Julian H. Betancourt
Weathered and rusted by hundreds of sandstorms, slowly moving through desert dunes and dusty rocks, beaten down by twin scorching suns, the nearly twenty meters high, ancient Sandcrawler approaches. It carries within its huge interior salvaged junk of all kinds, spare parts and metal processors. But most importantly, the vehicle holds prisons for hundreds of lost and thrown out droids.
Diminutive creatures with glowing eyes, covered in dark brown robes, scrap metal scavengers known as Jawas who specialize in rebuilding droids, guide the Sandcrawler through the arid Tatooine terrain. They've been collecting parts from many crashed spaceships covering the desert landscapes. The once a year salvage swap meet will soon take place, and the Jawas and their monstrous size vehicle will be there to trade droids and offer real bargains while trying to swindle the unwary buyer every time the opportunity arises....
The Vintage Sandcrawler was offered back in 1979-80 under the Kenner logo and toward the end of the Star Wars run. It was made available to the American market in a Star Wars presentation box. A Canadian version of the box, sporting The Empire Strikes Back logo was also sold but such version wasn't released to the American market.
The scavenger Jawas transport was one of the most anticipated toys in the 70's for any Star Wars crazed kid. Unfortunately it cost way too much to even ask Santa to get you one. In a world dominated by $10.00 Tie fighters and X-wings a $30.00 Sandcrawler was nothing short of just a dream for many.
The toy was radio controlled but unlike the electronic toys of today, with ample range and maneuverability, the toys of three decades ago were very limited in range and operation. If you were one of the lucky kids to get your hands on a new Sandcrawler, soon you were to discover that its remote action guided by a 2-channel wireless radio and a 20 feet range, did not offer that much control after all.
Once the button on the remote was pressed, and helped by three working wheels, the Sandcrawler would go in a continuos forward motion until the button was pressed again. Doing this would made the vehicle back up in a circle and point in your desired direction, then the button could be released and its forward motion would resume. But despite its limited movement, the remote activated feature was indeed a neat addition to its design and a sad departure from its newest version, as we will later see.
A main complain found in the Vintage release dealt with the side door featuring the step ramp into the interior. The hinges providing the opening down motion for this piece weren't strong enough to support heavy play and would soon wear out or brake. In turn, this made it difficult for vintage collectors to find a Sandcrawler with an undamaged door. Was this problem taken care of for its newest release? Soon you'll find out.
Here is a list of parts as well as features this 16" long '79 Tatooine model presented:
TODAY'S SANDCRAWLER: DELAY AND CANCELLATION
Twenty-four years later and at a cost of almost $30.00 more, Hasbro reintroduces Tatooine's giant vehicle, using the same old mold yet updating its look by adding an all new weathered paint scheme and including two Jawas and an RA-7 Droid. This time around the Sandcrawler has received limited production status and has been tagged as a one year exclusive purchase, available through online retailers and comic book stores. In almost three decades since its original release, the vehicle had only been produced once, in a much smaller scale, as part of Galoob Action Fleet line of vehicles.
The long but narrow in shape Sandcrawler had been rumored to come out for almost two years but its release took longer than expected for several reasons ....
Originally, and as stated in Insider magazine early 2004, the vehicle was meant as a Target U. S exclusive. However by April of the same year all hell broke loose when The Private Universe, a British website, announced that the Sandcrawler had been canceled by Hasbro. Collectors at first did not take the news seriously, claiming it was probably incorrect. According to Hasbro's Consumer Affairs hotline, which I called, the Sandcrawler was scheduled to be released in June '04 with a SRP of $33.00. But they were wrong; the item had in fact, been canceled. Target apparently passed up the Sandcrawler as an exclusive in favor of another item or perhaps fearing sales weren't going to be strong enough for this rather non-action oriented vehicle. Even its picture was removed from the Cargo Bay. Hasbro's hotline was simply working with outdated information. The '"crawler" was put in limbo, risking never to reach collectors' hands.
In May of 2004 and after being questioned, Hasbro finally came up and said that the Insider's magazine article was two months old and that in fact Target had decided not to carry the vehicle. Hasbro claimed they were going into discussions with other retailers and were hopeful they would find a home for the Sandcrawler. They mentioned that if a place was found for the toy in the U. S then it would be sold in other countries as well, but if a place wasn't found the vehicle most likely wouldn'd be sold anywhere.
