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
Heroic Vehicles

Battle Ram prototype

In this post I’d like to take a closer look at the Battle Ram prototype. For a more exhaustive treatment of this vehicle, see the toy feature.

Designed by Ted Mayer and sculpted by Jim Openshaw, the Battle Ram prototype was in some ways more impressive than the final toy.

Here is the prototype Battle Ram, from various angles (also shown is the prototype helmeted He-Man figure):

Images 1, 4 and 5 are courtesy of Ted Mayer; images 2 and 3 were retrieved from He-Man.org.

The overall profile is very similar to the final toy, but when you look closely, there are many subtle differences. I’ll go over each photo of the prototype and compare it with a similar photo of the final toy, noting some of the differences in each:

Prototype angle 1
Toy angle 1
Prototype angle 2
Toy angle 2
Prototype angle 3
Toy angle 3
Prototype angle 4
Toy angle 4
Prototype angle 5
Toy angle 5

Notice in the fifth prototype image, the front half of the Battle Ram seems to have a greenish tint (in most images it looks grayish-blue). Perhaps the paint took on that tonality depending upon the lighting. That might explain the greenish coloration of Rudy Obrero’s illustration for the Battle Ram packaging. On the other hand, his color choice may have been determined by the lighting in his landscape.

Speaking of which, Rudy’s illustration is also based on the prototype Battle Ram, although it features the reptilian sticker on the front section from the final toy, as well as a modified missile:

As you can see, his illustration is quite faithful to the source material, although he did elongate the front half of the vehicle. He also gave it a jet engine nozzle at the rear, visible when in flight mode:

Alfredo Alcala’s Battle Ram cross sell art is also based on the prototype vehicle:

The prototype also shows up in the 1981 “Fast Male Action for Licensees” kit:

It was also featured in issue 90 of Tomart’s Action Figure Digest:

The prototype was very likely based on this control drawing dated May 28, 1981, drawn by Ted Mayer. It matches up almost perfectly with the prototype Battle Ram.

“Catapult Vehicle” – image courtesy of Ted Mayer
Heroic Vehicles

Point Dread & Talon Fighter (1983)

Point Dread and the Talon Fighter somehow completely slipped off my radar as a kid. I probably saw it represented in cross sell art form at some point in my childhood, but I don’t think it ever made an impression. And that’s a shame because it’s one of the coolest items ever produced for the Masters of the Universe toyline. It’s certainly one of my favorites now.

Design & Development

Point Dread and the Talon fighter was a rather unique item, in that it combined a small playset with a vehicle as well as a story book with record.

The commercial (above) shows a prototype that seems to have less overspray on both the vehicle and the playset than the mass produced toys did. The cross sell art seems based on that prototype:

Point Dread & Talon Fighter cross sell art

From my interview with Mattel designer Ted Mayer, I learned that the idea for the Talon Fighter originated with a sketch for the Eternia playset. There are a couple of those in existence, and both seem to feature a flying vehicle that bears some resemblance to the final Talon Fighter design, although the aircraft in the second image also resembles the Blasterhawk. The second image is dated February 5, 1985, so it would not have been a source used for the Talon Fighter. I would guess that the first image (called Mount Eternia) dates from some time in 1982.

Mount Eternia, image courtesy of Ted Mayer
Eternia sketch, by Ted Mayer
Mount Eternia’s flying vehicle – closer view

There is also some rough similarity to the 1983 Big Jim Space Spy Vehicle (hat tip to Jukka for pointing this out), which also featured the radar dish on the top, a handle in the back, stubby wings, and a similar (but not identical) overall profile:

Point Dread seems to have been conceived at one point as the home of Skeletor and his Evil Warriors. From the Filmation Series Guide:

Source: He-Man.org

“Point Dread is a craggy peak emerging from the Eternian Ocean. It is an extinct volcano with a tunnel leading down to a fantastic ruined, Atlantis-like city hidden beneath the ocean floor. Inside Point Dread, Skeletor keeps all the treasure he has plundered from a thousand worlds. There are also mines and construction sites waiting for the slaves Skeletor plans to take once he has seized control of Eternia.

