Heroic Vehicles

Attak Trak: Battle Machine (1983)

The Attak Trak, released in 1983, is a vehicle with a unique action feature and an interesting design history.

I saw the Attak Trak in the wild only once as a kid. I remember being at another kid’s house. I believe my mother was friends with his mother, and while they were visiting I spent some time getting to know her son. The first thing he did was show me his He-Man collection, and I remember distinctly being introduced to three toys I had never seen before: Evil-Lyn, Faker and Attak Trak. Unfortunately he had worn out the vehicle’s batteries, and I didn’t get to see it in action.

The Attak Trak was designed by Mattel visual designer Ted Mayer, who also designed the Battle Ram, Wind Raider, Eternia Playset, and many other MOTU toys.

In my interview with Ted, he had this to say about the Attak Trak:

[The Attak Trak] started out as a mechanical toy submission that Mattel bought from an outside inventor. It was given to me to make in to a He-Man vehicle. I did about four different design directions, of which they picked one.

Ted didn’t specify who the outside inventor was, but I believe it was Marvin Glass and Associates. They filed a patent for a four wheel drive toy on August 10, 1981, and it was published on April 19, 1983:

Notice the mechanical feature is identical to the Attak Trak’s. The visual design, however, is a fairly generic-looking toy tank.

Ted Mayer stepped in to give the vehicle a Masters of the Universe feel. He submitted the following drawings, which featured an elongated fantasy beast head on the front,  and an option for a canopy on top:

Attak Trak without treads. Image courtesy of Ted Mayer.
Attak Trak with treads. Image courtesy of Ted Mayer.
Attak Trak with canopy. Image courtesy of Ted Mayer.

In my interview with Ted Mayer, he explained:

The canopy was dropped because it costed out quite high, so they looked at dropping as many extras as possible. By this time I was also doing all the control drawings, so when they went to the engineers, things were final.

Ted submitted the following control drawings for consideration. “For some reason marketing didn’t want the gargoyle type head,” he explained. So the second design was chosen for final production.

In a Tomart’s Action Figure Digest article on the origins of Masters of the Universe, another Ted Mayer concept drawing of the Attak Trak appears, along with a black or dark brown production sample that features sticker designs not used in the final version:

Final painted prototype in red and blue

The final toy was produced in a bright red and blue color scheme:

Monogram produced a model kit version of the Attak Trak. It featured the canopy that Ted Mayer had originally designed (or something very close to it), as well as other unique details. The model was not motorized, but it was in scale with the vintage figures:

Rudy Obrero provided the artwork for the Mattel Attak Trak packaging. He has stated in interviews that it’s the least favorite piece he did for the vintage line. In the interview I conducted with him in March of this year, Rudy had this to say about the process:

It’s the last piece I did for Mattel. I started to think the art direction came from a committee, seemed as though everyone in Mattel wanted in on package art because of its success as a toy line. These pieces were done in oil paint so changes were a pain to do.

Box art scanned by me, repaired by Retroist

Rudy mentioned that various people at Mattel were constantly asking him to make small revisions on the Attak Trak artwork. It appears that two versions of his art made it to the packaging. The version below has the splash of mud removed from the front of the treads. I imagined they had it removed because the vehicle would probably stop working if run through real mud. The version without mud seems a bit easier to find, so it’s probably a version that came out shortly after the initial release.

The artwork for the Estrela Toys Attak Trak was modified for unknown reasons. The Brazilian manufacturer and licensee did the same with their versions of Castle Grayskull, Battle Ram, and other toys:

There was also an orange version of the Attak Trak. This one was released in Europe – I don’t know if there were any orange versions released in the US market. This particular version has the muddy artwork:

Interestingly, the cross sell artwork for the Attak Trak was also orange, and the vehicle was colored orange or sometimes brown in early mini comics:

Artist Errol McCarthy produced several pieces of artwork featuring the Attak Trak:

