Clutch and VAMP (25th Anniversary)
In my opinion, it’s hard to find a Joe vehicle more iconic than the original VAMP. While there may have been larger Joe vehicles, the VAMP started it all back in 1982. I wasn’t familiar with the original VAMP, but I knew the design pretty well thanks to my brother’s Tiger Sting. Including the VAMP in the first wave of mass market vehicles made a lot of sense. Clutch was one of the Original 13 and the VAMP was, from what I understand, a lot of young Joe fan’s first vehicles. While Clutch may suffer a bit from being an early 25th Anniversary figure, the VAMP and Clutch set is a great piece and Hasbro really did a great job updating the Joe’s primary mode of transportation for many years.
Clutch (sorry, I refuse to call him “Double Clutch”) has always had a unique look. Even back in 1982 when a lot of Joes shared a lot of parts, Clutch had a decidedly different look. The Hasbro folks did an excellent job recreating his look with a modicum of new parts. The legs are a combination of old and new pieces. The upper legs come from 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes while the lower legs are all new, though they were shared with 25th Anniversary Steeler who was released at about the same time. The legs look decent, though he is just a hair too tall because it’s kind of hard to fit Clutch into the driver’s seat of the VAMP. Clutch has a functional ankle holster on his right leg and I really love that detail. It’s likely easier for Clutch to draw a gun from an ankle holster than it would be to draw from his hip if he’s behind the wheel of his vehicle. His upper body comes from 25th Anniversary Snake eyes, though you wouldn’t know that at first glance because he’s got a great vest that recreates his vintage torso very well. The vintage figure had a vest and shoulder holster combination and the Hasbro folks recreated look for his modern figure. Since it’s an add-on piece, it does have a little more bulk to it and I really like that. Unfortunately, we do have one little problem with Clutch’s design. Hasbro hadn’t come up with any arms that had short sleeves and no gloves at this point in the line, so they used the closest approximation: the dreaded Duke arms. The Duke arms are even more problematic for Clutch because their bad articulation makes it very difficult for him to reach the VAMP’s steering wheel. I understand Hasbro really didn’t have better options, but these were a bad choice. Up top, Clutch gets a brand new head, and while I like it, I kind of wish Clutch didn’t look so serious. In the comics, Clutch could be pretty serious but he was also a guy who loved his job. I kind of wish the figure’s face reflected that. I’m also a little of two minds about Clutch’s overall look. The Hasbro folks did a great job recreating his vintage look, but I kind of wish, just once, we could get a comic-accurate Clutch head sculpt. We came pretty close in the Valor Vs. Venom comic packs, but even then, Clutch had a full beard instead of the five o’clock shadow he had in the comic. Even though I’m of two minds about Clutch’s head sculpt, it is still a solid figure and Hasbro did the best they could with Clutch at this time. Honestly, I think a classic-style Clutch is another figure that Hasbro should look at for the 50th Anniversary line just because the original piece has become so dated.
Like most of the rest of the Original 13, Clutch’s overall color scheme is pretty simple and very military. The bulk of the figure is olive drab green. It’s a very military look and considering how grounded in reality the line was back in 1982, that makes a lot of sense. Clutch has brown on his boots and up on the shoulders of his vest with some black for his shoulder holster. That’s all he’s got, aside from fleshtone paint, so Clutch isn’t the most colorful figure, but I think it works for him. Like a lot of the early 25th Anniversary figures, especially ones that use Duke arms, the skin color is applied awfully thickly on his arms, which makes him look a little off. The head is clearly molded out of flesh colored plastic, but his arms aren’t and the overly thick paint job leaves them looking a bit off. The paint work on Clutch’s face is spot on and his beard looks very nice. Clutch may not be the flashiest figure out there, but he never has been and the look works well for him even 26 years after he was originally released.
As a vehicle driver, Clutch has never really come with much in the way of accessories. Back in the day, all Clutch came with was a helmet. At least the 25th Anniversary version comes with a pistol to fill his holster and a knife to fill his sheath. Clutch is making progress. Clutch also comes with the requisite helmet and while it doesn’t fit great, it fits his head better than it fits on other figures that got it. Clutch’s gear is very simple, but that’s fine since he comes with a great vehicle.
While the MOBAT may have shown up on the cover of G.I. Joe #1, I’ve always thought the VAMP played a much bigger role, not just in that particular issue but in the history of the Joe brand itself. Don’t get me wrong, the MOBAT is a great vehicle, but the VAMP, being smaller means it’s much easier to pick up and play with. That’s always been something I appreciate about the smaller Joe vehicles. However, just because the VAMP is small doesn’t mean it’s not an impressive piece. The date on the bottom of the vehicle reads 2001, which means at least the undercarriage comes from the Desert Striker. Regardless of origins, though, Hasbro did a great job at recreating the classic VAMP in modern form. Despite its designation as a fast attack vehicle, the angular design gives the VAMP an armored feel to it. Yes, it’s a bit stripped down, with only a rollbar protecting the driver and passenger, but that angled front end looks and feels pretty substantial. The VAMP’s iconic silhouette is intact and if the upper part of the VAMP was a new piece, whoever designed it did an excellent job aping the classic look. The hood opens, revealing the VAMP’s impressive engine and the tarp and shovel on the front are both removable pieces. The driver’s compartment is relatively roomy, though getting the slightly larger modern figures in is a little bit challenging. It’s not impossible but it’s definitely a bit of a tight fit up there. The back end has the classic VAMP dual cannon and the removable gas cans. What really impresses me, though, is all the little details scattered throughout the mold. There are vents and wires covering the back end and the clear plastic taillights covering red stickers really adds a lot to the look of the back end. The tires are stoutly built and look like they could stand up to some pretty severe punishment in the real world. Much like Clutch, the VAMP’s color scheme isn’t anything terribly fancy, but it works very well for a military toy line like G.I. Joe. The vehicle’s color scheme is olive drab green and black. It’s basic, but it works. There’s a little bit of color from the gunmetal gray barrels on the cannons, but beyond that, it’s a very simple color scheme. The stickers on the VAMP were all applied at the factory, but Hasbro did a good job putting them on. I missed doing that here, but the stickers really do add a lot to the vehicle, so I get Hasbro wanting to make sure you can see them since the 25th Anniversary line vehicles were all sold in window boxes.
Despite a few problems on Clutch’s end, the 25th Anniversary VAMP and Clutch set is probably the best vehicle set Hasbro put out during 2008. There may be other, flashier sets out there, but the VAMP is all strong points and there aren’t any odd little problems that detract from it. Clutch may not be perfect thanks to the dreaded Duke arms, but the figure’s construction is solid and the vest really helps add to Clutch’s appeal. Personally, I would have preferred a comic accurate head, but I understand why they went with his vintage look. Overall, the VAMP is an excellent vehicle and Clutch is a solid driver. Considering I’ve always kind of viewed driver figures as secondary to their vehicle, I think that means things work out quite well for this set. Clutch isn’t perfect, but I don’t feel like I got a crappy figure just because I wanted a cool vehicle, so I’m okay with him. The VAMP was definitely the main draw for me, but Clutch works well in his vehicle and honestly, you can hide most of his flaws just by having him hang out behind the wheel of the VAMP, so things are okay.