Monday, 21 September 2009

The Woolworths Explorers

These appeared in Woolworths circa 1994 also and were marketed as Explorer III. They also appeared/disappeared very quickly meaning that they never sold well either, It wasn't long before Woolies were selling these for as little as £2.00. These vehicles are a bit strange as it was very clear that these were re-releases of the original BHS range as all three of them had the original stickers and the EX4 Space explorer mission patch on the main body, very strange. Despite being labeled EX2,3,4 there was no re-released EX1. Moving on to the packaging it was very apparent that these were a intended as a cheap release due to the bad art work and quite frankly bad packaging, however it wasn't all bad. If you looked at the back of the box you came across a diagram of how to hook up two units using a tow bar, here you can see another two different types of explorer! Where these came from and what they were sold as no one knows.I suspect that this may have been the American version of the toy even perhaps the original toys that we never seen in the UK. It is possible that the BHS range was not the first and that they bought the toys and sold them as Explorer 12s in the UK. The reason behind this thinking is that the Woolies and BHS range were all embossed with 'Supertoys Inc 1986', I don't remember seeing them until 1988 so it 
could have been a failed toy range in the US that was sold to foreign interests. To date these boxes are the only ones clearly marked SUPERTOYS on the front and back so its clear that the Woollies range came straight form the original manufacturer. No trailers were ever released for this range from 
what I can tell.

Tandy's GO - Mars Mission (Remold)

These appeared in Tandy circa 1994 and were one of a kind, they were of the rounded cab design and came with a trailer included in the box which featured the mechanical grab.

 Interesting differences were that the rubber tires were removed and replaced with caterpillar tracks. This meant that the wheels were redesigned and given grooves for the track teeth to sit in. Another interesting difference with this model was that the trailer sat very close behind the primary unit AND linked into the all wheel drive system. This was very different as the trailer was not connected to the all wheel drive in the original models even though it did have the provision it was missing the drive transfer cog, the tow bar was different also which made the original trailers sit a good 1 cm behind the unit.

This version also came with a front wheel attachment enable the vehicle to climb over objects. This was never part of the original series and for what I know was unique to Tandy's version, this leads me to believe that the Explorers were marketed as something else abroad (More on this to come) as I don't see Tandy redesigning the mold just for one release, also this model is the only one not be have been made by Supertoys Inc (A US company) and is simply embossed 'Made In China'. These models were imported by a company called InterTAN.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Base Station

The base station was less impressive compared to the vehicles but it was a nice accessory. I have an incomplete one in a damaged box somewhere in the attic. Recently I managed to acquire one fully complete and boxed base off eBay! The box itself is in excellent condition and even came with the original assembly leaflet. BHS in Glasgow used to have one of these in the center of a display area and would have numerous vehicles driving about the display all day. The thing was that Explorers couldn't turn and they would end up trying to drive up a wall which would burn out the motors. These were running all day and I'm sure BHS went through a ton of them!

The Second Batch RE1 & ME1

These two are something of a mystery as I don't know anything about them and never seen any other merchandise books etc. They are part of the official Explorer 12 fleet but I don't ever remember seeing them in BHS at all. I first discovered RE1 when my Dads friend gave one he had picked up from somewhere unboxed way back in 1994. It was unboxed but the reason I knew this was part of the official range was that It came with it own little patch on the sides of the vehicle. The immediate trailer was novel as it featured an azimuthing cab in which a small figure could be placed and a winch. At the end of the winch cable was an adapter which could be clipped into the front or back of another explorer, this was to rescue Explorers that a had fallen down pits or such like.