Attak Trak line art used in advertising

Early on in the mini comics, the Attak Trak was represented as having a “mind of its own.” That was expanded upon in the Filmation cartoon series. The vehicle could undertake complex tasks on its own and had a voice and personality. The Attak Trak also underwent a radical redesign:

There was, however, a more toy accurate version called the Small Trak that made an appearance in the Evilseed episode:

Filmation model sheet by Fred Carillo. Image source: James Eatock/The Power and the Honor Foundation
Image source: He-Man and She-Ra, A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures, by James Eatock and Alex Hawkey
Source: Oasi delle Anime
Source: Oasi delle Anime

Also released in 1983 was the Big Jim Spy Series All-Terrain Vehicle. The body shape was completely different from the Attak Trak, but it used the same track-flipping concept, and even shared the exact same tread design:

Image Source: Big Jim Forum

Some of my favorite Attak Trak-related artwork comes from MOTU artist R.L Allen:

Illustration by R.L. Allen
Illustration by R.L.Allen

30 thoughts on “Attak Trak: Battle Machine (1983)

  1. Always a joy to find a new he-man post on your Blog. I vividly remember my Attak Trak arriving as a birthday gift. Sadly it was broken with the rear tracks not working. And as it came from a catalogue (Marshal Ward im sure) i had to wait ages for a new one.

    I remember that the UK version of the Attak Trak advert showing He-Man driving the Vehicle over a fence made of Lolly pop sticks. Not the best vehicle in the toy line , but still fun to play with.

    1. Thanks very much! I snooped around on Youtube, but was unable to find the UK version. Hopefully someone locates it in the near future.

      My favorite vehicle is the Battle Ram, but that’s probably obvious by now 🙂 Also a big fan of the Dragon Walker.

  2. never understood why the Cartoon Attak Trak was sooo different… at the end of he day, it was made to sell toys.. which surely it didn’t with such a different design. featuring minor simplified changes, fine, based more on an early prototype? okay, lead times are different so very likely. but so completely different? always got the feeling they just wanted a large troop transporter and just used whatever name came around.
    I’ll have to get it out of my loft, but I wouldn’t say the UK version was orange.. just a much lighter red..

    1. I think some of the choices made by Filmation were to deliberately rebel a little bit against the idea of producing 20 minute toy commercials. The Filmation Attak Trak reminds me a little of the Mystery Machine, though.

  3. Great post as always. My version of the Attak Trak (made in Taiwan) does not have the seat belt, nor the pins on the sides to hold it. I wonder if this could be the first release, since the cross art doesn’t feature the seat belt either. And maybe the seat belt was added later on? Would be interesting to know.

    1. Mårten – I’ve not before heard of that but how fascinating. I know specifics on a couple of early releases of very early figures varied slightly (such as the straps and tabs on the back of some of the armors, especially with Zodac, I’ve found) so maybe this was a similar case of an early release.

    2. Very interesting, Mårten. My Taiwan Attack Trak does have the seat belt. I would guess that you’re right – the cross sell art tends to follow first versions of the the toys or else prototypes.

      1. Thanks for your replies! The seat belt is not featured in the main instruction sheet, but has instead its own instructions. Probably added later on, I guess.

  4. I liked that the Attack Trak was an actual character on the show.
    It’s a vehicle that I think is awesome in how it works but not necessary until you see it talking and joking in the cartoon.

  5. Engineering speaking, this and the Dragon Walker are marvelous and I were very confused too about the difference between the toy and the Filmation version.
    About the Monogram kits size (very cool as I can see) I found this video comparison between the Attak-Trak toy and model kit: it confirms that are the same size. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QxQm4zZazs

    And about the Filmation, recently I realized that Mattel potentially could have done a toy of that Attak-Trak retooling a previous toy. Look at this camper from Big Jim: with different colors, a turret instead of the radar dish and the treads (non-motorized), it could resemble a lot the cartoon Attak Trak imho.

