Now that ROGUE ONE has finally been unleashed upon the world I thought it timely that I talk about one of my most treasured vintage Star Wars toys: the Y-WING FIGHTER BOMBER; a fantastic toy for its time and still a fantastic toy for today.
First released in 1983 as part of the RETURN OF THE JEDI line of toys and action figures, the Y-WING was a feature-packed lump of plastic bad-assery that my ten year old self just needed to get his hands on.
Don’t get me wrong, no ship defines Star Wars as much as an X-Wing but there’s always been something about the Y-Wing’s bulky, lumbering aesthetic that really appealed to me and I liked the fact that it was a bomber; a brute of a star-fighter that was prepared to do the dirty work that it’s more glamorous siblings, the X-Wing and A-Wing, would often shirk from.
I’ve always liked bombers. One of the earliest models I ever remember building with my Dad was a WW2 Lancaster Dam-Buster. It was a cool plane and I really dug the concept of bombers flying into battle to totally fuck shit up once the smaller fighters had cleared the air. And there was something mysterious about the Y-Wings as presented in the movies. We never got to know them like we did the X-Wings or the Millennium Falcon but they were always there: at the Battle of Yavin, The Battle of Endor and more recently (spoiler) the Battle of Scarif. And from what I understand, the Y-Wings were pretty tough mothers with heavy shielding and hardened hulls, they could take a heap of punishment before submitting to Imperial laser fire. That’s cool. At least, I think so.
I’m pretty sure I scored my Y-wing around 1983/84. It would have been a birthday or Christmas present. I always cherished it. While other kids coveted their X-Wings with their limited play features and moulded-in R2 unit, I loved messing around with my bomb-dropping, landing-gear-retracting, electronic-rotating-turreted, R2-unit-accepting Rebel death-bringer. Yes, the Y-Wing was a feature packed little number with a range of buttons across its fuselage to bring hours of play value. Nothing beats standing a 3.75″ Stormtrooper on the carpet ( carpet = Endor forest floor ) and attempting to have your Y-Wing drop a 1000 mega-tonne proton bomb right in the middle of its head. Awesome shit. Or having the canopy mounted electronic turret blaze away in a frenzy blowing the living shit out of an entire phalanx of Biker Scouts.
The Y-Wing has some great detailing in its sculpting: from the padded pilot’s seat to the array of wires, struts and mechanical doo-dads running down the fuselage. The sculpt is so impressive and timeless that this mould has been used as recently as 2011 as part of the Star Wars Vintage Collection, albeit with updated paint applications and a modified cockpit interior. As mentioned earlier, even by today’s standards the quality of this 30 year old toy holds up very well.
Toy company, Kenner never released a Y-Wing pilot as part of the original vintage 3.75″ action figure line up. Sure, we got Luke in his X-Wing pilot gear, a B-Wing pilot and an A-Wing pilot. But for some reason, the poor Y-Wingers got shafted. As a result, I display my Y-Wing with the 2004 3.75″ release of Gold Leader Jon ‘Dutch’ Vander. Its a cool figure and a nice representation of the character who met his demise during the Death Star trench run. I was ecstatic to see ol’ Dutch show his face in (spoiler) Rogue One during the Battle of Scarif along with his X-Wing Red Leader counterpart. Cool stuff.
These days my old Y-Wing is suffering from a little bit of discolouration and grubbiness. But in a way that’s what you want from a Rebel Starship. These things were never meant to be pristine and while I do give my Y-Wing the occasional dust, the little bits of grime that reside in that myriad of detailing along the fuselage kind of add to its character. It just wouldn’t look right being too clean.
Unlike the X-Wing toy that was released a couple of years prior, the Y-Wing had a slot behind the cockpit for an R2 unit of your choice. I have a vintage R2-D2 sitting in mine but an R5-D4 would do just as well.
Several years ago, in a moment of sheer lunacy I actually considered selling this Y-Wing. Deplorable, I know. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and this shelf-hogging masterpiece sits proudly on display. Sure, it takes up a fair bit of prized collection shelf space, as does my vintage B-Wing, but who cares? It’s worth it. I’m proud of the condition I’ve kept this great toy in so it needs to be shown off.
Sure, the Y-Wing may not be the coolest or the fastest star-fighter in the Star Wars universe. But it gets the job done. The vintage toy is a great representation of what we saw on screen and is one of the best Star Wars vehicle toys ever produced. If you don’t dig the Y-Wing then you need to start doing so, and in the immortal words of the late Dutch Vander: “Loosen up!”.
UPDATE: I just chucked a pair of C size batteries into the pristine battery compartment to see if the 34 year old turret electronics still worked… and they do! I reckon, conservatively, it’s been 25 years since any electricy has coursed through those wires. Bravo, Kenner, you built ’em to last. Well played.