The Least-Plausible G.I. Joe and Cobra Vehicles

gi joe van

To be fair, every vehicle you see below is more interesting than the white van G.I. Joe used in G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.

Look, I loved G.I. Joe figures and vehicles as a kid. But I also look back at them as an adult with a more critical eye. Not in a mean way, but it cracks me up to think of how these soldiers and their machines sometimes do not fit into any sort of reality. To be fair, site owner Vincent rarely agrees with me. But I will make my argument with some of the vehicles that I think make the least sense. Vincent will offer his counter-argument and you can decide for yourself. Harmless fun or borderline-drug induced insanity?


gi joe wolverine

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Chris: I have two problems with this. One: a woman is driving it. No, I’m kidding. The first is that the cockpit offers no protection at all. You have to sit with your body and head completely exposed and that’s generally a no-no with a tank. Second: those missiles are at most a couple feet above the driver’s head. They’d be deaf and singed within minutes of engaging Cobra.

Vincent: As someone who pointed these issues out originally, I can’t help but agree. I do like the realistic styling cues of the vehicle. It’s when G.I. Joe tried to keep things plausible looking in the early years, which is my favorite Joe era. One thing we’re going to have to give a conceit to is that the drivers are generally exposed because it’s easier to put a little toy soldier in and out of the vehicle when he or she is not all covered up, less plastic too. But that won’t stop us from making fun of it if this vehicle existed in real life.


gi joe weapon transport

Chris: Aw, this one doesn’t even get a cool name. But the real issue is why do you need a go-cart to carry a bomb into battle. Those usually get loaded in a plane at the base. And they had to give it its own little wagon with a trailer hitch? I also am very amused at the gun placement right in the middle of the driver’s sight line. He doesn’t know where he’s going but that’s okay. He has reflective danger stripes along his fender so everyone can watch out for him.

Vincent: The Weapon Transport is the perfect example of the fine line G.I. Joe had to ride, especially in its early years. They wanted to have realistic military vehicles, but every vehicle had to have some guns to make it more “fun”. I really dig this thing as a prop in G.I. Joe dioramas (I have one), but as a toy on its own it’s pretty weak.


gi joe manta

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Chris: I seriously question the need for any sort of windsurfing device by the military, especially one that’s in camouflage. Camo for the jungle, not the water. But the biggest problem is that there is a MISSILE loaded on the sail. Not a torpedo, a flat-out missile. That might be just a bit hard to aim when the surf’s up.

Vincent:  I don’t want to be the guy that squashes comedy, but there is camouflage on the water. That being said this is a pretty silly vehicle only in that G.I. Joe would have to have enough wind surfing in order to have their own military vehicle for it. And it has a gun. Still, it was one of those toys that a kid could hope to get as a birthday gift from a cousin or maybe if they saved up enough Flag points to get one in the mail from Hasbro.


gi joe hiss tank

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Chris: The H.I.S.S. looks great. Functionally? It’s a death trap. The gunner has to sit completely exposed. No protection at all. Then the tank driver sits behind a glass canopy. Tanks are generally big targets and need something a little sturdier than glass to be effective.

Vincent: People try to explain away the canopy by saying it’s some super strong substance, but no clear substance is going to substituent for plate armor like on a real tank. The only hope that a HISS crew has is that they’re faster than any Joe tank and their guns can do anything to Joe’s armor. Otherwise, these guys are toast. Even as a kid I thought it was weird that this was a “tank” that lacks a big main cannon. Maybe it was designed for crushing cars and shooting Joes on foot more than tank vs. tank battles.


gi joe havoc

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Chris: I guess G.I. Joe saw the H.I.S.S. and decided to show off how manly they are by basically doubling down on the problems with Cobra’s tank. They put their General in a little chair on top so that he can be taken out in a New York minute. Then the drivers get to sit in a an even more exposed glass canopy and they have to lie down on their chests so that they can barely see what they’re doing. Oh, and the driver is wearing a Confederate flag belt buckle and hat. It’s a safe bet that asshole has a white hood stored in the H.A.V.O.C., too.

