality figures such as toys by Mezco and NECA, a figure and a vehicle for 15-16 dollars is quite a deal.  I picked my VAMP up at Toys R Us for 15.99, but I found my other sets at Walmart for 14.76.  If you pay less than 15 dollars for this, easily add another half a star to the score.  Somehow, Hasbro managed to really make this toy feel like a bargain, something that isn’t felt often in the current market.

Things to Watch Out For -
There are a few small pieces: Clutch’s pistol, helmet, and knife can be easily lost.  Be warned that you’ll be putting some stickers on as well, so make sure to have clean hands, a good work space, and maybe some modeling tools if you have overly large hands.

Overall: ***1/2
Clutch is one of my favorite G.I. Joe characters, and Hasbro did a solid job with him.  My only real nitpick is that Hasbro continues to use the horrendous “Duke” arms on figures.  There are so many other arm choices that it really makes no sense why they continue to push a defective product.  The VAMP itself is an excellent vehicle, and the fact that both Clutch and his ride can be had for around $15 is just fantastic.  For G.I. Joe fans, the VAMP is one of the most iconic vehicles out there, and it is nice to have it back on toy shelves for a new generation. 

Score Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpt - Clutch ***, VAMP N/A
Paint - Clutch ***, VAMP N/A
Articulation - Clutch ***, VAMP N/A
Accessories - ****
Vehicle Features - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***1/2
Overall - ***1/2

About the Reviewer:
Jerry Reed lives in North Carolina with his wife and two dogs.  Like Clutch, he enjoys toothpicks, and likes to pretend that his 1998 Dodge Neon is a VAMP.  Fortunately, Jerry doesn’t struggle with having “Duke arms.”   

Figure from the collection of Jerry Reed.

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