Millennium Falcon – Part 2

Following from my recent post featuring my original 1980 Millennium Falcon toy, here’s part two as promised – looking at the revived, reissued version from 1995…

Star Wars toys blasted back to life in the mid-90s, after a decade of inactivity. By that point, I had recently graduated from University and had landed a dream job – working in Toys R Us. It was a stop gap, but I’d always wanted to work in a toy shop. As it transpired, although being an underachiever and not exactly proud of it, I was perfectly situated for the start of the Star Wars toy revival.

Despite grave concerns about some of the new figures (“Why are they so muscular?!”), the new Power of the Force 2 line did feature a lot more detail than their original counterparts. Take, for instance, the new R2D2, who now had sculpted details (and a third leg) instead of just a sticker*.

When the new Millennium Falcon arrived, it was pretty much the same intricate outer that we’d seen with it’s predecessor, but now there was more detail than ever. For a start, the outer had a much better, random and faded darker colours to give it that authentic used-Universe look, and blue (rather than red) engine exhausts.

Inside, there was a more movie accurate background card in the cargo hold, and the holo chess table had a more faithful decal too.

Most of the old features were intact, such as the laser cannon seat and hidden compartment. The latest version was augmented by movie realistic electronic sound effects, rather than the “buzzer” on the old ship.

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The only main issue – which I rediscovered whilst setting up these photos – was, the new macho man figures were just too bulky to fit in the cockpit. That’s why there’s no photo of Han and Chewie flying the piece of junk…

My old 1980 version will always be closest to my heart, but this one is still very cool. The POTF2 Falcon is a fantastic toy: a nice homage to both the previous and the movie versions, plus a big step in updating for the future.

Until, of course, we arrive at the Big Millennium Falcon in 2008. We’ll get to that one another time…

*Disclaimer: I don’t mean to be cruel to the original R2D2 figure, he was my first Star Wars figure and will always be my favourite!

Millennium Falcon – the Greatest Toy Ever

“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Was it Christmas 1980 or 1981? Whichever it was, it was the best Christmas present ever. After months and months of making a pretend Millennium Falcon out of cardboard tissue boxes, I was suddenly the owner of an actual Falcon. Han Solo’s super fast, hunk of junk smuggler’s freighter was mine, to recreate all the fun of the films.

The Millennium Falcon was the coolest space ship ever. The ship was a central part of the action in Star Wars, almost a character in itself – unreliable, temperamental, heroic. It was the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy and full of surprises – as was the toy.

We already had an X-Wing for Luke, a TIE fighter and landspeeder to play out our memories of the movie scenes (remember: no VCR in those days, kids!). But the Falcon seemed unattainable – surely Kenner/Palitoy wouldn’t be able to make a ship that big, to fit the figures inside?

And then they did. And I got one for Christmas: it was straight out the box, built up and stickers put on by my Dad, and I was ready to go. I still remember that morning now, after weeks of anticipation, hoping that I’d be lucky enough to be rewarded with this toy on the big day.

Kenner (or Palitoy, the UK manufacturer, in my case) delivered a toy that had all the magic of the film. Yes, you could put figures inside it: Han and Chewie could fit in the cockpit. There was a laser gun turret to shoot enemy fighters. A holo chess table to play (“It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.”). A remote for lightsaber practice and a hidden smuggling compartment to hide from the Empire. It made a buzzing laser gun sound and had retractable landing gear.

The ship looked fantastic on the outside, lots of random detail just like the model in the film. This Millennium Falcon was a toy, but it appeared so accurate it might have been an actual prop from Industrial Light and Magic. That’s how I felt about it, anyway.

Photos here are of my original Millennium Falcon, still with all parts and in the box, which I gratefully received that Christmas morning. After years of play, it’s still all there: a little beat up, a little dirty – just like the “real” thing. As a kid, I liked to make it look more authentic with a good layer of dust and some discolouration: not sure that was a good idea, now.

But what a toy! Literally hours and hours of play value, recreating scenes or imagining my own sequels. An absolute joy.

It was great fun digging out this old piece of junk. I had a blast taking the photos, hope you enjoy them. And remember: “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

Part 2 soon!

Skateboard Museum: SMA Jim Thiebaud

Come with me as I take a roll down skateboarding memory lane, ollieing the cracks as I go…

Santa Monica Airlines Jim Thiebaud

This classic deck dates back to the late 80’s, I picked it up in 1989 if I remember.  At the time the Chester branch of Milletts, the camping and outdoors shop, were stocking skateboards for some reason or other.  They had some pretty rad stuff, too.