Vincent: Chris, it’s not about racisim, it’s about historical pride… or something. Anyway, this was when G.I. Joe just went off the rails with realism. Still, it was a fun vehicle to play with when me and my cousins were kids, especially considering it’s not just a vehicle, but there’s a vehicle within a vehicle. One of the most confusing aspects about this whole business is this: So that’s the driver on the top? Because that’s the way the comics made it seem. It would make more sense if he just controlled those big cannons.


gi joe razorback

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Chris: Destro at one point decided to form his own faction, separate from Cobra. And he decided he wanted in on the paper mache tank business. But this time he at least gave the gunner a glass bubble. Then the tank’s wheels push together and it pops uuuup in the air to be a little more exposed. This is basically the evil Popemobile.

Vincent: Another vehicle that doesn’t make sense, but it has a cool sci fi design. You also have to give Larry Hama a lot of credit for making these ridiculous things seem even remotely dangerous in the comics. The dude was a veteran that saw real combat and these toy designers are giving him toys to use that wouldn’t last a second in real life.


gi joe battleforce 2000

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Chris: Battle Force 2000 was G.I. Joe’s faction that got high-tech weaponry. Each of their vehicles (there were six) had a part that could separate and connect into the above “fortress.” It can charitably be called a hot mess. It’s a rectangle they could sit on. One big gun, a few smaller ones. And a bubble to… sit in? This is less effective than if all 6 members just sat behind a rock for cover.

Vincent: One of the worst parts about this thing is they don’t really connect. You just arrange them in a square and have lots of fun. I guess. I was already aging out of G.I. Joe a bit when these things came out.


gi joe mamba

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Chris: For the record, this was one of my favorite vehicles as a kid. The rotor blades spun through one another and it just looked appealing. But thinking about this logically, if one of those rotors were to slow down for even a moment – say, from an air pocket – the rotors collide and that thing DROPS. Who engineered this one? Croc Master?

Vincent: Just think for a moment about how pointless the other cockpits are except for separating in attacking. And even then, they are probably comparatively useless to vehicles like the Fang helicopter or the Firebat. Why spend money wisely on specialty vehicles when you can have crazy contraptions that can do multiple duties, all of them poorly?


gi joe rolling thunder

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Chris: I’ve already mentioned how I’m not a fan of the glass canopies or exposed gunner emplacements. But that’s not the biggest problem with this one. It’s the fact that this gives G.I. Joe TWO ICBMs. Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. That’s going way past giving G.I. Joe tanks, jets or even a bomber. The amount of firepower to put in the hands of guys who dress up like baseball players and futuristic cameramen (Hardball and Scoop are both shown in the artwork above) is utterly terrifying.

Vincent:  One of my favorite all time G.I. Joe vehicles, in fact it makes 9 on my top 10 list. It was so fun to play with this thing. My Cobra forces were insanely powerful, so the Joes needed this kind of firepower. Plus civilians didn’t exist in that play universe. It was total war. But in real life, yeah they go from a “highly trained, special mission force” to being more powerful than any other branch of the military.


gi joe dominator

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Chris: G.I. Joe every once in a while thinks it’s M.A.S.K. This is Destro’s Dominator, a tank with helicopter rotor blades. Sorry, but a tank is not getting off the ground.

Vincent: I had this. Enjoyed playing with it. Knew it was fucking ridiculous. I mean, it really says something when a kid knows that this thing would never work.


gi joe general

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Chris: Naming a fortress General sounds like a recipe for confusion but that’s a separate issue. This is one of G.I. Joe’s many, many rolling fortresses. Think of the amount of weight this beast is expected to move. With the amount of money this thing spends on gas, we could probably end homelessness back home.

Vincent: There’s no place this thing could drive. “Oh but what about off road?” Oh sure, if you want this thing going anywhere there are things like hills, rivers, and forests I’m sure that it’ll do just fine. And how do you transport something this big?


gi joe pogo

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Chris: I got this as a kid and I was pissed when I realized the toy’s legs were just one piece of plastic. It had no spring to it at all. Its whole gimmick was that it hopped around so that good guys couldn’t get a bead on it with their weapons. Fine, but it probably turns the pilot’s brains to mush within seconds.

