GI Joe Goes off the Deep End!
GI Joe was issued his first sea sled first in 1965 as GI Joe Official Sea Sled and Frogman. This version is molded in red and black with a diver wearing an orange dipped plastisol wet suit. There was also a Sears’ special version that also included a fragile vacu-formed submarine cave to hide in. Later, the sea sled resurfaced under the new branding of The Adventures of GI Joe as the Shark’s Surprise set. This version of the sea sled is molded in blue and also included a figure. To complete the adventure, it also contained a treasure chest, (over-sized) coins and one of the many appearances of the roto-molded shark… before the shark trained to be a spy.
The Sea Sled was one of the best vehicles produced for vintage GI Joe. If this item has been sitting on your shelf collecting dust, I encourage you to take it to a pool and play with it. It is a great design and is very functional.
The design is very sleek with Joe riding on his belly and held in place with a ring that he slides under. There is a clear face shield and control pattern with sonar screen so Joe would not get lost. There are ballast tanks on the sides that you can leave full of air for Joe to navigate on the surface or you can fill them to your desired level with water so Joe can travel just beneath the waves, along the bottom or even mid-way. The rudder on the back has notches to set the turning radius so Joe can be aimed straight, explore in circles or gentle arcs.
Then there is the motor powered by strong “D-cell” batteries for strength and longer play time. The batteries fit into a watertight housing with screw-on lid is accessible by gently sliding the black floor panel back. It also came with foam inserts that fit with the battery tube to balance the buoyancy. Those are the first parts destroyed since they are just weak foam. As a replacement, I cut pieces out of a pool noodle to fit and it worked very well.
The Adventure Team was issued a submarine named the Sea Wolf. It was not as elegant or functional as the Sea Sled. Sadly, it was a one-trick-pony but that trick could make Joe rise and sink with bellows. The large clear dome made it fun. It always surprised me that it was released in a dull white color scheme instead of classic AT yellow or the occasional orange.
As a smaller accessory, the Adventure Team was also issued the Under Water Explorer. It had a stylish design and was just big enough to play with for Joe. A yellow version of it came with a big clamshell as the AT Jaws of Death set.
The GI Joe Collector’s Club released a convention special with a re-tooled version of the sea sled in the AT set Terror on the Sea Floor. This also included a large man eating plant with spring loaded Jaws that could snap closed onto Joe, Action Man or any other unsuspecting 1/6th scale action figure.
There was one more sea sled for vintage Adventure Team GI Joe as part of the Danger of the Depths set. This was a yellow hunk of plastic with very little design quality. In fact, it was so cheap that when I found mine the other day, I did not automatically associate it with Hasbro and was thinking it was from one of the knock off companies. The sled’s one redeeming feature was an underwater motor that could attach to the sled bottom. This was an off-the-shelf part that Hasbro sourced. It just did not have the strength with that one “AA” battery to push Joe’s weight through the water.
However, a variation of that part was sold earlier by Mattel as part of their undersea extension of Major Matt Mason – The Sea Devils. Those figures had a very simple sea sled that their module fit. Mattel also designed several vehicles to work with the same unit to keep costs down. As those figures were half the size and half the weight, that power module worked well.
Later, when Hasbro was highlighting Mike Power Atomic Man, they released a simplified version as GI Joe Dive to Danger Atomic Man. This did not include the motor. The shark was they typical gray instead of being black like the spy shark.
Speaking of the spy shark, one of my favorite “toys that was never produced” was a version of the spy shark where we used the Classic Collection Shark but made a high tech looking helmet with cameras, sensors and a possibly a projectile launcher. One of the really cool parts was that it was styled so it made the basic shark look like a hammer head shark. There was some irritating discussion comments provided by that packaging copy writer that it was unfair to the shark (no, I am not making this up). Somehow, this would be promoting abusing a (ruthless eating machine) animal. I thought it was perfect as there was clearly a nefarious villain enslaving sharks by fitting (innocent) sharks with high tech gear to make the (unwilling participants) into mean slaves. Sadly, this is one concept I can only describe as the just barely finished model was presented in Pawtucket then I had to leave back to Cincinnati before shooting any record photos of it.
A little earlier, Danger of the Depths was chosen to be updated for the official relaunch of the Adventure Team into the Classic Collection. The designer insisted on giving that product all the same detail and quality as the collector targeted military figures. It even has underwater control panel similar to the original vintage Sea Sled. The original plan was to also make it a motorized sea sled. We were even in discussions with an outside design firm that had designed full sized functioning versions. Unfortunately, costs grew out of control and it was scaled back.
There was one other accessory planned for Danger of the Depths but also dropped for cost. We wanted Joe to have a full mission to accomplish so I was asked to make a concept model of a small spy satellite. It used pieces from the Action Man Photo Mission but augmented with solar panels and a radar dish.
In my short stint creating mission packs for the Pawtucket team, I reused that cool sea sled and added a blue underwater camouflage to it. It was released as part of a Real American Hero Spy Troops GI Joe adventure pack named Underwater Attack Mission. This version is hard to find.
While the Classic Collection versions were being released, the design team in London was busy creating a very cool submarine as main part of the Action Man Ocean Mission. This design has plenty of good play built in. After you load AM inside (or a Joe since that set included a very cheap AM with almost no articulation) the user could slide their hand inside. This made it what we would call “kid propelled”. I made countless dives with a Joe in that vehicle exploring the bottom of my pool. However, the fun did not stop there; with your hand inside you could work a very basic front claw so you really retrieve artifacts like treasure chests or recovering downed satellites.
In addition, the sub is equipped with an underwater missile you can shoot at (abused) spy sharks. The launcher is designed smartly so it can also snap off to be a hand-held under water missile launcher. That launcher also appear in at least one small AM adventure pack.
The front has a clear bubble so your figure can see well to explore. It snaps off and on with a little twist so the figure can be placed inside and hands snapped onto the controls.
YES – I did push to get that in the line while we were created the Adventures of GI Joe segment. It would have needed about a $40 retail and the director of the GI Joe group at that time had no sense of what makes a cool toy. For him, it was all about the statistics, “water toys do not sell as well”. He was not interested in large accessories unless they could roll. The only large accessory we made during that time which did not roll was the Boffers pom pom gun set.
Afterwards, the London team issued one more version of the submarine. The item is the AM Atlantic Mission. I believe it was a special for Woolworths and is extremely hard to find. It is almost exactly, what I wanted the Adventures of GI Joe sub to look like.
WARNING – if you are a true Adventure Team fan, the next images could cause uncontrolled drooling!
When was the last time you played with your GI Joe or AM submarine?
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