When the time came to replace my worn out deck and get a new one, I saved up my pennies/swapped vinyl records and got myself this Santa Monica Airlines deck from Milletts.

At least I think that’s where it was from, I can’t remember.  Either way, I didn’t support a skater owned shop on this occasion, to my shame.

SMA

SMA were really blowing up at the time, and Jim Thiebaud had been on my radar since I saw the (criminally minimal) footage of him in some of the Powell vids.

Thiebaud was – and is – a supremely cool skateboarder with a smooth, rad style.  He was one of those original street pros that I really admired.  Along with Gonz, Natas, Guerrero and Vallely, JT was a bona fide street skating pioneer and innovator.

The shape was perfect for me at the time, exactly how I wanted a skateboard to be.  It’s still a classic shape now, I really like it. Nice size tail, comfy wide deck – but not too wide.  Great street deck of the era.

This deck also had the cool comic book style superhero graphics which I loved.  I’ve always been a big fan of superheroes.

However I wasn’t cool enough to get on this particular wave of popularity earlier.  If I had, I might have picked up the previous variation on the graphic, which featured a bad guy designed to resemble the Joker.  The Batman movie was out around that time, so I guess the whole theme was prominent back then.

So the Joker version had to be scrapped due to some issue with DC Comics, I believe the story goes, and I ended up with the purple suited thug instead.

No matter – cool graphic or not, this deck was to be skated.  I transferred my Indy trucks and OJII wheels and was ready to go.  Well, when I’d also added the Powell Rib Bones as well.  Not to save the graphic, mind – in those days the received wisdom (at least amongst my friends and I) was that the rails helped you slide better.

This particular set up was particularly long serving and loyal.  It was like a magic carpet that seemed to respond perfectly to my wishes.  Honestly, I remember learning tons of tricks on this finely shaped beauty.  Footplants and Boneless variations were (still are) major tricks in my arsenal and I learned several on this very set up. 

Biggest of all though, was the kick flip.  We called it an “ollie kick flip” back then, and it was a pretty desirable trick to own.  I learned kick flips on this gorgeously wide beast and was unbelievably stoked.  I still remember that first one.

It was well skated – in fact the tail is worn to a sharp and splintered point – but this set up is still skateable.  It’s still around as it was replaced with thinner decks and trucks as shapes evolved; thus I never swapped it.

The SMA Thiebaud is still on the garage wall, still looks great, and still gets a roll every now and again.  Classic.

Take a close look at the photos and you’ll notice some interesting features:

  • Madrid Fly Paper grip tape (note the fly shapes cut out)
  • Rad SMA top graphic
  • Santa Cruz Cell Block riser pad
  • A couple of cool stickers from back in the day still hanging in there
  • The trucks are fitted with Grind King reversed kingpins, there’s even a sticker on the front hanger…
  • You can see some of the bands I was into at the time from the grip tape art, which I did with Tip-Ex…

More from the American Classic Car Show

Stars and Stripes American Classic Car Show, Tatton Park

Part 2

Last summer I paid a visit to the American Classic Car Show at Tatton Park.  This was back in early July 2016.  I promised some more photos of the amazing automobiles seen on that visit, but didn’t get round to sharing – until now.

We’re in the grip of miserable January right now, but it was a fine summer’s day when we went to the car show.  My apologies if these shots remind you of warmer, brighter days.  But just look at those cars!

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On display were all types of classics, from 50s chrome and fins to 70s muscle cars and beyond.  I always enjoy spotting vehicles similar to those that appeared in some of my favourite films and television shows.

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The car show is loads of fun with plenty for all the family to enjoy, with food and drink, music and entertainment, not to mention shopping – in addition to the cars on show.

A trip to the Stars and Stripes American Classic Car Show is highly recommended!

Check for events info at Tatton Park here.

Hope I haven’t repeated any of these photos in the earlier post.  You can see the previous post here.

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The sensational General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard.  Loved that show, and I love Dodge Chargers!  Apologies for the flag.

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Below (in white) you’ll see a Ford Galaxy 500 – as immortalised in song by the awesome Reverend Horton Heat!

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Santa Cruz Street Creep

IMG_4705A few years ago, I had an urge to get me an old school set up.  I already had my everyday double kick street machine, but I felt I needed something that reminded me of my skateboarding youth in the 1980s.