After talking again in early May to a Consumer Affairs representative, I was told then that "the best way to describe it's status is POSTPONED" and they were shopping around for someone to pick it up.
Polls and petitions got carried on by several websites, and collectors opinions were posted showing great interest and support as well as strong comments about the Sandcrawler's status. It became clear, not only to Hasbro but to retailers as well, that there was a heavy demand for the toy. On May 12, 2004, news started to spread out like wild fire pointing out that Diamond Comics Distributors was in the process of soliciting the long anticipated vehicle to their wholesalers and it would be their exclusive. Finally the Sandcrawler was going to be made available, this time at selected online shops and direct market retailers with an anticipated retail price of $59.99, almost $27.00 more than originally planned.
SCULPT AND PAINT APPLICATION
As previously mentioned the Sancrawler is basically a rehash of its vintage counterpart. The mold is the same and while some nice additions to its overall look were added, the vehicle got stripped down of some truly important features, too much to everyone's disappointment.
There's a good amount of detail and outstanding paint application around the rear where the "steam powered nuclear fusion engines" are located. The different shades of black and brown paint with hints of gray and very faded blue, bring back alive the somewhat dull look of its previous release and gives it a grubby look. Hoses look like hoses, pipes look like so. It is truly incredible to see what detailed painting of any given area can do in favor of the mold and how much reality can be achieved. Same paint details are spread out throughout the vehicle's exterior enhancing in a significant way previously overlooked grooves and bolts, giving texture to the parts. My only disappointment as far, as paint goes, deals with the "brush on" dirt effect around the vehicles cabin which does look a bit sloppy and unreal.
A change to the interior can now be seen where the old battery compartment used to be. In its place Hasbro has turned it into a "hidden" chamber cover by a plastic panel.
Although the Sandcrawler's interior is well rendered with different levels connected by small staircases, its orange side panel or ramp door greatly differs in color from the rest of the vehicle, making it look out of place. I can't figure out why they didn't emphasize the paint application in this area to match the rest of the mold.
SCULPT : THE SOFT PLASTIC ISSUE
One noticeable difference between this updated version and the Vintage one is its weight. In part due to the lack of electronics which obviously makes it lighter, but also the soft plastic used in its construction plays a roll here.
Take for instance the door and steps and also the outer hull body. All of these parts feel almost as if they were pushing the boundaries between rubber and plastic. Occasionally when the main hatch or side door is opened, and due to the soft nature of the plastic, it causes the steps to pop off. And out of the two Sandcrawlers I inspected, both of them the side hatch would not reach the ground.
I'm seriously hoping the soft plastic used won't make certain parts sag nor lose its intended shape, otherwise we are looking at one deformed vehicle within a few years from now. I'm not trying to scare anyone with the previous comment but based on what we've seen happening to a good number of POTJ AT-ST where the soft plastic used on the legs has caused the vehicle to hardly remain standing, one is to wonder if certain parts of the Sandcrawler will suffer negative effects as well.
Other parts of the Sandcrawler however, such as its bottom, treads and interiors are made of normal hard plastic.
SCULPT: THE NO WHEELS/NO STICKERS ISSUE
This is in fact the biggest downer the OTC Sandcrawler brings. Despite its lack of electronics which, although not being too "out of this world" in the first release at least they provided play, now Hasbro has completely eliminated the wheels on this vehicle, creating a huge piece of motionless plastic. The treads are there ..BUT NO WHEELS, no movement as far as turning front treads, either!!
A new hollowed plastic bottom panel has been placed where the tank-like treads are attached, completely getting rid of the wheels and stopping the front treads from turning. The panel sports a stamped date of 2004. Seems to me instead of updating the vehicles features they actually worked hard to outdate them.
Last, Hasbro left out the stickers which had been part of the original release. This new version offers absolutely none. Thus if you want to dress you the vehicle and give the cockpit some gadgetry, your best bet is to look around for some sticker reproductions from the vintage version. A great place to do this is right here http://www.erikstormtrooper.com/vehiclestickers.htm#vintage where Erik has a great array of vintage reproduction stickers from a lot of vehicles.
FEATURES: HOW MUCH PLAY CAN WE GET?
