In the mid 1980s, Taiyo created one of the (if not the) most popular R/C toys of any decade, namely the “Turbo Hopper” (or “Jet Hopper” in some countries). It was sold by Tyco in the USA and Metro in Australia.
A year or two later, Tyco also released an AFX-compatible slot car set based on these classic buggy shapes, complete with little faux off-road elements, jumps, boulders, background scenery and even a pretend water-crossing.
You can see a drawing of the original Turbo Hopper R/C buggy on the backing card above, along with a quad bike (I believe there was a slot set of ‘Quad Racers’ as well).
Like most things sold by Tyco, these little slot buggies even got their own glossy television commercials such as this classic one…
I never actually owned this slot car set at the time, but along with the original R/C Turbo/Jet Hopper itself, it was one of the truly iconic buggy-related toy products of the 1980s.
Pictured on this page is one buggy, new and unopened, and there’s something really great about the action drawings and colour used on the packaging for these kinds of toys back in the 1980s – loads of colour and retro graphics.
As you can see, even the back of the card was filled with information, offers and a parts breakdown – the kind of effort not many toy manufacturers would go to these days.
Later versions of these buggies would tend to follow the style of their R/C big brothers, moving to more sleek and aerodynamic buggy shapes (the Aero Hopper, etc). Although I think there’s little doubt the original, more realistic ones – with roll cage, headlights and a spare tyre on the roof – remain the most popular and sought after. This is certainly the case with the R/C versions.
Today, these buggies aren’t too hard to find, and are worth around $50 each, unopened.
The full original track set would be quite collectible if complete, since it was the kind of toy that contained a lot of small accessories, some of which would have inevitably ended up under the couch or in the vacuum cleaner. But definitely a great 80s collectible if you can find one.