This Santa Cruz Street Creep was the answer.

I remembered the Street Creep from those halcyon days.  I never owned one at the time, though I did own other Santa Cruz decks (see the blog about my Rob Roskopp deck, for one).  The Street Creep was a very cool shape and a cool graphic.

Luckily for me, numerous skateboard companies have been re-issuing the old shapes as collectors pieces.  I picked this re-issue up fairly easily.  I fitted it with some new, wide Independent trucks and some old Santa Cruz Slime Balls wheels and it was ready to go.

The wheels were rescued from an old relic of a board that was passed to me a few years back.  I always wanted some Slime Balls, finally I got a set!

The result is a rad skateboard that brings back loads of memories.  The shape is great, though it takes some getting used to after skating shorter, thinner boards for ages.  It’s a fantastic skateboard for blasting a few old tricks on – I find no-complys and some boneless manoeuvres easier on this set up.

With the big, softer Slime Balls attached, this board is great for carving up some of my favourite banked skate spots.  In particular, there’s a messy old “bowl” I like to skate – tarnished with grit and stones, but very skateable with this monster.

Plus there’s the graphic – if you’re an old 80’s skate hound like me, it’s all about the skulls!  Check out the close up the graphic and you’ll see dozens of smaller skulls and faces within the image.

Skateboards are a thing of beauty; this Street Creep looks and rides superb.

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Top graohic

Top graphic

HawRADen 2015 – BMX Fun Ride

HawRADen BMX Ride

Saturday 24th October 2015

Hawarden, Flintshire

My mate Danny is into BMX.  He gets BMX bike parts, builds the BMX bikes, rides the BMX bikes too.  Proper, old school BMX bikes – Haro, Mongoose, Raleigh – all the vintage legends.  He was into BMX when he was a kid in the 80’s, and a few years ago rediscovered his passion.

Nowadays, in addition to hunting down vintage bike parts to build his dream machines, he also meets up with other enthusiasts for a ride.  Apparently this is what these BMX geezers do: all over the North West, even all over the country, they meet up and go for a ride together.  There’s usually breaks in the ride for refreshments (ie they stop at a pub or two – soft drinks, obviously…). IMG_20151024_130248497_HDR

Dan decided to organise a local gathering for riders, which would take place in and around the home area of Hawarden in Flintshire, North Wales.  This all sounded like good fun to me.  I was invited and decided to tag along.

My only problem was the fact that I don’t own a BMX bike, at least not anymore.  That left me with two options: my mountain bike or my Schwinn low rider.

It had to be the low rider.  The Schwinn is a retro styled bike that looks like a Harley Davidson chopper, but pedal powered.  I figured this bike was my best bet, it has a cool look and was a little different.  Also I decided to kit myself out in heavy metal/biker gear – rock t-shirt, bandanna, mirrored shades.  Not taking the mickey, but I thought I might as well go the whole hog, on my hog.

So off I went, a Happy Shopper Dennis Hopper, to join the ride.

The meet up point was the Fox and Grapes pub in Hawarden village.  Luckily they were a friendly bunch, so although I only knew Dan, I wasn’t left out.  With a few stragglers to round up, we just made the train from Hawarden station up to Buckley.  It was just one stop and a free fare for most of these BMX bandits.

A short ride then up to the Shamrock in Buckley, where the owner, also a BMX aficionado, laid on some food.  Good stuff, great boozer.  More BMXers met up with the original party here and the group grew a few more.

By the time we left the Shamrock on the ride across Buckley, there must have been twenty odd BMX riders (plus one Easy Rider interloper).  The ride was through the streets and finally the first downhill stretch of the day, which was a relief.  It’s hard work without gears, this bike riding malarkey.

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A short break at the Parrot in Drury and we were off again, this time a nice long downhill stretch to Ewloe.  I think a few heads turned as drivers and passers-by clocked the throng of bikers rolling down the road.  One rider got a little too rad and ended up with the only injury of the day – but we all have to pay our dues some time.

The final stop, for me, at any rate – was the Running Hare in Ewloe.  Never my favourite pub, never the less the open space outdoors for bikes and riders was ideal.

Throughout the afternoon, there were stories told and memories recalled of bikes and adventures from our youth.  There was a very positive and fun atmosphere.  It was all very light hearted and I was made to feel welcome, despite not having a BMX bike.

