1985 saw the introduction of a new toy line by Mattel, called “Wheeled Warriors”. A cartoon was introduced that same year called “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors”, which was loosely based on the toy line. This was probably also the cause of the line’s downfall, because there was just too much disparity between the cartoon continuity and the toy line, which led to poor sales and so Mattel cancelled the line the very next year. The cartoon itself has never gained the same level of popularity as, say, the Transformers or Masters of the Universe cartoons did, but it was a kick ass cartoon nevertheless with one of the coolest 1980′s theme songs ever, composed by veteran Shuki Levy.
Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors cartoon title card (1985)
“Lightning League vs Monster Minds!”
The Wheeled Warriors toy line was divided in the usual two factions of good and evil. Evil being the Monster Minds, part vehicle and part organic plant life and the Lightning League, who were the good guys doing battle with the Monster Minds. The toy line saw a total of eight regular vehicles and two large motorized vehicles, evenly divided over the two camps. There was also a giant Lightning League Battle Base gift set and two accessory packs that came on blister cards.
Wheeled Warriors vehicles
“Characters? Who needs characters?”
The afforementioned cartoon featured the eponymous character of Jayce who was in search of his father to unite two parts of a special root that would end the menace of the Monster Minds once and for all. None of the good guy characters from the cartoon were available in Mattel’s toy line. Instead, the Lightning League was nothing more than a couple of unnamed, dorky looking action figures with the posability of a stick.
"Hi! I'm generic Lightning League guy.
I prefer wearing flesh coloured shades."
It was quite clear that the toy line centered heavily on the vehicles instead of the characters. When the time came to create a cartoon series to promote the toy line, the creators obviously had to make up their own characters in order to give the show at least some appeal.
Where would a 1980′s toy line be without a gimmick? Nowhere, right?! So Mattel cooked something up for the Wheeled Warriors line which was actually pretty cool. The line featured exchangeable parts, so you could mix and match vehicle parts and create your own personalized vehicles, within the confines of what was possible of course. You could e.g. take off all the wheels from a vehicle and use them with another one. All vehicles came with extra X-changeable parts so you had enough to choose from. Quite an interesting way to encourage kids to buy more vehicles, because the more vehicles you bought, the more spare parts you had to play around with!
"Yeah, it's me again. Look, I could use a little help replacing
this tire. I can't see shit through these flesh coloured shades."
I currently have two Monster Minds vehicles in my collection (the leader Saw Boss and K.O. Cruiser), which will look very familiar to anyone who’s ever watched the show! I also recently got a Lightning League vehicle from a good collector friend of mine as part of a trade; Quick Draw. The Monster Minds are MISB (mint-in-sealed-box) so I won’t be opening those, but Quick Draw has been opened so I’ve made some photos of the inside of the packaging and the toy itself.
“Look out! It’s the Beast Walker!!”
I also have the large, motorized Monster Minds vehicle called Beast Walker, which can be observed in the intro of the cartoon. It’s one of the most goofy looking toys that I own, but somehow I still find it’s pretty cool. I guess that’s what nostalgia does to you. I mean, get a load of this:
The Awesome Beast Walker!
Now is that funky looking or what? Can you just imagine that thing walking around your living room floor as a kid? Here are two screen grabs of the Beast Walker from the cartoon. As you can see he’s even more goofy looking here than he is in his toy form, because it actually looks like he’s got some nerdy glasses on! Ah well, just adds to the charm in my opinion.
Two accessory packs were released that featured spare parts you could use with your Wheeled Warriors collection. One was the Lightning League Victory Pack and the other was the Monster Minds Attack Pack. I currently only have the former in my collection.
The Lightning League Victory Pack
Granted, these toys aren’t that popular and they’re more or less forgotten, but they still have a cult following just as the cartoon does. To me, toy lines like these are all the more interesting due to their relative unfamiliarity. Althought it’s a pity there was only one wave of toys that saw release, the upside to that is that it’s much easier to complete your collection, because of the limited number of items that made up the line. That does not necessarily mean they’re very cheap. The two motorized vehicles and the Battle Base especially can command healthy amounts on the collectors market, but nowhere near the sums being laid down for e.g. a MISB Fortress Maximus or an Eternia play set!
So, that’s our introduction to Mattel’s Wheeled Warriors line! I plan to write more in-depth articles on the various individual items in the future, so keep an eye out for those!