Upgrade Your Six Million Dollar Man Action Figure
In the mid 70's, pretty much every boy that I knew had the Six Million Dollar Man action figure (I just got mine two weeks ago from the thrift!). Steve Austin's TV adventures were crucial viewing for more than just kids, among viewers were toy executives hungry for the next success in the world of media tie-in toys. Today the massive marketing madness starts six months before a movie hits theaters, but back then a large toy line based on a TV of film was a new idea. The 12" GI Joe toy line was a legendary toy industry success that Kenner was anxious to duplicate with their own extensive Steve Austin collection.
For years the toy industry wanted to duplicate the success of the Barbie Doll, but in a boy's toy line. GI Joe taught the industry that relabeling the doll an "action figure" and providing a steady stream of realistic accessories yielded stratospheric sales. Sales didn't end with a single action figure. The toy gained value as the boy's collection grew, and in this case the TV series provided plenty of fodder for play. Sixxy's TV adventures had action, science fiction, even sasquatch! All of these inspired many toys.
The Six Million Dollar Man (that's about 29.5 million today) figure was the hit toy of 1975, and it's easy to see why since the basic figure is so feature packed. Peering through the back of Austin's head lets you see out a small fisheye lens in his eye socket (explaining the somewhat eerie visage in Steve's otherwise good looks). Turning his head right and pumping a switch on his back would elevate his right "bionic" arm (to pick up small plastic engine blocks and girders). There were even accessory arms with built in flashlights and "bionic grip".
The bionic arm was originally covered in a flesh-colored rubber skin that you could roll back to reveal cool-looking removable circuit blocks. Over the years, the rubber skin on most figures has deteriorated to a hard residue. Fortunately the collector community has come up with a solution. I found a seller on Ebay offering replacement arm sleeves in bionic-friendly nylon. The sleeve closely matches the figure's skin color, and is a good value at $8.50 shipped, especially considering how difficult these must be to make in small quantities.
The action figures themselves are a rather plentiful and affordable collectible on Ebay these days too. So for well under six million in U.S. tax payer dollars, you can have a working bionic Steve Austin. You can re-build him. You have the technology... and about twenty bucks you can spare, right?