The group then rode on to complete the circuit back at the Fox.  I bailed out and rolled down the hill to home, having enjoyed a great afternoon of nostalgia and banter.  These BMX bike rides are a great idea – here’s to all the Rad Dads and other forty somethings keeping the dream alive.

My Christmas list this year will feature a BMX bike, for the first time since about 1984.

Sci-Fi Action Figures

Science fiction action figures are the basis for any good toy collection.  My collection of Star Wars toys goes right back to the late 1970’s, and I’ll get round to posting some pictures of those in the future.  Oh yes, it shall happen.  Any requests, let me know.

In the meantime, I thought I’d showcase some alternative items that have been lurking around for over thirty years.  These figures aren’t always mint condition, and rarely have all the accessories they came boxed with.  And there are certainly no boxes (or cards) now, as they were all actually played with…

Battlestar Galatica figures

These 3 3/4″ action figures were produced by Mattel in the late 1970’s, to coincide with the release of the television show.  They were obviously aiming to emulate the phenomenal success of Kenner’s Star Wars figures.

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Battlestar Galactica figures

On the left of the photo is the Imperious Leader figure, all in good condition – but then other than the cloak, he didn’t have any accessories.  In the middle is Commander Adama, who bears a slight resemblance to Lorne Greene.  Unfortunately Adama’s cloak and gun are long gone.  The Cylon Centurion is the coolest figure here, though mine has lost a lot of his silver finish.  The laser gun is around however, though I didn’t use it for the picture.  The Cylon was my first Battlestar Galactica toy, a present from my Dad.

There were some other cool figures produced in this line, in particular the Ovion and Daggit were great.  Unfortunately I never owned either.  I would’ve also loved a Lt. Starbuck, but I never saw one.  Ever.

Great show, Battlestar Galactica – I love the original and the rebooted, recent version.

The Black Hole figures

Disney’s The Black Hole, however, was not that great a movie.  At least not when I saw it on TV as a kid.  Maybe I should try it again, to see if I was just too young to dig it.

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The Black Hole figures

The action figures for this film, again 3 3/4″ like Star Wars figures – were multi jointed.  As a result, the human figures were rather frail.  I had a few of them, now reduced to limbless torsos.

No matter – the stars of the show were the robots, and here we have two of the best.  The Sentry Robot (left) was particularly cool, with a holster to hold his pistol.  I have the gun safe, so this one’s probably worth a load on ebay.  Note the joints which are clearly visible.

Also, we have V.I.N.CENT – a cool design for a robot.  Laser guns and big, cute eyes.

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Blake’s 7 Liberator

Blake’s 7 

Not an action figure – this is a Corgi toy of the Liberator spaceship from BBC sci-fi serial, Blake’s 7.  You can see the Corgi stamp on the photo.  Quite a cool design for a TV spaceship.  I quite liked Blake’s 7 when I was a kid, and remember being surprised at the end…

I have lots of fond memories of finding and playing with these toys when I was young.  They’re  great souvenirs of old films, and fun times – and imagination.

Bat Mobile and Captain Americar

As promised, I am introducing some new topics tot the Virtual Hot Tub for 2014.  To begin, an excursion into the world of toys is presented here for you.

For this very first Toy based post, here are some pictures of the Bat Mobile and Captain Americar.  These were produced by Mego in the 1970’s.  Both are from my collection and have been in my possession since the early 80’s.

Mego were one of the leading toy companies of the 1970’s.  Amongst their most popular lines were the World’s Greatest Super Heroes: 8 inch action figures of popular comic book heroes with cloth costumes.  They produced lines of both DC and Marvel characters, meaning you could create epic adventures spanning the properties – such as Thor versus Green Arrow.  Or Hulk versus Batman.  Or anything else you could imagine.

Alas, my Mego super heroes are lost to the mists of time, scattered into broken fragments.  All I have left are these two vehicles, and some great memories.

Bat Mobile

Modelled after the Bat Mobile in the classic Adam West sixties television show, this vehicle can carry both Batman and Robin into action. IMG_2497

Captain Americar

Captain America’s car.  See what they did there?  The cool feature on this vehicle is that Cap’s shield on the front of the car is thrust forward with the flick of the switch, to knock bad guys off their feet.  Or your sister’s Barbie dolls, whatever. IMG_2066

As I no longer have the heroes to go with these vehicles, they may well find their way onto Ebay in the future.  We shall see.

Check out the Mego Museum here.