Vincent: I guess I loved all the weird vehicles when I was a kid, because I also loved the Pogo. Just a neat design. I guess maybe this is due to me being way more into Star Wars, so I embraced crazy sci fi shit. Regardless, this thing is nutso. I’d be constantly vomiting in this thing.


gi joe star brigade

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Chris: At this point, you have to suspect that General Hawk is blackmailing the president. Who gives him a giant robot designed to fight in space? No one was willing to speak up and let him know that most crime happens down on the soil? If Cobra wants to send a satellite into space, we have missiles for that. This was just Hawk living out some strange childhood wish-fulfillment.

Vincent: Cobra only had like 1 or 2 Space vehicles. This is a crazy escalation on G.I. Joe’s part.


gi joe dictator

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Chris: OK, an armored motorcycle I can sort of understand. But then it pops up in the middle to give the driver another few feet of being able to see forward. I think this would make the vehicle much more difficult to balance. It would be like riding one of those old-timey bicycles with the massive wheel and your friend had to help you get on it with a ladder. Plus, you’re only more exposed up there. Supposedly it detaches into a jet pod but I see no possible way of steering that so it’s more like Cobra realized the top kept breaking off so they slapped a thruster on the back and told the driver it was an “upgrade.”

Vincent: I’ve got no real opinions on this thing. It was yet another attempt at making a cheapish toy that failed. I think at this point I kept wishing they’d go back to making more realistic looking tanks and such.


gi joe dino hunter

Chris: I refuse to believe G.I. Joe ever had to deal with dinosaurs. Despite the artwork, I just don’t buy it. Maybe it’s a Dr. Mindbender robot or hologram. But even if there were dinosaurs, I think that falls way out of G.I. Joe’s jurisdiction. They’re a military force tasked with counter-terrorism. Animals aren’t terrorists. Who did they hire as their animal behaviorist? Did they really think that clashing colors and exposed roll cages were the way to go?

Vincent: I believe I was fully out of G.I. Joe at this point. I finally learned what “disillusion” meant.


gi joe parasite

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Chris: Finally, we have this hunk of ideas that didn’t match. A gun in the front that lets a driver sit completely exposed, as usual. Some guns facing backwards with nowhere to operate them from. It’s a military transport. That has the pilot completely out in the open. And then? They put a catapult on top. Because catapults are so well known for their accuracy when in motion. Cobra, stick a fork in it. You’re done.

Vincent: I’m going to disagree with this one… only because this sucker has potential. Why? It’s one of the few Cobra vehicles that can transport troops inside it and they are completely covered. Okay, it makes no sense that the driver is exposed AND he controls the main cannon that’s also a turret. However, I took some time with this sucker and repainted it (and removed the dumb ass catapult).

GI Joe Cobra Parasite

Chris: Well, you certainly made it live up to the G.I. Joe toy art ideal: a ton of guys standing on the back of the vehicle.


gi joe sharc

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Chris: Well, G.I. Joe found a way to make a vehicle intended for two environments that could realistically not function well in either one. As a submersible, those guns wouldn’t work because there’s no combustion possible. Also, the clunky shape would create a lot of drag. And then it’s supposed to fly? With those little wings? I don’t see how science would allow it.

Vincent: This one always confused me when I was a kid. I couldn’t believe that it would work. It’s funny that it was released when Joe toys were skewing more realistic.


gi joe mobile command center

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Chris: Aw, this guy doesn’t even get a cool code name. How ridiculous is this vehicle? It’s so silly that I’m 90% sure it never showed up in either the comic book or the cartoon. They just couldn’t find a semi-plausible way for it to work. First, great it can probably only move around in the desert if it’s completely flat. That doesn’t help with mobility. Second, I feel bad for the driver, Steam Roller, who was probably just the world’s best truck driver and G.I. Joe drafted him to drive this thing around maybe once every two years. But mostly, when it unfolds and stacks itself into three levels, it looks like it’s about to make itself tip over. It’s not going to be hard for Cobra to incapacitate this thing. Let’s just ignore the fact that the entire Joe team is standing out in the open in it.