  6. Time to catch up on adding my comments to some of the posts on this (excellent) blog, so “A” – Attak Trak seems a good place to start! 🙂
    I never had the Attak Trak as a boy (my parents weren’t so much into the idea as vehicles as toys for me as they were more expensive… and noisy!), but I remember a few of my friends at school having it. I’m in the U.K. and recall even all those years ago (circa 1983) my friends discussing how “there’s a red one and an orange one available”; and this being proven one end-of-term day when two people bought their AT’s in to play with, one in each different colour.; In the UK we had an odd mix of origins of where the toys would come from… early on they were all pretty much identical to the US releases, though later it was much of of a mash-up between “US versions” and European versions, complete with English and French boxes. I recall if I would buy a figure I’d hunt around for the English-only box version! (As with the “Made in France” Attak Trak being orange, my original childhood Battle Cat, and Kobra Khan (both of which I still have) were made in France, with Khan being in darker than normal colours, and ‘Cat being darker green and orange and near maroon armor! It lost a lot of the vibrancy of the more standard colours.)
    Beyond red and orange ‘Traks, I found when collecting the line on the second-hand market that the red version can vary between quite light and a deeper red.

    Ted Mayer mentions that he came up with “about four design directions” for Mattel to choose from – I wonder if we’ll ever know what the other three were like? (Or maybe just minor variances, such as his original proposed gargoyle head, which I wonder if Mattel rejected because it looked too similar to the Battle Ram and/or Talon Fighter?) BTW, the early prototype ‘Trak to my eyes looks like it was dark blue… even though Trak was heavily redesigned by Filmation I wonder if the blue scheme was a holdover from the prototype; and even more reflected by the “other” Attak Trak’s blue appearance in “Evilseed”?

    Speaking of Filmation, their heavy redesign of AT was quite curious in just -how different- it was from the toy, and I always wondered what the reason was (Cost cutting for animation? Convenient story-wise to haul multiple characters around at once?) The Filmation Trak’s ‘personality’, complete with flashing display panel, always reminded me of K.I.T.T. out of ‘Knight Rider’… which debuted a year before Filmation MOTU! I wonder if this Filmation-version Trak could ever have been produced by Mattel, maybe as a “figures carrier/vehicle” a la Battle Bones!

    Right, that’s quite enough thoughts on Attak Trak from me… next!

    1. It’s really tough to tell what color that early Trak is – sometimes I think it’s dark green. May be the lighting. If it was blue early on they might have changed that to avoid too much similarity to the Battle Ram. Come to think of it, the “gargoyle” face on one of the concept drawings reminds me a bit of the Battle Ram (Talon Fighter too, as you pointed out – all designed by Ted Mayer)

  7. With things from Filmation being made and the full sized Trak being able to carry the toy one we know, I wonder why they never chose to make one more like the one from the show.
    I would have gone all out, voices, lights, other sounds..why not? Attak Trak was pretty important on the show I thought.

  8. I had Attak-Trak, the model, and also a yellow bootleg which I picked up at a flea market.
    Loved the detail of the model but not the lack of mobility.
    Never knew what to do with the bootleg as it was cheap.
    Wish the cartoon version was red. Looks just like the Big Jim one.

  9. Hello!

    Many thanks for the quality of your blog and all the infos it gathers. Priceless!

    Regarding the atrbox of this toy, I would like to know if there were an explanation about the 2 differents artworks drawn for the box? I own a MISB Flip Track in Euro box (Made in Taïwan), and on the illustration, there is no mud Under the treads.

    Thanks for your answer!

    1. Hi, that’s a great question, and thanks for the kind words! Actually, I just noticed that many US boxes don’t have the extra mud either. The muddy version came from a box I used to own, and scanned for this article. I’ll have to do some research. Great observation!

      1. My pleasure! Really, it’s an amazing job you have done with this blog. Methodic, clean and easy to read and synthetic. I’ll stay tuned for sure!

  10. Someone could share us, what origin has the Attack Track variant that has the center of the rims in smoke color (dark) and without the pin where the seat belt was held with which the figure is held in place. Greetings!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.