As anyone who has been following my site can tell you, I was huge fan of the vintage 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toys when I was a kid.
I loved playing with the toys, watching the Sunbow cartoon, reading the Marvel comic books and learning from the PSA’s!
As an adult, I love reminiscing and writing about the toys that played such an impactful role on my childhood.
Some of my previous G.I. Joe related articles include the Top Ten G.I. Joe Vehicles and Weapons You Don’t Want To Take Into Combat, The Top Six G.I. Joe’s You Would NOT Want To Roll Into Combat With and Remember When Rocky Balboa Was A Member Of G.I. Joe….For About 3 weeks.
As the Cold War, real-world inspired G.I Joe toy line of the 80’s flowed into the more “X-Treme” neon-colored mash-up of the 90’s, however, I found myself quickly growing out of the G.I. Joe toy line.
I wanted to play out my imaginary war-time adventures with real world based military toys and not some brightly colored hybrid Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle/Real Ghostbusters Ecto Plasma inspired nonsense.
However, while writer Larry Hama did a great job keeping the Marvel comic book series grounded in the real world (not as easy assignment while being required to continually introduce new and increasingly more fanciful vehicles and characters), the G.I. Joe toy line has always walked a thin line between ‘military fiction’ and ‘science fiction.’
The G.I. Joe animated series jumped that line right off the bat with storylines revolving around weather dominating machines, M.A.S.S. devices and pyramids of darkness…
But considering that this was a cartoon directed towards children with a sole intent of selling toys, this seemed not only ok, but probably better than a straight up ‘war’ themed series.
With all that said, Here are Geeky Daddy’s Top 4 G.I. Joe Vehicles You May Not Have Realized Were Based On Real World Vehicles!
For the purposes of this list, I left out the obvious ‘real world’ vehicles such as the Mauler tank, Hammer or Skystriker, and kept the list to vehicles that appeared more fanciful than they turned out to really be.
1 G.I. Joe Conquest X-30 and the Grumman X-29
“Hey, Joe! You put the wings on backwards!”
Created in the early 80’s by a team of the finest aeronautical minds from the U.S. Air Force, NASA, Grumman and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency…AKA Real World Men In Black), the Grumman X-29 was the most advanced fighter plane in the world when it first took flight in 1984.
While the forward swept wing design was not brand new, the Germans had a forward swept wing prototype fighter in World War II and a production passenger plane in the 1960’s, this was the first time the wings were able to be swept forward to such a degree.
While the wings of the Hansa jet (seen above) had a forward sweep of merely a couple degrees, the X-29 was able to achieve a forward sweep of 33 degrees thanks to advances in light weight/high strength materials.
While the increase in forward sweep made the plane more maneuverable, it also made it nearly impossible to fly. The X-29 had 3 on board fly-by-wire computers and if any one of those computers failed, the plane nearly immediately flew apart.
The G.I. Joe Conquest copied this revolutionary design so closely that they even decided to ‘1 up’ their edition by naming their X-29 the X-30 Conquest!
I did multiple searches to try to find out if the flight suit for the Grumman X-29 was unique from other flight suits at all, but couldn’t find an image. Somehow I don’t that G.I. Joe Conquest pilot Slipstream’s outfit is a very close match to it’s real world counterpart…
2 G.I. Joe Vamp and the Lamborghini Cheetah
The G.I. Joe Vamp was the Joes first multi-purpose vehicle and it’s simple yet sturdy design made it’s longevity one of the best of the early, often timed fragile, G.I Joe vehicles. Seriously, why didn’t more G.I. Joe wheeled vehicles have metal axles?
The Vamp was so sturdy and versatile that it was later re-colored and re-issued as the desert colored Vamp II and the gorgeous black Cobra Stinger, as well as later Tiger Force and Python Patrol editions.
The Lamborghini Cheetah was a late 70’s prototype by the Italian performance car manufacturer to attempt to branch off into the lucrative military contract market.
The similarities between the Vamp and the Cheetah are numerous.
From the forward and profile views, the twin rear-mounted external gas tanks, the tubular role cage, rear engine, over-sized tires and, in their promo video, they even reference the “TOW missile mount capability” that we later saw on the Vamp II.
There was even a Cobra colored edition!
Side Note: I never owned a 2010 G.I. Joe Pursuit of Cobra Vamp, but it sure looks like a fun vehicle with tons of play features.
3 Toss N’ Cross Bridge Layer and the M60 AVLB Bridge Layer
As a kid, I had no idea that the oddly named G.I Joe “Toss N’ Cross” bridge layer was a vehicle that was based in the real world.
I always thought “What are the chances the Joes will come across a ravine the exact width of the bridge and happens to have a ledge on either side strong enough to support the massive weight of a steel bridge?”
Well it turns out, armored bridge layers have been around since World War II.
Did I mention that I never did well in engineering classes?
Military bridge layers have evolved over the past 6 or 7 decades, with the latest being the German Leguan prototype bridge layer…which appears to based almost exclusively off the G.I. Joe Toss N’ Cross!
Aside from the bridge being in the loaded position slightly differently, I think the makers of the German Leguan may owe Hasbro some licensing money…
4 Cobra Night Raven and the Lockheed YF-12A
Growing up, I always thought the sleek looking Cobra Night Raven was a direct rip-off of the famous SR-71 Blackbird spy plane…and I was sort of right.
Little did I know that there actually was an armed interceptor version of the SR-71 called the YF-12. Complete with similar underside concealed missile bays.
Just like how the Night Raven was the largest interceptor Cobra ever produced, the YF-12 was the largest interceptor the United States ever produced.
In the 1960’s, the Soviet Union had a fleet of supersonic bombers aimed at the United States that had a lot of people very nervous. But not to worry, Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson, head of Lockheed’s top secret Skunk Works team had a plan.
And that plan involved arming 93 SR-71 Blackbirds with air-to-air missiles, some advanced radar equipment and a detachable reconnaissance jet! Ok, I made up that last part about the reconnaissance jet, but still, pretty amazing!
At the end of the day however, the project was deemed just too expensive (even without the reconnaissance jets!). After successful trials and multiple speed records, the program was discontinued after only 3 YF-12‘s were produced, 2 of which were later sold to NASA and the last flight was taken in 1979.
What are some of the G.I. Joe vehicles you played with as a kid that you didn’t realize were based on real world vehicles? And please don’t tell me the POGO!
Please check out my previous G.I. Joe related articles include the Top Ten G.I. Joe Vehicles and Weapons You Don’t Want To Take Into Combat, The Top Six G.I. Joe’s You Would NOT Want To Roll Into Combat With and Remember When Rocky Balboa Was A Member Of G.I. Joe….For About 3 weeks.
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Kinda surprised the Cobra Rattler didn’t make the list as a modified A10 Wharthog with VTOL capabilities like the British Sea Harrier. Also am honorable mention is the Rolling Thunder. I saw on done cable channel years after my childhood that there’s a rugged terrain fire fighter vehicle designed exactly like it where the main canon is a huge water hose. Might have been conceptual and never got an order for mass production but it was mainly for fighting forest fires in rugged and mountainous terrain. It looked awesome! Awesome list though. I owned most of these.
The GI Joe Rolling Thunder appears to be based on an old nazi germany prototype armored vehicle called the Krupp Raumer S, which was designed to clear minefields by driving through them and being designed to be impervious to the detonations of anti-tank mines. Here is an image of it after it was captured: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/3aUe3PPGMbs/maxresdefault.jpg
I have never seen that picture before or heard of that vehicle. Nice find and thanks for sharing!