“But the heart of Point Dread is the great council chamber where Skeletor summons the sinister Masters of the Universe. Here Skeletor sits on a raised platform above the round table where are gathered the likes of…”

Notice that at the evil warriors are referred to as the “sinister Masters of the Universe”.

The same guide describes Talon Fighter as an agile air vehicle that only He-Man can control, and says that it is frequently perched atop Castle Grayskull. The top of what we would refer to as the Point Dread playset is also shown – perhaps at the time the rocky base for the Talon fighter was not yet named. It may have taken on the name of Point Dread after Skeletor’s home base was identified as Snake Mountain.

Image courtesy of Jukka Issakainen

The 1985 UK Annual again describes Point Dread as the lair of Skeletor (images courtesy of Jukka Issakainen):

Production Toy

Let’s take a look at the actual toy and its packaging and accessories:

Roomy cockpit holds two figures
Gizmo not normally included!
Perched majestically atop Castle Grayskull

The Talon Fighter seems to be based on something like a hawk or an eagle. It has a rather wide body, stubby, downturned wings, and curved talon feet. There is room for two figures inside the roomy cockpit, and it features a handle on the back for easy zooming around the house.

Point Dread (tag line: frontier outpost) is a simple two-piece shell with a window and rather small stairs leading upward on the top piece. The top piece can clip to the tallest turret on Castle Grayskull. Inside the lower half is a cardboard control panel.

The box art is rather magnificent, in my opinion. The artist is unknown, but they seem to have been trying to imitate the style of Rudy Obrero. The artwork features Skeletor, Tri-Klops and Mer-Man launching an assault on Point Dread. He-Man and Teela are inside the Talon Fighter, and Man-At-Arms seems ready to take on the villains from the ground while his friends attack them from the air.

Comic Books

The comic book included with the playset is one of my very favorites. It’s two stories in one book – The Power of Point Dread and Danger at Castle Grayskull. The artwork is by the incomparable Alfredo Alcala, and features some fun and colorful stories that introduce us to not only PDTF, but new characters like Man-E-Faces, Trap Jaw and Tri-Klops. Zodac has a rather prominent role to play in the first story, which is a nice touch.

A record was included with the book, to help young readers read along with the story:

You can ready both stories in their entirety here and here.

Confusingly, there was a mini comic produced with essentially the same title – The Power of… Point Dread. The plot of the story is entirely different, however. It was penciled by Mark Texeira and includes some pretty exciting combat scenes:

While it’s true Point Dread was at one point intended to be the home of Skeletor and his minions, the Masters of the Universe Bible,  written at the end of 1982, portrayed Point Dread as it was in the mini comics released the next year:

TALON FIGHTER – this winged flying vehicle carries two passengers and is able to execute death-defying aerial acrobatics. Equipped with a special bombpack under its belly, He Man can call the fighter when it’s needed. Its resting place is atop a far peak called PT. DREAD which materializes whenever the Talon Fighter comes to rest. Only He Man has the physical fortitude and strength of will to control it. The flying machine goes out of control unless He-Man’s in command.


Point Dread never made an appearance in the Filmation cartoon, and the Talon Fighter was used quite rarely.

Image source: Wiki Grayskull

Model Kit

There was also a kit version of the Talon Fighter produced by Monogram (which was owned by Mattel at the time). It had a much more bird-like design than the toy, and a simpler yellow and red color scheme. It also has a canon mounted on top of the cockpit, rather than the radar design of the toy version. Monogram also produced versions of the Attak Trak and Roton. The Monogram Attak Trak is based off of a concept version of the Attak Trak, so I wonder if the same isn’t true of the Monogram Talon Fighter.