ME1 is of the flat cab type and is very similar to the Polar Explorer except it has a medical bay mounted on to the top of the immediate trailer which is really nothing more than a kind of cab with a clear canopy. This is also an official vehicle as it has it own patch and the box is featured the Project Sword blog on this site

Again nothing is known about any other merchandise associated with this model, books etc or the story behind it. I suspect that there are actually another two models out there of unknown configuration, the reason behind this train of thought is that the first batch was released as four vehicles so its only logical to concluded that the second batch was the same. Also I cant figure out where the '12' fits in the Explorer story, I suspect that twelve vehicles may have been planned should the toys prove a success. Sadly this was not the case as they seem to have disappeared overnight. If you have any information on vehicles or the other two 'phantom' which I believe maybe out there then do please get in touch. I am also interested to find out if these two had books and other merchandise out like the first batch.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The First Batch - Terrain Explorer EX1

The Terrain Explorer was of the flat cab type and if I remember correctly was relatively rare as I only remember ever seeing a few ever on sale, at least in BHS Glasgow. I never had one of these when I was younger but my Dad picked up a battered non functional chassis from a car boot sale a few years back. EX1 was orange in colour and was equipped with a Mechanical Excavator on its immediate trailer. Trailers available were the Dumper Trailer which was a modified version of the Mobile Command Trailers for the Polar and Ocean Explorer with a Dump Body mounted in place of the aft cab, The GR18 Mechanical Grab and the DV27 Basic Haulage Trailer which was exactly the same as the Polar version but coloured orange and came with a spare wheel set.

The First Batch - Space Explorer EX4

The Space Explorer was of the rounded cab type and was similar to the Ocean Explorer except it was blue. Obviously by the nature of its work it didn't come with floatation devices and came with spare wheel sets instead, The immediate trailer came with a mechanical grabber. I don't have the Space Book so I'm lacking the proper names and designations of the trailers. Available types are the Radar Dome trailer, an Oxygen Capsule Carrier and a Mechanical Excavator trailer. I don't remember seeing much of these in BHS at the time, possibly because they had all been bought or maybe they just never stocked much.

The First Batch - Polar Explorer EX2

The Polar Explorer was of the second type flat cab type was was my favorite, this was due to the fact that it came with a snowplough, my love of the snow and the similarity of the vehicles cab to British Rails class 158 Sprinter Express which were being introduced on the Edinburgh & Glasgow mainline back in 1989. The immediate trailer is a flatbed and has a snowplough lashed to the top, the snowplough it self could be attached to the front of the explorer and clipped into place. The trailers available for this model are the DV27 Basic Haulage Trailer (which came with two spare wheels), The D130 Excavator Trailer and a Polar version Mobile Command Trailer. I also had one of these when I was younger however it was lost over the years and I suspect it may have been binned as the motor may have died, this was a common problem with the the toys and I used to push mine to the limit. The reason being is I used to expect my Explorer to actually push snow out of the way!

The First Batch - Ocean Explorer EX3

The Ocean Explorer was of the rounded cab type and came with silver flotation devices attached to the wheels supposedly enabling it to traverse water, in reality it didn't do this very well but it did float however! (I found out the hard way and ruined two when I was younger). The vehicles immediate trailer came with a clear dome complete with a Radar dish. Trailers available are the AOD4 Oxygen Capsule trailer which carried four silver orbs (oxygen capsules), the GD85 Mechanical Grab and the LQ14 Mobile Command trailer. All trailers can be seen in the pic below. The vehicle was commanded by a female commander named Aqua and a figure of her was included with the vehicle.

The Brochure

This little Gem has been almost perfectly preserved by my Dad from when the Explorers were first released. It features a short story and a center page showing the four vehicles and accessories.The front cover and story were all illustrated by Mike Noble. I also have this on PDF at This really is a very rare Explorer item and I very much doubt you'll ever see one again!

Explorer 12 Books

Each vehicle had an associated book released sold separately from the toys themselves. Marine, Polar, Terrain and Space were like the toys exclusively available from BHS and were just part of the merchandise range. The main page artwork was by famed artist Mike Noble (TV 21) and contained 2 stories plus some fictional technical information on the vehicles and trailers. The center page also offered a view of the entire range of vehicles. I have Terrain, Polar and Marine but I'm missing the space annual from the collection. If you have it or are willing to scan it to JPEG drop me a line. I have scanned mine to PDF files on high quality, download them from...

Coming Soon!