It may/may not have been aerodynamically impossible, but in 1977, 20 year old wunderkind John Simone Jr. would pioneer a technique to fly his R/C Helicopters in an perfect 360° loop to win a national competition.
As that same stunt had been written into the closing scenes of an upcoming film from Columbia Pictures about an experimental full-size helicopter, the producers of Blue Thunder lucked out with both manufacturer and ‘pilot’ by commissioning American RC Helicopters Inc. to produce no less than 6 models of The Special itself in various scales plus its Hughes 500 and F-16 adversaries, respectively.
A detailed account of John Jr’s rise to fame in the Movie Business could be found in the October 1983 issue of Us Publication Flying Models, (above – click to enlarge) where its revealed the complexities of recreating scale models indistinguishable from the ‘real’ thing are second only to performing airborne stunts with little or no margin for error.
With a swelling reputation and a list of Hollywood blockbusters on their resume, (including Eastwood’s Firefox – a movie with more than one BT connection) American RC forged ahead with capitalizing on their success by offering kits of their greatest performers – firstly the ‘Supermantis’ (used as a rehearsal stand-in for the Blue Thunder stunts) and then, amazingly, The Special itself, struck from the original molds. Although these were advertised (bottom pic) tragedy struck before they could be mass-produced when the American facility was destroyed by a crashing light aircraft.
Though his father’s company wouldn’t survive the devastation (closing in 1985) John Jr. is still active and still performing the stunt in shows that gained him such recognition back in the day…
To secure the license for what was, at the time, the most expensive show on TV must have incited much excitable palm rubbing from the execs at MultiToys Corp.
Announced amongst what could only be described as an eclectic line of action figures, playsets and dolls (from the Bugmen of Insecta to The Love Boat) and showcased as hastily produced mockups (some represented only by artwork) the MTC 1984 catalog is a glorious rare-as-you-like piece of nostalgia and insight into the toy industry.
Of particular interest, however, were the company’s ambitious plans for ABC’s Blue Thunder, where you may be both surprised to learn the extent of the line and saddened by how little of it actually made production –From the top we see the whole main cast of the Blue Thunder TV show represented as articulated 4″ scale figures (even correctly scaling Bubba and Ski) intended for interaction with the Blue thunder Helicopter, Rolling Thunder van and Blue Thunder Jeep. Only the Blue Thunder Helicopter would survive the cull and be sold complete with what is described as an ‘Astro Division’ pilot (even in this scale easily identifiable as Roy Scheider) as, sadly, the other figures & vehicles were never made.
The items on the following page, however, were also successfully marketed with the Flying Blue Thunder (featuring great box art) and battery operated Blue Thunder Giant Helicopter eventually becoming the most rare and sought-after toys associated with the subject. Coming in at a whopping 28″ long with sound effects and lights, this toy (though hardly the most accurate rendition of the helicopter) in its complete form commands an appropriate sum to obtain today if you can find one at all.
Conversely, the 18″ Blue Thunder Helicopter has become somewhat of a cult toy classic over the years, (appearing in TV’s Toy Hunter, etc.) and still appears (albeit more infrequently) on auction sites for reasonable prices (note the artwork for the box on catalog cover, top pic). As it forms part of my collection a full pictorial review here on THE SPECIAL will be a subject of a future post, but for now, enjoy indulging yourself in what could’ve been…
In what must be the most unique ‘abandoned project’ opportunity of a lifetime, an unknown Australian seller is offering this partially converted Gazelle Helicopter should anybody want to complete its transformation into Blue Thunder.
Fabricated from wood and metal with a motor to turn the blades, this static display houses a kerosene heater to simulate engine heat/vapour from exhaust and even a speaker system to simulate the unique Gazelle shriek.
The exterior metalwork and wooden/fiberglass modifications are of considerable standard (even if the interior falls short in the accuracy stakes) and clearly the chopper was well on its way to being finished before the builder, (obviously a huge BT fan – he even has Frank Murphy’s ’79 Trans Am garaged up! second & third pic down) for whatever reason, withdrew.
Despite its appearance on auction sites the project apparently and inexplicably remains unsold. Should anybody be interested in starting a similar project in future however, I have it on good authority the tooling for the original ‘copter still exists in storage and all that would be needed to recreate an accurate full-scale replica of The Special would be a donor Gazelle and a suitably stratospheric budget. Theoretically speaking, Blue Thunder could fly again.
How do we know all this? Watch for future posts..!!