Offscreen, but Not Forgotten: Mini-Rigs, Body-Rigs, and Other Kenner Vehicles

Tim Veekhoven | October 14, 2013

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“R2-D2, where are you?” and “There’s one! Set for stun!” will probably be two of the best recognized quotes from the Star Wars movies by parents in the ’70s and ’80s. These phrases were among two of the six sounds produced by Kenner’s Imperial Troop Transport vehicle. It was announced recently during the panel of Star Wars Rebels at New York Comic Con that this iconic toy will appear in the upcoming animated television series. So it seems like a perfect timing to have a closer look at the Kenner vehicles that have not (yet?) made it into a Star Wars movie. But, be not mistaken. Several of these vehicles have already flown, hovered or rolled their way into other mediums of the Star Wars franchise.

Imperial Troop Transport
In 1979, Kenner made a bold move and released the Imperial Troop Transport, the first vehicle not to appear in the movie Star Wars (a similar looking vehicle was used by the Rebel Alliance in Echo Base and in Home One’s hangar, but we never saw any Imperials using it). With a cool design, two prisoner immobilization hoods and six authentic sounds from the movie, the vehicle became a fan favorite. It could even hold more than eight figures, so who wouldn’t be interested in having this toy? In a small black and white booklet Kenner explained that this vehicle was used to destroy the Jawa Sandcrawler in Star Wars, a smart decision  pretending that the Troop Transport had just been offscreen. In 1981, Sears released a modified version of the toy called Imperial Cruiser. All the electronics were removed (the Cruiser suddenly had a huge cargo hold) and some of the decorative elements were altered.

While the Imperial Troop Transport may have appeared offscreen during A New Hope, it was noticed by several other licensees over the years. In Triplet Threat, an online adventure of Wizards the Coast, author Jason Fry classified the vehicle as the Santhe/Sienar Technologies RTT (Reconnaissance Troop Transport). Before this adventure was published, the Troop Transport had already made its appearance in four Star Wars Marvel issues! Baron Orman Tagge used them to protect his Omega Frost project on Tatooine (Star Wars # 31 and 32), and the RTT also appeared in a flashback in “The Way of the Wookiee” (Star Wars Weekly UK) and in “Dark Knight’s Devilry” (The Empire Strikes Back Weekly) written by Alan Moore. More recently the vehicle was also seen in the comics Rookies: Rendezvous, in Boba Fett: Overkill, and just last month in Dark Times: A Spark Remains #3. These previous appearances now seem like hors ‘d oeuvres compared to the main dish that will serve us the Troop Transport in Star Wars Rebels.

MLC-3_Catalogue
The inflation and the price of plastic had pushed up the price of Kenner’s vehicles and ships by the time of The Empire Strikes Back. The Kenner department decided to design smaller vehicles for the action figures that could have appeared in the movies, but were just out of sight. Kenner designer Mark Boudreaux started to design a series of Mini-Rigs and the first wave was released in spring 1981. The MLC-3 (Mobile Laser Cannon) was a small, one-man tank used on Hoth by the Rebel Alliance. The MLC-3 featured classic treads, two medium repeating blaster cannons and a removable transparent dome. It was often used for perimeter defense to patrol terrain surrounding large buildings or facilities. The MLC-3 has appeared in the Star Wars Marvel comic “Hoth Stuff” where Wes Janson used the tank to escape from Arns Grimraker’s band of scavengers. This tale was later retconned as a tall tale told to new recruits by Wedge Antilles to explain the “death” of Wes Janson in the comic. The vehicle also got an entry in The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia. The second Mini-Rig in the first wave was the MTV-7 (Multi-Terrain Vehicle). This tracked and open vehicle was used by General Veers’ Blizzard Force to attack Echo Base. The MTV-7 was armed with a Blaster Cannon and had thick, double wheels to provide an excellent tracking on Hoth’s icy landscape. It was also able to configure itself into a lower position to adapt to different environments. It wasn’t until May 2013 that the MTV-7 made another appearance since the initial release of the toy. In Fantasy Flight Games’ expansion Star Wars: The Card Game — A Dark Time, the MTV-7 got its own card. Both the MTV-7 and the MLC-3 were also produced by the infamous Turkish Uzay bootleg line. The final vehicle in the first wave was the PDT-8 (Personnel Deployment Transport). Originally envisioned as a transport vehicle for droids, the PDT-8 was used by the Rebels on Hoth. This often automated open repulsorlift speeder had two large thrusters and two open spaces for transporting people or cargo from one installation to another. The PDT-8 did receive an entry in The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia.


Kenner released two more Mini-Rigs in 1982. The INT-4 (Interceptor) was a repulsorlift scouting craft used by the Galactic Empire on Hoth. The (more or less) enclosed INT-4 had a single laser cannon and stabilizer wings. AT-AT walkers were capable of transporting an INT-4 into battle. Similar looking vehicles appeared on the cover of Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka, but those were based on the cockpit of Kenner’s Scout Walker and not on the INT-4. CAP-2 (Captivator) was the last Mini-Rig to be produced during the era of The Empire Strikes Back. This weird looking walker/repulsorlift vehicle had two grappling arms, a small blaster cannon, and a transparent dome. It was often used by bounty hunters (especially by Bossk) to capture their bounties. The CAP-2 featured a large claw at the back to capture prisoners. It also had two special ‘suction’ feet for spying on its victims.

