Following the success of Martin Caidin’s sci-fi novel, ABC began production of an adaption for network television. Originally, they aired three made-for-television movies that introduced Steve Austin to the viewing public in 1973. With the rousing success of these three movies, the property quickly transitioned into an episodic show mid-season in 1974. This show continued to dominate the ratings for several years. Though, it finally concluded with its fifth season in 1978.
The series followed the exploits of Steve Austin, a former astronaut who suffered when a terrible accident gravely injured his body. To save his life, the government organization, OSI, helped reconstruct him into a cyborg with bionic parts. In exchange for a bionic eye, legs, and right arm, Steve Austin agreed to serve as an agent for the OSI. With his augmented strength, Steve Austin saved the world many times from sinister plots.
As Lee Majors charmed the ladies as Steve Austin on the television screen, Kenner signed on the license the toys based on the series. While the toy line began production in 1975, Kenner did not suffer from the delay. The popularity of the show kept fans enraptured for years, so they quickly celebrated once the toys arrived on toy shelves. Thus, Kenner cemented their names on the map with the immense popularity of their Six Million Dollar Man action figures.
Presenting the top ten Six Million Dollar Man toys from Kenner
10. Bionic Transport and Repair Station (1975)
As Kenner began producing Six Million Dollar Man toys, they created the Bionic Transport and Repair Station playset. Since this set launched alongside the original Steve Austin action figure, it became one of the most popular playsets for the line.
This playset could transform into two modes, extending its range of playability. First, the set came in the Bionic Transport mode. This mode was basically a cylinder that could fit only one of the action figures. This mode featured a windowpane, where the head of the action figure would remain visible. However, Kenner designed it to resemble a rocket ship.
By opening the shuttle, owners transformed this toy into its second mode, the repair station. With all the station’s tubes and X-ray images, the toy referenced the opening sequences of the original Six Million Dollar Man movie. By placing Steve Austin down on the bed, owners could imagine that he was undergoing the surgery that turned him into the bionic man.
While the television movie showed that Steve Austin crashed in an experimental aircraft, this set’s rocket ship offered an alternative source of the crash. So, owners could crash Steve Austin down in the transport mode. Then, they would open the shuttle to repair him in the repair station.
9. Back Pack Radio (1975)
As Kenner continued to create Six Million Dollar Man toys, they produced the Back Pack Radio in 1975. This little set offered a unique style of play since it included a crystal radio that connected to earbuds. So, owners of this toy could actually use the radio to pick up transmissions from around the area.
This set contained a white plastic helmet and a white back pack, that contained the crystal radio. The helmet firmly slipped onto any Six Million Dollar Man action figure. So, it could offer the figure a change of outfit and give him a more sci-fi feeling. Accommodating for the Bionic Vision gimmick of Steve Austin’s action figure, the helmet featured a hole in the back.
By securing the pack to an action figure with the included plastic harness, Steve Austin or any other figure could carry around the pack. This white pack featured decals that represented readings from the surrounding area. It also sported a decal for the Six Million Dollar Man logo. The bottom of the pack swung open to reveal the components for the crystal radio.
By attaching the connector to a grounded object, like a metal fence, owners could activate the crystal radio. While they had to hope that they could pick up an AM signal in the area by wandering around, this radio functioned as advertised.
8. Command Console (1977)
Following the fumbled release of the Mission Control Center, Kenner reworked the format and returned with the Command Console in 1977. The original set featured a large inflatable dome, which was prone to leaks. Since the dome was prone to failure, many did not want to deal with the playset. Luckily, Kenner returned with a new set that removed the inflatable dome. In exchange for the dome, this set now featured three new accessories, a compass, binoculars, and a morse code transmitter.
For the most part, the command console was a table with a chair that Steve Austin could sit in. On this white table sat two rectangular cardboard walls that featured imagery such as a map of the world. Since telephone switchboards were still around back then, the set also featured several wires that moved between the various sides of this console. These hoses could also attach to Steve Austin’s bionic arm. There even was a cable attached to a headset that could fit onto Steve Austin’s head.
The bottom of the table also featured decals that made the plastic slabs appear like drawers that a desk would have. Then, this entire set would sit on top of the included vinyl playmat shaped like an octagon. This mat featured white, blue, and orange graphics that matched with the aesthetics of the Six Million Dollar Man.
7. Critical Assignment Arms (1976)
As Kenner continued their Six Million Dollar Man toy line into 1976, they began producing several accessories for their Steve Austin action figure. For instance, they created a choice of different clothing and outfits for him to wear. However, even with a change of clothes, Steve Austin still had his default bionic arm. So, they also produced three Critical Assignment Arms in 1976.
This set included three different arms. First, there was a laser arm. This laser arm required an AA battery to function. By installing the battery into the upper arm, the laser in the wrist became active. To activate the laser, users had to pull back the hand and press it down against a red button.
Then, there was a neutralizer arm that featured a karate action gimmick. After bending his arm upward at the elbow, it locked into place. To release the arm and create the karate action, users pressed down the button near the underside of the elbow. This arm also had storage for his sonic neutralizer on his upper arm.
