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Stinger w/ Stinger Driver

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

Since 1982, GI Joe has always blended the realistic with the outlandish. Sometimes the balance went (way) too far in favor of the crazy, but the real-world sensibilities were always there. But remember, "realistic" doesn't mean "mundane."

The Cobra Stinger heads straight for its target: a GI Joe communications station that must be eliminated. But first the Cobra Stinger Driver has to get past the GI Joe team standing in his way, so he aims the vehicle's rocket launcher at the team and prepares to fire!

The Stinger was released in the final series of G3 vehicles, alongside a few duds and at least one other must-have. But no retail stores ordered them, so you either had to pay scalpers online, or wait two years for them to show up at discount chains.

Smooth, aggressive mobility - that's the hallmark of the Cobra Stinger off-road vehicle. It moves over rugged terrain with the lethal focus of a tarantula bearing down on its next meal. The vehicle's wishbone suspension allows it to maintain stability and speed over the roughest ground. The rocket launcher rotates a full 360 degrees for maximum battle effectiveness. The V-12 twin-turbo engine has the stamina and power for sustained combat deployment in the capable control of a Cobra Stinger Driver.

The Stinger - technically the "Cobra Night Attack 4-WD Stinger" - was the first normal ground vehicle Cobra got. The HISS had been out for a year, but an overhanging tank with one giant tread isn't exactly "normal." A jeep, on the other hand, is about as real-world-military as you can get. In fact, the design is even based on a real prototype, the Lamborghini Cheetah: only one was ever made, and when it crashed during a test drive, the military didn't bother to return the remains. Hmmm, suspicious!

The bulk of the mold is shared with the Joe team's VAMP - from a story standpoint, you can pretend Cobra salvaged a wrecked VAMP and reverse-engineered it for their own mobile infantry. And heck, maybe the Joes comandeered the Cheetah in the first place, which would explain why nobody knows what happened in its alleged crash. There are a lot of differences between the VAMP and the Stinger toys, though, and not just the switch from little guns to a giant rack of missiles.

While the VAMP was open-air, the Stinger has a roof and gull-wing doors. The entire hood is different, with a grill pattern on top and a large refueling tank instead of a sleeping bag. There's a ram bar on the front, deck panels on the back, and of course the entire rear end has been redesigned to accommodate the missile rack, which spins all the way around, and can pivot up and down. The missiles are bright red, creating a nice contrast against the black of the jeep.

Cobra troopers begin in the anonymous ranks of the Cobra army. They then try to get noticed (in a positive way) by Cobra Commander, hoping they'll be selected for a higher rank and advanced training. Cobra Stinger Drivers are some of the lucky ones who trade in their "grunt" gear for the driver's seat of a prime attack vehicle. Cobra Stinger Drivers are trained in ultra-aggressive driving tactics that prepare them for every battle environment from urban areas to remote wilderness.

Ah, the Stinger Driver. OAFEnet Fun Fact: he was the last guy to be named after his vehicle. Before him were the Viper Pilots and HISS Drivers; after him were Wild Weasel and Copperhead. From then on, even "generic" drivers (i.e., ones who were part of a group rather than being named individuals) had specialized codenames - you know, like the Lampreys or Motor-Vipers. He's the last of his kind!

Since the original figure was just a Cobra Officer painted gray, the Stinger Driver never appeared in the comics or cartoons - even if the artist intended to show one, the colorist would just assume it was another Trooper and color it blue. This figure isn't a gray repaint of a Cobra Officer, though - he's a gray repaint of the Cobra Bazooka Trooper! That means he gets the fancy webgear and the helmet with the netting. That's a really nice batch of gear, so it's nice to see it being reused in this unexpected setting.

We already had one G3-style update of the Stinger Driver - and no, it's not the Cobra Driver. If you bought the army-builder "Cobra Legions" set, then you got what the packaging called the "Cobra Vehicle Driver," but whose display stand was clearly labeled "Stinger Driver." That was the classic design, rather than this reimagined version, but there's no reason to fear change: other characters have undergone bigger redesigns.

Other than the helmet and webgear, the Stinger Driver's only accessory is the standard Cobra Trooper knife on his leg. There's an AK-47 on the Stinger's hood (rather than the shovel the VAMP had), but that belongs more to the vehicle than the guy, doesn't it? If you recall the Bazooka Trooper had a pistol but no holster to put it in: this figure has the holster, but no pistol. Time to trade!

The Stinger is a very cool vehicle, a classic piece of GI Joe history. The Stinger Driver is a departure from his old look, but not too far - and besides, he's reusing killer accessories that otherwise might have gone to waste. If you're buying this vehicle pack now at a clearance store, it's superb; you get all this for less than $10! If you paid a scalper two years ago, well, at least you've been enjoying it longer than the rest of us.

-- 11/05/10

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