During the same period, a family friend of my parents also worked as a Mechanic - however, he worked on the Datsun brand. There was some friendly rivalry between my older brothers and his kids - I guess both having Fathers in the same trade made us quite similar.
My brothers used to joke that their Father worked on "Crapsun Datsun's"! They were somewhat different to what we were used to. Someone in the village had a Triple S coloured like Starsky's Ford Gran Torino.
Many times M.A.S.K. is compared to Transformers. Like M.A.S.K., quite often Transformers toys were based on real vehicles. Coming from Japan, it's no wonder that the Datsun 280zx featured as part of the Transformers line-up.
The 280zx is very much a car styled in the 70's (a bit like myself)! It is very sleek (unlike me) and shares many design cues from European Sports Car of the same era.
Transformers took this style, painted it black and white and put blue flashing lights on it and called it Prowl.
When I first started buying the Transformers Comic in the UK and watching the TF Cartoon, I wasn't really aware that this was a real car - let alone a Datsun. Prowl is a great looking toy and was a brilliant character.
The attention to detail of this "scale model" is amazing.
Prowl had a couple of "Brothers" who shared the same Datsun platform.
Bluestreak is one of Prowl's Brothers. With a change of paint, removal of the blue flashing lights. Smokescreen does gain with Glass Panels in his T-Top.
In this coulour, it reminds me of James Bond's Aston Martin DB-5.
The third and final brother is Smokescreen. A racing car in red, white and blue. The front bumper (fender) has changed and he also has the addition of a rear spoiler.
With his racing pedigree, Smokescreen looks awesome! Having all three in the image above it's easy to see the differences between the three. I guess it could've been so easy for Hasbro to have made them completely identical and just paint them in three different colours.
What they have done, is given each of them their own unique identity - which is something that they achieved with a number of other similar Robots.
If I'm honest, I kind of lean towards Prowl as being my favourite.
By the time M.A.S.K. came out, the Nissan brand name had taken over from the Datsun brand.
The 280zx had been replaced with the more modern, 80's styled 300zx.
There are clearly similarities been the 300 and it's predecessor - I guess like the Porsche 911, a classically designed vehicle only needs minor changes through it's life to stay modern and up-to-date - whilst still keep the original's look.
Pop-Up Headlights were the order of the day on 80's Sports Cars. As a kid, when you saw these, you were in awe. As an adult, you think "that's going to be expensive when they break!"
If I'm honest, as much as I love the 300zx, I think that the style of the 280zx is nicer! I know as a M.A.S.K. fan you would think I'd go for the 300 - it is a great car after all - but the 280 has more curves and nuances that set it apart.
Like Transformers, M.A.S.K.'s attention to detail is amazing and the likeness to the real thing is uncanny. I think Transformers has the edge over the amount of moving parts when they cars transform into robots.
But this is sometimes, I feel, a negative. I didn't have any Transformers growing up! Now that my son has a few, I sometimes wonder if they are a toy or a puzzle.
The transformations on them seem overly complicated. I can appreciate their beauty in both Robot and Alternate modes - but changing them from one to another is a struggle and frankly, I give up.
M.A.S.K. toys on the other hand normally have some ingenious mechanism that, at a touch of a button, quickly converts them from one mode to another. As a kid, this allows you to learn how to use them quicker and ultimately get to play with them much quicker!
However, like the Pop-Up headlights on the 300zx, if something goes wrong with the mechanism on the M.A.S.K. toys.....
As we all know, Manta converts into a plane - and looks spectacular - especially on the box art. We also have the charming Vanessa Warfield with her Whip Mask. Looking back at it now, with the way she is dressed in her skin tight catsuit and her Whip Mask, I'm thinking she is a bit of a dominatrix!
One thing I could never understand with Manta, was the name. It's a great name, don't get me wrong, but why Manta?
There were two things that stuck in my head when I first came across Manta -
1) Manta is a car. There is a car called an Opel Manta - so to call it Manta and be a Nissan confused me.
2) Manta is a plane. I don't see any link between a plane and the word Manta. Had it been a submarine like M.A.S.K.'s Shark - fair enough, as it would fit in with Manta Ray.
Perhaps there is someone out there with and idea of where the name Manta fits in?
It's difficult to say which of these four great toys is the best. As a M.A.S.K. fan, I think I have to stick with Manta.
What do you think?
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