Vincent: As a toy, pretty cool. As a base all it would take is one high altitude bombing from Cobra and the Joes would be vaporized.

  • Mark

    As oddly designed as the H.A.V.O.C. is it still seems like it would have been a fun toy. I remember really wanting one but the shop I got most of my G.I. Joe stuff from never had one in. My Mum and Dad only got me the normal looking vehicles like the Mauler, Sky Striker and Stinger etc. The only odd vehicle I had was Zartan’s Swamp Skier Chameleon.

  • I only got mine in 2013 at a Joe Con. I have two cousins that are brothers and they each had one, so it was double the fun for them. I played with them enough where I really didn’t need mine own.

  • ThreeOranges

    I had a few of these … most importantly, the Mobile Command Center. It was glorious. There’s a slide on the back, and I had a weird obsession with slides as a kid.

  • Mark

    I came very close to buying a MISB Sky Patrol H.A.V.O.C. a couple years back but my collection was taking up to much room to allow it. I should have bought a loose one and did it in Tiger Force paint like my Night Attack Copter.

  • Chris Piers

    A slide! I love it.

  • Skewed_View

    Great list, it’s so much fun to read through these and have all the ridiculous design elements that I willfully ignored pointed out to me.
    I am still really disappointed we didn’t get that white van in the rise of cobra toyline. As far as the Cross Country goes, I guess since I live in the south seeing a guy wearing a confederate flag doesn’t automatically make me assume he’s in the klan, but it typically means he’s a biker, redneck, white trash, or some combination of the three.

  • ThreeOranges

    Let’s pretend it was called a “tactical vertical deployment chute.”

  • Chris Piers

    Sounds like somebody’s angling for a job with Hasbro.

  • Chris Piers

    The best of the best for G.I. Joe!

    But yeah, I owned six of these. Vincent probably had them all.

  • I had 3 growing up, then bought yours and got some at flea markets/a GI Joe con so now I have…. 11 of these.

  • dan

    nice job everyone, this cracked me up a lot while taking me down memory lane.
    ps: i cant believe in the havoc discussion nobody pointed out that there seems to be some kind of hovercraft that can separate out!

  • Chris Piers

    I’ll buy into the sci-fi to some degree with G.I. Joe. Of course, that tiny little hovercraft is unlikely to cause much damage and it sure looks dangerous.

  • Ian Lindsay

    The SHARC was only supposed to be an underwater craft, but play-testing with kids saw them flying it around like an airplane, so they gave it a dual mission. Thank six year olds imagination for the implausibility of that.

    If you want to analyze the most useless Joe vehicle, it would have to be the FLAK cannon. An immobile anti aircraft/artillery cannon owned by a military team that’s supposed to be quickly deployed anywhere in the world.

  • The Cobra Mamba has real-world counterparts that are named intermeshing rotor helicopters. It looks like that helicopter design is more plausible that you think it is.

  • Anthony

    If I remember right, (Via the canon) the Armor Bot was actually stolen from Cobra, which is why it had the Cobra logos that seemed crossed out.

  • Zarco Rey

    Important to look at the HISS acronym. HIGH SPEED SENTRY. It’s not a main battle tank at. It relies on speed. There’s real tracked vehicles with that tread style and they are quite fast, though the HISS would be slower with the weapons and some armor. The comic rationalized the design by have Cobra able to transport them around the country in regular semi trailers for surprise attacks.

    HAVOC driver is in the canopy, that’s were Cross Country is on the artwork, cartoons used either position for driving, maybe the comic did, too.

    I can’t defend the Destros Dominator, it was a bad tank and a weak copter and worst of all, too flimsy as a toy.

    Read the paragraph on Dictator’s package, it explains it elevates so Overlord can look over his subjugated victims. Yes, the jet pod makes no sense, but Hasbro was stuck on the removable vehicle within a vehicle concept. Starting with Zartan’s Chameleon, Hasbro paired new cobra characters with implausible personal vehicles (Serpentor’s air chariot is the most iconic).

    MCC did appear in the comic. Not the cartoon, because only a handful of 1987 characters appeared in the animated movie and the next cartoon made by Dic didn’t debut until 1989.