Artwork by Larry Elmore

The above design, but with toy-accurate colors, shows up in Dangerous Games, published by Golden Books:

There was also an illustration of the Monogram Talon Fighter kit that was apparently created for advertising purposes (images via Plaid Stallions). In this version the vehicle has a gold-colored body and green cockpit windows:

Image source: Dwayne Pinkney


R. L. Allen featured the Talon Fighter in a couple of his illustrations, which are some of my favorites:

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

Talon Fighter in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared some images and a video of the Talon Fighter in action:

Heroic Vehicles

Wind Raider: Assault Lander (1982)

The Wind Raider, released with the initial wave of MOTU figures in 1982, was a perplexing vehicle. It looked a lot like a boat that had been given short wings. It even had an anchor, which my friends and I used as a rescue line (but which was intended, according to Rudy Obrero, as a kind of “hook and destroy” weapon). Indeed, it was originally designed to double as a watercraft, but it was never portrayed that way in any published media, so as kids we had to come up with our own theories about why it seemed to have a nautical theme.

Design & Development

Back in the day, my first MOTU vehicle was the Battle Ram. I was aware of the Wind Raider because I had seen it for sale at the local toy store, and it was featured in the cross sell art on the back of my Battle Ram box:

The cross sell art, interestingly, is based on one of the prototype Wind Raiders. The prototype, designed by the great Ted Mayer (who also designed the Battle Ram, Attak Trak, Eternia, Slime Pit, Talon Fighter, and others), had smaller engines and steep, sloped structures leading up to the area where the wings connected to the body. But the dragon face figurehead (used as a crank to reel in the anchor) was actually quite different in the earliest known prototype. It resembles a miniature viking ship:

Source: Ted Mayer

A closer to complete prototype (sculpted by Jim Openshaw, labels by Rebecca Salari Taylor) looks identical to the cross sell art:

Image source: Grayskull Museum
Artwork from the Castle Grayskull instruction booklet, featuring a tracing of the prototype Wind Raider and Mer-Man

And finally, here is the tooling pattern, which looks exactly like the final toy, at least in shape:

Source: Ted Mayer
Source: He-Man.org/Ted Mayer

And the final prototype, with its slightly modified wings, large engines, and sleek profile figurehead:

Source: ted-mayer.com

There is also this early concept drawing, which comes via the Grayskull Museum website. It lacks any hood decoration, and looks quite sleek. I wouldn’t be surprised if the concept was inspired by the Lockheed P-38 Lightning:

Image source: Grayskull Museum

As I mentioned earlier, the Wind Raider was actually intended to work as both a boat and an aircraft. Although the final vehicle design is by Ted Mayer, Mark Taylor did some initial work on the design and created drawings that described some of the vehicle’s features. For instance, when on the water, the wings would rotate up and act as “photo sails”. The anchor is described as a “power ram/grapnel.” The dragon design bears strong resemblance to a Viking ship’s figurehead.

Image courtesy of Ted Mayer. Artwork by Mark Taylor.
Wings as “photo sails” in ship mode
Grapnel action feature
Flight mode
Colorized version. I chose colors for He-Man based on one of the early Mark Taylor B-sheet designs.

Packaging Art

I remember seeing the Wind Raider for sale at the local toy store (The White Elephant in Spokane Valley) shortly after I got my Battle Ram. I distinctly remember it in two different flavors – in an individual package, and as a gift set with a He-Man action figure. Neither set showed the actual Wind Raider, but rather some artwork by the amazing Rudy Obrero. His art always seemed to eclipse the actual product being sold, which meant of course that it was doing its job:

Original Wind Raider artwork by Rudy Obrero. He-Man is attacking Castle Grayskull because the artist assumed it was an evil fortress. Image source: Grayskull Museum
He-Man and Wind Raider giftset artwork

The Wind Raider giftset illustration was patterned more or less after Mark Taylor’s packaging layout. It was Mark Taylor who hired Rudy Obrero to do the final artwork:

Mark Taylor’s layout for the Wind Raider packaging design, courtesy of Ted Mayer

As was the case with the Battle Cat box art, the color for the Wind Raider gift set art appears to have been shifted and brightened on the mass-produced box. Either that, or the original oil paintings have become darker with age.

