Tuesday, November 6, 2018

1993 Mudbuster

In the beginning, vehicles were the reason for the G.I. Joe line to exist.  These amazingly detailed mazes of plastic were incredibly profitable for Hasbro and provided the funding to keep the line moving.  It's likely that it cost Hasbro less or only marginally more to make something like the VAMP than it did to make a figure since the figures required so much construction prior to being ready for sale.  Joe vehicles remained combinations of model kits and toys for many years.  But, as the years progressed, corners began to be cut.  This was mostly due to changing tastes among kids.  Large, complicated vehicles and playsets became less important and action gimmicks became more important.  So, Joe vehicles changed with the times.  It's most noticeable after 1990.  By the line's final two years, vehicle releases were both less frequent and less impressive than those that had preceded them.  Which isn't to say that they don't have some fun, redeeming releases that are worthy of any collection.  The Shark 9000, Blockbuster and Cobra Detonator are all large vehicles that belong in any collection.  But, I find one of their smaller contemporaries: the Mudbuster, to be a hidden gem among the line's final years.

It is very probable that your opinion of the Mudbuster is entirely tied to your view of 1993 and 1994 G.I. Joe releases.  If you don't mind those figures, their colors and the new, bulkier sculpts, then you are probably OK with the Mudbuster.  It's no VAMP.  But, it's a toy that works great with the figures from the era.  If you're more of an '80's Joe fan, then you probably hate this vehicle.  But, the Mudbuster does perfectly encapsulate the changing purpose and design of vehicle toys from the 1980's to the 1990's.  The first waves of Joe vehicles were glorified model kits that were relatively cheap to produce and were long on details and playability.  By the 1990's, though, vehicles were something that needed to be in ready to play condition right out of the box.  This lead to toys that were easy to manufacture and assemble in factories (to keep costs down) rather than cheap to manufacture and package: leaving the construction labor to the consumer.  It's a rather drastic paradigm shift for toys and Joe straddled the changing consumer tastes.

It is a near certainty that I came across a Mudbuster at retail in the mid 1990's.  However, as it did not include a figure, I would have also quickly passed it by.  At the time, I didn't really have room for new vehicles.  And, since I had my full complement of childhood vehicles in decent enough condition, I felt I had no reason to acquire anything new unless it included a figure.  As all Joes disappeared from retail, this thinking started to vanish and I did pick up a couple of figureless vehicles.  When I got my first Mudbuster in 1999/2000, though, I realized that I would have loved it a few years earlier and I shorted myself by passing it by.  

One of the nice attributes of these later vehicles is that they were sculpted with the bulkier, later figures in mind.  Over the years, the basics of Joe figure construction remained unchanged.  But, the size and detail of some of the parts did.  By 1993, torsos and legs were bulkier, arms were more detailed and heads were rounder than those of the 1980's.  This is most visible when you attempt to put a 1993 or 1994 sculpted figure into a 1983 vehicle.  They will not fit into the Dragonfly and you can't get two of them to sit comfortably in the VAMP.  The later vehicles, though, accommodate the increased girth of their contemporary figures.  Part of the reason why the vehicles are larger is to interact with the figures of their era.

As a toy, the Mudbuster works.  My criteria for jeep type vehicles is that they can hold several figures with no hassle and that they have a play feature.  Sure, the Mudbuster features the de facto spring loaded cannon from the 1990's.  But, the design is good enough that it's believable.  And, the cannon can shoot a giant grappling hook with attached rope.  To me, this is the play feature that gives the Mudbuster its cachet.  The hook can be used to snag enemy vehicles and reel them in.  It's the ideal vehicle choice for law enforcement and it's in that capacity that the Mudbuster has found the greatest use in my collection.

But, the Mudbuster also works as a general, all purpose vehicle.  The turquoise coloring allows the Mudbuster to blend with both bright figure from the line's final years as well as those who came in more muted colors.  It's an odd versatility.  But, because both the figures and vehicles were designed in tandem, they are meant to complement one another and you see ghosts of the symmetry between figure and vehicle that was such a calling card of the 1980's Joe line. 

Some of the parts are reused from earlier vehicles.  That both gives the Mudbuster a generic quality that's tough to overcome.  But, it also shows that some different colors and a few new parts can make for a useful new toy.  (Something Palitoy pioneered in the Action Force line.)  The cockpit holds two figures with ease and there's even room for a weapon or two.  You can stack a couple of figures on the back, though it's tough to get more than one in the bed if that one is manning the gun.  There are nice storage holes for extra missiles.  And, the coup de gras is that the vehicle will extend with force as an action feature.  There is a rubber band that allows the vehicle to collapse and expand depending upon how you wish it to work.  It's not a very useful feature.  But, it was the type of thing that worked as a selling point in the 1990's.

Mudbusters aren't all that common to find.  The final year vehicles saw lower production numbers and weren't the ubiquitous parts of collections like their 1980's brethren.  But, they are also substantially less popular than the earlier offerings.  So, while it's fairly uncommon to stumble upon a perfect Mudbuster in the wild, you can find them for cheap with a little effort.  Boxed versions will run you under $30 and you can get loose, mint and complete Mudbusters for around $10.  For that price, the vehicle is a no-brainer if you have any interest in 1993 or 1994 figures.  So, there's no reason for anyone to be missing the Mudbuster aside from sheer lack of interest in the vehicle.

1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines, Cyber Viper, Mega Viper, Duke, Battle Corps

1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines, Cyber Viper, Mega Viper, Duke, Battle Corps, Mirage, Eco Warriors, Outback

1993 Mudbuster, Mega Marines, Cyber Viper, Mega Viper, Duke, Battle Corps, Mirage, Eco Warriors, Outback, General Flagg

1993 Mudbuster, Tiro Certo, Brazil, Estrela, Cerebro, Raio Verde, HEAT Viper, Mace, Bulletproof, DEF


  1. Certainly better than the Patriot from the year before...well, that's a relative statement because Mudbusters were in stores by fall of 1992, along with Battle Corps wave 1. IIRC, even Battle Corps wave 2 made it to stores before the year ended, maybe Ninja Force wave 2, as well. It was very different from years past.

    It's an off road truck with a big bumper and a missile launcher. It's not bad, but if needs just one thing, it's a steering wheel. They managed to incorporate one on the sculpt of the Ice Snake, but sadly not on the Mudbuster. And it's a odd Cobra and GI JOE buy their roll cages, missile launchers and tires from the same company.

    If it needs five things: steering wheel, plastic labels, better color, a real machine gun (those tubes on the side of the launcher supposed to be guns?) and a longer bed to carry cargo. I was gonna say driver, but the price point was created without a pack-in figure in mind probably. And Cross Country can drive it.

  2. Had this vehicle as a kid and LOVED it. We would have smash-up derbies and it was great for that. I love small vehicles that can hold several figures. That blue, though, is more suited for Cobra. It really should have a more Joe themed paint scheme.

  3. I originally passed on this vehicle but I loved the Cobra Scorpion released the following year. Those two vehicles might have made good adversaries.

  4. Not sure about your price estimates, Mike. The lowest a boxed, sealed Mudbuster goes for on eBay right now is $60 dollars. The rest are priced around there or higher. Used with box begins at $35 plus shipping. And $10 bucks only gets you spare parts, which is anything from a mint and complete sample. I'm not sure if you're finding them at garage sales or flea markets, but online prices are always double or triple everytime I look up something you profile which interests me.

  5. The Mudbuster screams 'Dreadnoks' to me. I don't normally like changing the affiliation of a vehicle, but this one is a no brainer as a 'Nok vehicle.