AST-5
Kenner continued the tradition of Mini-Rigs during the release of Return of the Jedi. In the first wave we find the AST-5 (Armored Sentinel Transport), a scouting vehicle from Jabba’s fleet used to defend the perimeters of his Palace. The AST-5 had two fully rotating laser cannons and an enclosed cockpit. It also had the capability to place itself into an upright sentinel position. Since the screens inside the AST-5 showed ships in outer space, it’s quite possible that the AST-5 was able to enter the exosphere of a planet or that it was able to travel through space for a short amount of time. One of Jabba’s best pilots, Wooof, was known to fly an AST-5 occasionally. The second Mini-Rig in the first wave was the ISP-6 (Imperial Shuttle Pod). This single-seat Imperial Shuttle with two laser cannons was obviously based on its larger cousin, the Lambda-class T-4a Shuttle (which Kenner released in 1984). It would be a safe bet to assume that the ISP-6 was also manufactured by Cygnus Spaceworks and Sienar Fleet Systems.

ISP-6
Endor_Forest_Ranger
The second wave of Return of the Jedi Mini-Rigs was released in 1984. The first vehicle was the Endor Forest Ranger, a rather strange looking repulsorlift vehicle used by the Rebel Alliance on Endor. It featured gyroscopic wings and had one large blaster cannon on each side. This vehicle made a totally unexpected appearance in a comic from Marvel’s X-Men / New Mutants (“The Asgardian Wars”). The Desert Sail Skiff was a one-man scaled down version of Jabba’s Luxury Sail Barge. It featured a sail, a rotating driver’s seat, two steering fins, and a small gangplank to launch prisoners to their doom. The vehicle was later named Desert Sail-20 Skiff in Geonosis and the Outer Rim by Wizards of the Coast. This Skiff didn’t appear in Episode VI, but its spin-off model, the Floater-935 (with no sail), was present in the episode of Droids called The New King.

Desert Sail-20 Skiff

Body-Rigs

Return of the Jedi marked the end of the Mini-Rigs, but in 1985 Kenner released three Body-Rigs (Single Body Transport Vehicles). Body-Rigs were vehicles even more compact than their predecessors. The Body-Rigs were released on a blister in the US, but boxed (Tri-logo) in Europe. The Security Scout was a light and open repulsorlift vehicle with a large rudder and two rotating blaster cannons. It was used on Endor by the Rebel Alliance. The (One-Man) Sand Skimmer was another small repulsorlift used by Jabba’s Skiff Guards. It was seen in “The New King,” an episode in the second story arc of Droids. The Sand Skimmer was used in a hilarious skirmish on Tammuz-an between the goons of Ko Zatec-Cha and the allies of Mon Julpa, including R2-D2, C-3PO, Jann Tosh, and Jessica Meade. It even made a second appearance in Droids. In the episode “The Frozen Citadel” the Sand Skimmer was used by Gaff, the Kobok henchman of Governor Bisad Koong. The last Body-Rig was called the Imperial Sniper. This vehicle had an open seat, two small blaster cannons, and a grappling hook. It was used by the Imperial troops on Endor. Although it was named Imperial Sniper, the same vehicle was already in use on Tammuz-an in 15 BBY. Just like the Sand Skimmer, it was present in the repulsorlift scuffle in The New King.

Sand Skimmer Droids
When their vintage Star Wars reign was drawing its last breath, Kenner released three vehicles that were never seen in any of the movies because they were based on their appearance in Droids and Ewoks. The ATL (Air-to-Land) Interceptor appeared in the first story arc of Droids where it was used by the Fromm Gang to protect their Trigon One weapons satellite (“Escape Into Terror”). Originally conceived by Kenner as the Death Star Defender for their Return of the Jedi line, it got resurrected as the ATL and used in Droids. West End Games’ DarkStryder Campaign renamed it as the (New Republic) Defender Starfighter, a design that was derived from the older ATL. The link with the New Republic may also explain the appearance of the B-wing pilot figure on the box of the toy. The Side Gunner was a two-part open repulsorlift vehicle that appeared in “The Trigon Unleashed” and in “The New King.” According to photo-art on the box, this vehicle was also used by the Galactic Empire. The last vehicle is the large Ewok Battle Wagon (released in the Power of the Force line) that appeared in the episode of Ewoks called “Wicket’s Wagon.” The Battle Wagon was a war vehicle created by Wicket’s great grandfather, Erpham Warrick, to help the Ewoks in their eternal feud against the Duloks.

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If Kenner had continued to produce Star Wars toys they were planning on releasing a lot more vehicles that didn’t appear in the movies, such as a Sandspeeder or the SRV-1 Vehicle. Another planned toy could have been placed between the forward mandibles of the Millennium Falcon. That vehicle was later named F-LER (Freight-Loading External Rover) in the Millennium Falcon Owner’s Workshop Manual by Ryder Windham.

We may not have seen Mini-Rigs, Body-Rigs, or the Imperial Troop Transport in the movies. But that doesn’t mean that they have been forgotten. Some of the designs were used in Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO and several vehicles have been mentioned, renamed, or seen in official publications. The crowning achievement is the appearance of the Imperial Troop Transport in the upcoming Star Wars Rebels. And if J.J. Abrams played with Star Wars Kenner toys when he was a kid, who knows what else we might expect.

Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) is president, editor-in-chief, and cofounder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub. He’s an administrator for Yodapedia and has written or expanded the backgrounds of Swilla Corey, Tzizvvt, Wam Lufba and Maxiron Agolerga.

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