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Blast from the Past – 8/30/12 – Awesome toys you make when your a kid


It’s that time again to look back into the past (way back in the past) at something I made back in 1991-1992.  This one is an old sentimental favorite of mine and I hope you find it some what interesting.

This past weekend I was sorting through things in one of the back rooms of my basement and I came across something that I had built in my childhood.  It was a submarine for my G.I. Joes that I had built when I was about 7 or 8 years old. The first amazing thing about it is that it’s made out of a Styrofoam insert for waffle bowels and it’s survived over 20 years. The second amazing thing is the level of detail I was thinking about back then, and putting into something like this. But lets go back to where the story of this item actually begins, back to the late 1980s and early 1990s.

I was a relatively normal only child, growing up in a small town in North-East Colorado. I watched cartoons, drew on any piece of paper I could get my hands on,  and played with action figure, sometime I did all three at once. And yes in many ways that still describes my adult life. I had lots of friends as a kid that I could go hang out with, but as an only child I still found myself with out any one my own age to play with on a pretty regular basis. Let me clarify that that was not a bad thing, as this gave me uninterrupted time to really let my imagination go wild. I was also a first class tinker and with out exception every time there was a piece of Styrofoam or a cardboard box around the house I was going to turn it into something for my toys. It might be a shoe box that became a barracks for my G.I. Joes,  A Styrofoam fortress for Cobra Command, or even a transport plane for the M.A.S.K. team. I was a master of transforming packaging trash into an epic toy using scotch tape and a ball point pen. You could have shown me just about any object and I would have figured out how to turn it into a toy.

And that bring us to the subject of today’s post. Like I said before I took on this little project around the age of 7 or 8 in the early 1990s. We had bough a package of waffle cone bowels for ice cream, and when we opened the package the bowels were encased in a tan colored Styrofoam insert. I can still remember that when we took that out of the box my mind began racing with what I could make out of it. It could be a spaceship or a guard tower or I could cut it in half and make a vat of burning lava. But no, that foam insert was destined to become an epic submarine made to deliver a small G.I. Joe strike force anywhere in the world.


Here you can see a nice iso shot of the finished product. You can see the windshield up front as well as a few smaller port holes up top. You can also just make out a set of lights drawn on the bottom front of the craft and a large spoiler/fin on the back.Submarine

This second picture is straight on from a higher angle and gives you a good view of the shape of the insert. This also helps explain why I chose to make this a submarine. You can see the large rounded corners on the bottom of the insert. As a kid I imagined these to be round 3D pontoons. Also keep in mind that the two haves of the insert we’re connected by a folded hinge that ran down the left side in respects to this picture, but that hinge broke within a few hours of starting this project.

Submarine seating

This next picture shows the interior of the craft with some figures. The interior was made out of a frosted mini-wheats box. This submarine has seating for nine figures including the two pilots. That in and of it’s self is pretty sweet considering how small it is. As if the crew size was not enough, the entire cabin works like and ejection seat when the craft is surface encase of emergency and lifts out of the ship.

Ejection Cabin

While that is a pretty epic concept some of you are asking “Troy, why would the whole cabin need to be ejected?” The answer to that is simple, it would need to be ejected if one of the ships three nuclear reactors was to melt down. That’s right, it’s nuke powered.

Submarine Hull

This picture shows a little more of the hull and you can see some of the details. There are control panels at the front, the three reactors at the back, work stations for the crew, emergency supplies and lots of other details like piping.


Subs got everything… even the kitchen sink.

Here you can see some of the workstations along the starboard side of the ship. The crew could apparently stay down for long periods of time, as is evidenced by the sink stove and oven seen here along with the control computer for the nuclear reactors. You can also see a tray table like on an airplane in the seat backs. A weird recurring thing for me as a kid was how my G.I. Joes we’re going to eat. I use to make little MREs out of tin foil too.

Submarine Roof

This picture shows the inside of the top half of the sub. You can see more controls and survival gear upfront, computer screens on the port side as well as more work station detail on the starboard. There is a range hood that lines up over the stove burners and small round lights with switches for each of the workstations. I should also add that I must have made a lot of these kinds of things at the kitchen table, and maybe that’s where the preoccupation with eating and cooking came from.

Sub Controls

This last picture is of the pilots console at the front of the cabin. you can see all the gauges and switches on the panel. This shot also shows the ships only offensive weapon, a torpedo loading station that sat between the pilots and fired out the front of the ship. Keep in mind that this torpedo bay is attached to the part of the ship that ejects, so you can keep firing even while parachuting through the sky. How epic is that? You can even see two packed parachutes at the front of the console in this picture.

Obviously I had a very active imagination as a kid, and turned all kinds of junk into toys. This one was always one of my favorites and I was so pleasantly surprised that it somehow managed to survive the last 20 years without going out to the trash.

So how about you? Did you make any cool home made toys as a kid? If so please share your memories below.

  1. mike

    Thats awesome! A couple of my good friends and I used to do the same thing! Just like you said, a cool looking piece of cardboard, styrofoam, or anything of the sort would usually end up as something cool in our “expanded” world. Sometimes we played straight Joes, sometimes Star Wars, but usually it was our own combined fantasy world with anything in scale, or close to it. (you’ve got to have standards!) Sometimes a big box would become a multi-layered Indiana Jones / Goonies style ancient temple, complete with booby traps and all. Other times the big round, hollow bush out back would become the ewok village inside with rope walkways and such, or anything we saw on tv (usually cheesy sci-fi movies on HBO) would become immortalized in cardboard and tape (Road Warrior, etc..) The sky was the limit. I still have my version of the Delorean from BTTF (except it could not only travel in time, but parallel universes and such). I made from the top half of a old, Knight Rider looking r/c car, with a cardboard bottom and interior, completely covered in masking tape.. Just like you did above, i drew weapons, first aid kits, flux capacitors, etc all over the exterior and interior. the only difference was i was partial to masking tape for the most part, due to the fact you could draw on it with anything. (we used all types of tape n glue, but masking was the go-to). Wow, thanks for the trip down memory lane. Dig your site!!

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