Switch Gears (2003)

The Spy Troops series was one of the boldest efforts in the history of GI Joe figure gimmicks. Based on disguising the warring factions as one another certainly made for an original attempt at adding play value to the toys. The problem was not the idea, but rather the execution. Most of the added armor and clothing elements just didn’t look all that good when placed on the figures. Some were successful, and even useful beyond the enemy in disguise aspect. Barrel Roll stands out as a prime example. Others, like Switch Gears, were pretty laughable, even from a kid standpoint.

The figure’s lanky build belies the tough as nails character outlined in the file card. That’s not to say that thin folds can’t be tough, but the toy just doesn’t ring true as the hard charging tanker from the packaging. His bio just seemed to me to make him the ideal candidate for the GI Joe “big man” of the new sculpt era. I guess the figure also looks too fresh-faced.

The uniform design is at least interesting, as he’s one of the most armored Joes of the era.  All those metal plates actually give off a Dreadnok kind of vibe. And those pants–the color is just…wow. I don’t know who he would fool when he puts on his Overkill getup, but those flashy trousers would certainly spoil the ruse. He looks downright suffocated in that helmet, and the arm attachment reminds me of those really cheap vacuform Halloween costume accessories. You know the kind; they look amazing in photos, but in person hold up about as well as a 70s Ben Cooper mask.

It’s not all bad, however, as the backstory on the cardback makes use of the character selection for the two pack. Switch Gears puts on his disguise, hotwires a HISS IV tank and hightails it, almost making it to the GI Joe frontline. Cobra Commander sees his vehicular prowess, and makes him his personal driver. Now that would make for quite a tale, especially considering how Switch made it back to the Joes, and just how the Commander could have mistaken him for anything other than a goofball in a snap-on disguise. It’s the stuff of sitcom gold.


  • That chestplate might be especially useful for Spy Troops Grunt, to better sell his CLAWS disguise.

  • Yeah, Switch Gears and Grunt probably had some of the worst SpyTroops disguises just from an execution standpoint. I always thought it was hilarious that his fake gun arm fit better on the wrong arm for him pretending to be Overkill. That being said, though, he came with an awesome version of Cobra Commander, so of course I have him. He’s not that bad of a figure, really (though I do agree that his look feels almost Dreadnok-y), but the execution of his SpyTroops gear was pretty awful.

  • The still exposed GI Joe Logo on the thigh pad sure won’t help his ability to conceal himself!

  • Spytroops was got me back into Joe collecting. Granted the spytroops were a little goofy but i eagerly picked them up [even though for political reasons not many shops carried it at the time]

    In my opinion, Gears is one of the “best” spytroops figures as his design allows him to wear most of the costume peices; even though its a silly gimmick.

  • Ignoring the disguise gear he’s a pretty decent figure although I take your point Rob about him not suiting his filecard.

    His chestpiece is a pretty decent match with Grunt’s spytroops gear and the helmet from Grunt has a real Krake look about it to me.

  • You’re right about the head; it looks pretty “green”. Also, the color palette is wacky: teal vest with mustard trousers? How about matching v3 Overkill’s khaki lower half, and make the vest olive or brown? He’d be a decent Joe figure, and the Overkill “disguise” would be closer to the source. The helmet and armor should’ve been brown, too; not two shades of red.

  • Bad times…
    But they returned un Europe in 2003/’04!

  • All the underappreciated vehicle drivers and they make a new character? What was with the retro army helmet?

  • I notice your Switch Gears has a problem I’m seeing in a number of figures from that era – a nasty crack down the top of the chest. Just the other day, I noticed it on a MOC Zarana (from the two-pack with Gung-Ho) and on a loose comic-pack Flint that I have in my collection.

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