Interestingly, the first release of the He-Man/Wind Raider gift set described He-Man as the “strongest man in the universe“. The reissue called him the “most powerful man in the universe” (hat tip: Tokyonever, curator at the Grayskull Museum website).

Incidentally, if you want that original gift set now, you’re going to have to either hock your wedding ring or sell a kidney. Personally I’ve been wanting to collect all of the Rudy Obrero boxes, and thankfully Tokyonever has contracted with a manufacturer and created replicas of the Wind Raider gift set box at a price that won’t result in medical problems down the road.  Don’t get any ideas about selling it as a vintage piece for a massive profit though. Tokyonever used the darker colors of the original oil painting, so there is no confusing the vintage item with the reproduction.

Here are some photos of my vintage Wind Raider box and my reproduction He-Man and Wind Raider box:

Now, if you look closely at the upward facing section of the gift set box, you’ll see three warriors:

Warrior in red

Image source: Tokyonever

The warrior in the middle is often referred to as “The Warrior in Red” among fans and he’s considered something of a mystery. Personally, I think it’s just Zodac, slightly off model. Sure, he’s got red boots instead of gray (notice Beast Man also has red boots), and he’s showing a bit too much belly, but I really think that’s Zodac. Although originally conceived by designer Mark Taylor as a heroic warrior, Zodac was marketed as an evil warrior. So it makes sense that he would be portrayed here among the bad guys. It looks like he got beaned by that anchor, too. Ouch.

Update: apparently I was totally wrong! Tokyonever recently got in contact with Rudy Obrero, who had this to say:

“That guy is just made up to fill the crowd. I only had He-Man, Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Teela and Beast Man to work with at the time. Hope this helps. Rudy”

Finished Toy

After having seen the sleeker version on the box art, the first time I saw the toy in person, I was just a little disappointed. I actually quite like it today, but as a kid I thought the wings were too stubby. I think had the intent of the design (a hybrid water/aircraft) been explained to me, the size of the wings wouldn’t have bothered me. The overall vehicle was still very striking, though, and the anchor feature was a lot of fun. It was intended to be sold at a lower price point than the Battle Ram, and so was about 25% smaller in size.

Even back then, the wings were fragile and would break off unless you were a very careful, conscientious child. I did not have my own Wind Raider, but a friend who did broke his within the first few weeks.

A safer option might have been the inflatable version. The wings would definitely not have snapped off, although I suppose there is the danger of it popping:

Wind Raider in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has shared the following photos and video of the Wind Raider in action:

Miscellaneous Artwork

Artist Errol McCarthy produced some artwork depicting He-Man flying a slightly undersized Wind Raider. To my knowledge this artwork was never put to use:

Image source: He-Man.org

The Wind Raider also frequently appeared in Golden Books, DC Comics and coloring books:


In the Filmation He-Man series, Wind Raider was almost ubiquitous. The animators enlarged it so it could fit multiple characters, and it was a handy way to transport the protagonists to whatever disturbance they were investigating:

It was also great if you needed to push the moon out of the way:


One of my favorite depictions of the Wind Raider is in the Alcala-drawn mini comic, Battle in the Clouds. The Wind Raider seems to belong to Man-At-Arms and the Battle Ram seems to belong to He-Man. When the Battle Ram is stolen by Mer-Man, Man-at-Arms takes He-Man for a ride up a mountain, and makes a point to show off the Wind Raider’s superior thrust capabilities. Even on post-apocalyptic Eternia, masculinity has everything to do with the amount of horsepower in your ride.