1988 RPV

1988 RPV

The RPV, or “Remote Pilot Vehicle”, is one of those ideas for a GI Joe toy that’s actually rather cool and interesting, but comes across somewhat bland as an actual toy. I’ve seen this toy get put through some harsh put-downs by collectors at various points, though I think there’s other GI Joe vehicles that are more deserving of thorough admonishment. Still, it’s a somewhat flawed vehicle, but not without it’s merits.

So, to my limited understanding of Cold War-era RPV launchers, this vehicle is actually fairly realistic and would serve a real purpose. Remote Pilot Vehicles, or as you may know them now by the modern acronym UAV, were first being used for reconnaissance and intelligence operations around 1960 during the Vietnam War. At the time, these vehicles were top-secret of course, and they looked a lot different than the drone equipped on GI Joe’s RPV, but it’s another element that ties back to ARAH’s heavy reliance on Vietnam-era military tech. I’m not sure if either the drone or the launching vehicle here is based on any particular real-word equipment, but similar vehicles would’ve been in use around the time of this toy’s release.

A major problem for the toy, is that I don’t think too many people really understand how one of these would work, especially not in 1988. With some cursory reading, I can imagine a few scenarios where the RPV could be involved with some very fun GI Joe adventures, but I doubt so many children of the 80‘s knew too much about these, which meant those adventures probably never happened.

Aviation history aside, the RPV has a critical problem as a toy: It doesn’t do much. Small vehicles are limited in what they can provide, but the RPV essentially launches it’s drone and sits there. Just by way of it’s gimmicks, it’s a little more interesting than the Battle Barge, but this isn’t a toy that does a whole lot of things. Of course, it has some then requisite features to make it a tad more interesting, like a tow-hook and the seat-belt. The drone has a removable nose cone too, which reveals some computer details.

My biggest gripe with this vehicle is no doubt the radar station. When fully hooked up it makes this vehicle really cumbersome and tedious to move around. It connects to the RPV via a standard rubber-hose like most figures included. Unfortunately though, the pegs for it are in these odd recesses on both the vehicle and the radar station, meaning you can’t gently push the hose on like you normally would. I had both pegs break on me recently, so I blame it on that.

In Europe there was a significant recolor of this vehicle, where the tan was replaced with silver and the white was replaced with Cobra-blue. Just for it’s oddness I’d kind of like one, but between the fact that it’s terribly hard to find, and that the RPV isn’t something you need more than one of, I doubt I’ll ever bother with it. The color choices were especially weird on it though, as it makes it look more like the Cobra Adder than any existing Joe vehicle.

The RPV is virtually worthless. Mint complete examples sold by toy dealers who can usually get 300% of a figure’s value at auction, can only sell the RPV for $8 to $10. It’s odd, niche, and doesn’t fit with any particularly beloved subset of figures, so I think there’s generally not much of a market for it. Despite that, I personally feel like this was the best drone-related vehicle in the entire toy line, and there’s enough there that it’s worth having.

gi joe rpv r.p.v. mainframe psyche-out 1988 gi joe rpv r.p.v. mainframe psyche-out 1988

1988 RPV Links:

3D Joes

Toys from the Past (European variant)

A Real American Book

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3 Responses to 1988 RPV

  1. Sam Smith says:

    You speak truth! I had no idea what this was supposed to be when I received one at 8 years old. And I thought it was lame.

    As an adult, however, I now understand what this is, and how useful it is. And, thanks to modern times, we also know how many shapes and sizes these things come in. This thing could be real.

    My only complaint, really, is that the red armature is not hinged, so you can’t adjust the launch angle. But that’s a minor complaint.

    The low cost is a major bonus, since I own two, but am tetering on the edge of buying five (and making life unhappy for HISS tanks everywhere).

  2. Dak Knomadd says:

    I never knew this critter even existed. Looks like something remco might have made more so than hasbro. Regardless, I have no idea how it managed to stay so entirely under my radar.

  3. A-Man says:

    The radar thing, I think the hose plug in tabs broke on mine. It was so long ago, though. I recall the snaps that kept a tread on broke, too. Which seems unusual by then I wasn’t rough housing toys.

    Echo or amplify Sam Smith’s complaint, the RPV would somewhat significantly improved with an adjustable armature. Seems like design wise it wouldn’t have cost anything more, just notches on the main body and armature. That’s it.

    Yeah, I never knew what to do with the RPV, either, even after my older brother explained that it wasn’t a missile launcher in the attack sense.
    Though 1988 was a big missile launcher year: Adder, RPV, Imp, Rolling Thunder…even the Warthog had two big missiles.

    Non-combat ideas were a hard sell to kids. Hasbro was running short on small vehicle ideas, and some were not so successful. After this year the $4 (IIRC) USD price point vehicles would shift to Battlefield Robots, then go away entirely by 1990.

    If this were a Cobra item, well, there almost is with the European version, it would be slightly more popular, but only in terms of appearing in photos, probably.

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