After reading through the previous explanation, it won't take much for anyone to figure out the Sandcrawler offers very little playability. Besides the two hatches (roof and side) that open up to get inside the vehicle, the underside manual elevator that lifts, actually seems to be the only feature presenting some sort of interesting activity. But then again this one piece can hardly accommodate astromech droids.
The Vintage version allowed for the elevator to be pulled up with an astromech droid inside, then it could be turned around letting the droid enter the cargo hold area of the vehicle. The problem now is that since the elevator was left untouched, its size is the same as the original. This in turn makes it difficult for the legs of the wider stance modern astromech sculpts to fit in with ease, obstructing the way to turn the elevator around. For instance the R3 unit from the Hoth pack does not fit in.
ACTION FIGURES: WHAT ARE WE GETTING?
Again, Hasbro decided to go cheap on us and instead of issuing at least one new sculpt, we are being fed with three rehashes: Two Jawas and an RA-7 DROID.
JAWAS: The two Jawas are EXACTLY the same sculpt as the ones offered with POTF2 a few years ago. Even their paint job was left untouched. The only thing Hasbro did to them was take away their ionization blasters thus these little scavengers are now completely unarmed.
RA-7 DROID: Another rehash but this one suffered a significant color change. The figure is in fact the POTF2's black Death Star Droid which I believe was a Fan Club exclusive sometime ago. The black paint of the droid is now gone and covering the body is a cheap and inaccurate looking layer of gold-like paint. Although RA-7 had been shown at toy shows throughout the year in both silver and gold versions, Hasbro opted for the less accurate color. The paint truly isn't well applied and the droid looks somewhat dull when compared by today's paint standards.
ACTION FIGURES: ARMS. TWO OF A KIND
When our friends over at The Jawa posted pictures of an error dealing with the Sandcrawler's RA-7 Droid, we became one more time surprised. The figure shown at their site was mistakenly packed with TWO RIGHT ARMS, making the droid look extremely awkward.
Well, short after The Jawa's post, I ended up finding myself another error with the same figure. While visiting Orlando's Once Upon a Toy store in Downtown Disney, where the exclusive Sandcrawler is being sold. On their shelves there were about 12 Sandcrawlers and out of those twelve, three had the error shown at The Jawa. On the other hand (or should I say arm), the one I picked (the one in the picture here) has two LEFT arms, instead ... TWO LEFT ARMS !! Apparently this 2-left-arm error is less common, as it was the only one the store had and no reports have been received from anyone else finding it.
These errors come to accent even further, how little attention to quality control Hasbro paid to this toy. For collectors gathering variants and errors toys, like myself, it is a cool purchase. However, I can understand the rest of you out there getting upset. After all, the figure being a rehash and inaccurately painted gold, now shows up with wrong arms. Way to go big H!
With so many things missing, one is to wonder whether this was a good reason for retailers not to want to carry this toy. After all, What's the play value on a vehicle that cannot roll and how attractive could it be to others besides collectors? Hasbro certainly took great advantage of existing tools for this second generation Sandcrawler, and sure enough they could've done lots to improve the mold. Instead we got a vehicle with very poor collectible value, being nothing like the toys from the past where mechanical features and moving parts created neat toys serving as the roots of toy collecting.
Honestly I feel we are paying quite too much for a product that has seen minimal improvement and to which most of its noticeable features have been stripped down. There's no remote action, no rolling mechanism, no stickers to be applied, soft plastic construction, rehashed and badly painted figures. When looked at it this way the $60.00 tag feels as a monumental task to our already suffering wallet.
So makes this vehicle sell? Two reasons. One, the fact the vehicle was offered so many years ago, made it a scarce, tough sculpt to find. Collectors have been wanting it for years, whether to complete dioramas, create some new ones or simply to have it displayed as what it is, an iconic piece in the Star Wars universe. Although the price is above what it should be, we are willing to pay it and Hasbro knows it.
And reason number two. Despite the lack of active features and poor materials used for its design, the vehicle does sport a realistic appearance and works well as a display piece thanks to the superb paint job and weathering effect. This is a plus among collectors always seeking for authentic looking pieces.
My advice to you is this: If you have some extra cash laying around and want to spend it on it, Go for it! You'll be happy with its new look. But expect it to be just what it has turned out to be, a CHEAP TOY with a HIGH PRICE TAG.