Toy Review: Hot Wheels Retro Entertainment A-Team Vehicles

In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire:

And with those words, the grown-up equivalent of cops and robbers would play on televisions throughout the world in the early 1980’s. Every week, the A-Team would find some unlucky individuals, and through a well-stocked weapons cache and shot-below-the-chest montages, would take on the crooked persons taking advantage of Honest, Hardworking Americans. In the end, a vehicle would be flipped, the bad guys would surrender, and leave Hannibal Smith (George Peppard) to declare, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Looking back on it now, the show doesn’t hold up well once the nostalgia goggles are off. It rarely deviated from a standard formula, and by the time season 4 rolled around, the show seemed to be reaching for ratings (how else to explain the group encountering Boy George, & Hulk Hogan?).

I didn’t recall much about the show’s episodes in my youth. To me, it was all about the cool vehicles. ERTL was the provider of many film and TV diecast vehicles in the 80’s. Here’s a sample of what I still have:

The real A-Team probably wouldn’t advertise themselves so prominently.

At one point, I even had a metal A-Team Van the size of a shoebox. Since those days, the license for the show’s toys has fallen into the hands of Hot Wheels, who have added two of the show’s iconic vehicles to their Retro Entertainment Series, of 1:64-scale die-cast.

The A-Team Van

To get the job done, and outrun the Government men assigned to bring them in, the A-Team needed a fast set of wheels. Thanks to B.A. Baracus (Mr. T), the group found themselves tooling around in a custom GMC Vandura Cargo Van. On the show, it was abundantly clear that the van was B.A.’s pride and joy. Mess with his van, and you were most likely gonna get your lights punched out.

In the early 1980’s, ERTL produced several versions of this vehicle. In 2002, they would revamp it for the last time, as part of their Racing Champions die-cast line. 2011 would see Hot Wheels’ first iteration of the van, though more in line with their inexpensive die-cast seen on most store shelves. With the Retro Entertainment line, they took their van mold, and turned it into a thing of beauty.

(Left to Right): 2013 HW Release, 1983 ERTL Release (amazing what 30 years can do!)

If the 2011 version was meant moreso for the uninitiated, the 2013 version shines in numerous ways:

1) You may not have realized this, but the area of the van above the red stripe, was a dark grey color, and this version’s got it!

2) The light-bar atop the van’s roof is set with the proper colored lights.

3) The tires utilize a special wheel that closely resembles the one on TV. And, each tire is stamped with the same markings as those in the show!

These details are so amazing, that the design can be forgiven for the slightly-large GMC logo on the trunk, and the lack of a license plate on the vehicle. We won’t get into the controversy regarding the red-or-black painted GMC logo on the front of the van. I figure if anyone has a problem with the logos, there’s always ‘Mr Sharpie’ to the rescue.

While Hot Wheels has released larger and pricier versions of their Retro Entertainment offerings, this one is a steal at around $6-9 (depending where/if you find it). If you have a penchant for cool die-cast, vans, or both, grab this the next time you see it. I’ve not seen a store yet that still had these on the shelves…and I think the quality of this one is making it non-existent out there.

The A-Team Corvette

Of course, B.A.’s van wasn’t the only vehicle the Team had at their disposal. After the first season, Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Dirk Benedict) was seen tooling around in a Chevrolet Corvette several times. The vehicle would rank second in iconic vehicles for the team. Just like the splash of red on B.A.’s van, Faceman’s Corvette had a red stripe on its exterior.

One of the funniest bits of trivia about the car, was that it was not a permanent vehicle the crew had on standby. Whenever the script called for the Corvette, the production people would rent a white Corvette, and apply the red striping decal to it. Once filming was over, the decal was removed, and the Vette was returned.

Complimenting B.A.’s 1:64 scale van, Retro Entertainment has only released a 1:64 scale version of the Corvette. Unlike the newer mold for B.A.’s van, Faceman’s vehicle borrows the mold from a Hot Wheels vehicle dubbed 80’s Corvette. The original mold (which produced my silver vehicle below), was later redone in 1996, and it is this mold that has been used on all 80’s Corvette stylings into the present day.

(L to R): 2013 HW Release, Original 1983 HW Release

As a kid, Sports Cars were awe-inspiring, and the Corvette was no exception. When my Uncle stopped by our city going cross-country in his Corvette, I was amazed to see one in person (though he was cautious about letting me touch anything on it).

The Corvette release for the Retro Entertainment line does a decent-enough job, but it could be better. This seems to be the case with many of the vehicles in the line (with only a few like the van making it into the must-buy territory).

The solid silver wheels are a nice touch, reminding us a little of the wheels on those early-80’s Corvettes. I was also surprised that what looked like plastic tires, were actually rubber! The paint and the interior of the vehicle also appear to be done well, matching the colors nicely. The vehicle even has the familiar Corvette logo and branding on the front and rear.

What makes this toy fall short of my standards, is the hard-top. Most of the shows had the Corvette featured with its hardtop removed, but when the vehicle did have one, it was white. Even my Ertl A-Team Corvette had a white top. One has to wonder just how something so simple to color, could have been overlooked.

I’m also a little disappointed with the 96′ mold. The remolding of the Corvette saw the removal of the recessed rear license plate slot, and the lower portion of the chassis has been extended back to the rear bumper (as can be seen in the comparison shot above-left). These are features I wish they would have carried over from the original.

Corvette collectors and the casual collector may get a charge out of the Corvette, but if you’re low on finances, there are plenty of other options regarding the Retro Entertainment line. Of course, you may be tempted to get this just to have a matching set of A-Team vehicles.

__________

And there you have it. One incredible little van and a slightly-disappointing Corvette, from one of the 1980’s most iconic shows.

Given what I’ve seen regarding the last few waves of the Retro Entertainment line, Mattel had a great opportunity to deliver us some of the most incredibly-detailed little vehicles around. Instead, they have a spotty release of some great examples, but the addition of ‘supporting’ vehicles that many of us never knew we wanted (like the Pontiac Fiero Mia Sara’s character drives in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Seriously, a Fiero is part of this line?).

I have other vehicles from the Retro Entertainment line that I plan to review soon, but for now, it’s time for The A-Team to drive off towards their next great adventure.

After all, it wouldn’t be the A-Team without something getting flipped upside-down.

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About MWH1980

Growing up in the state of Iowa, one would assume I'd be enamored with pigs and corn. Well, I wasn't. Instead, I grew fascinated by many things that were entertainment-related. Things like movies, animation, toys, books, and many more kept my attention. This blog I hope to use to express myself regarding my varied obsessions. (P.S. There's no Photoshop involved in that Gravatar-I really am holding an Oscar)

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