Finally, there was the oxygen supply arm which came with a yellow mask. While catalog listings showed this set with a black mask that fit over Steve Austin’s nose, the actual product came with a yellow mask. This mask resembled the average scuba diving mask. Both the mask and the tubing could fit within a compartment in the upper arm.
This set also came with an exclusive white short-sleeved shirt for the action figures. This shirt featured the emblem for the Six Million Dollar Man. Notably, this shirt also featured a hemmed hole in the back, which accommodated the action figure’s push button.
6. Bionic Bigfoot (1977)
Amongst Steve Austin’s multiple foes, the show’s version of Bigfoot stood out for multiple reasons. First, André the Giant donned the Bigfoot outfit as he became the first version of this creature. Unlike common Bigfoot creatures, this one was a bionic creature that aliens created to keep them safe. Steve Austin found this out when he removed his foe’s arms during their scuffle. Even without André the Giant in the suit, Bigfoot continued to appear as an adversary in the show.
Unlike most humanoid Six Million Toys, the Bionic Bigfoot wore no clothing. Instead, textured brown plastic, resembling the creature’s fur, covered his body. Unfortunately, in exchange for the textured fur, this figure lacked detailed articulation. For instance, he lacked any elbow or knee joints.
Unique to this action figure, the Bionic Bigfoot had a button on his stomach that triggered the panel on his chest to pop off. When popped off, the decal that represented the robot’s internal circuitry became visible.
5. Venus Space Probe (1976)
Following the popularity of the Death Probe on the Six Million Dollar Man series, Kenner created the Venus Space Probe for their toy line. Since few parents from the seventies would want to buy a toy named “Death Probe” for their children, Kenner renamed the creation.
Beyond the change of name, the Venus Space Probe gained a significant change of appearance from its televised counterpart. Instead of a silver metallic probe, this toy was a black machine. Also, it did not share the same scale as Steve Austin.
Still, this toy came with many fun accessories and gimmicks. It featured exploding panels and operating pincers. It also had a rotating turret and magnetic detector arm. A lever on the back of the vehicle activated the motion for the front pincer arms. Finally, this toy also came with a missile launcher. Thus, this armed probe was ready to take on the bionic man. This toy even featured a distinct noise that generated when the wheels rolled across the ground.
The inspiration for this toy, the death probe, was an extremely dangerous adversary for Steve Austin. Since the Russians built this machine for Venus’s harsh atmosphere, it was virtually indestructible. Luckily, Steve Austin discovered that the light density of the upper atmosphere would weaken the machine enough that he could destroy it.
4. Oscar Goldman (1977)
As the Director of Operations at the OSI, Oscar Goldman oversaw most of Steve Austin’s missions. Since Oscar helped arrange the funds for Steve Austin’s operation, he became one of the most important OSI officers when it came to Steve Austin. His key role in the organization became even more obvious when the show revealed that there were standing orders to kill him in case of his capture.
Following his crucial role in the show, Kenner created the Oscar Goldman action figure to expand the line-up for their toys. Oscar wore a checkered suit with brown slacks.
Aside from finally adding Oscar Goldman to their collection, Six Million Dollar Man fans also loved the exploding briefcase that he came with. This suitcase could safely open after turning the handle to a 90-degree angle. With the case properly opened, the user could enjoy the detailed decals that presented the OSI’s top-secret documents. There was also a small black headset in the briefcase. The suitcase even had a small turn dial that turned to change out the emblem over the radio. Finally, the suitcase included two top-secret files for both Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers.
However, turning the handle any further to the right caused the front panel of the case to explode outward. While destroyed, the suitcase opened to reveal decals that likewise indicated that the contents had exploded. Luckily, this top panel easily popped back into place, so that the suitcase could explode one more.
3. Bionic Woman (1976)
As the Six Million Dollar Man began to wind down its second season, it introduced one of its most popular characters, Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman. Like Steve Austin, Jaime suffered from a tragic accident that led to the OSI installing bionic limbs and parts in her. Unfortunately, she almost died because her body began to reject her bionic implants. While popular demand brought Jaime Sommers back to the series, she lost her memories in exchange for her life.
Also seeing the popularity of Jaime Sommers, Kenner produced the Bionic Woman action figure in 1976. Unlike the Steve Austin action figure, the bionic woman did not include a bionic eye. So, she did not have a hole in the back of her head. Instead, her head featured brushable blonde hair.
Akin to Steve Austin, Jaime Sommers had bionic legs and a right bionic arm. Also, like the Steve Austin figure, her right arm has fake skin that covers the arm. Unfortunately, the material for this fake skin is prone to deterioration. While her arm had no action gimmick, it did feature a module. Her legs also had flaps that revealed her removable bionic modules.
However, her distinguishing feature was her bionic ears. To make it seem as if she were using her bionic ears, rotating her head created a clicking noise.
2. Maskatron (1975)
While Steve Austin fought several robots in The Six Million Dollar Man, none of the characters were named Maskatron. Instead, Kenner created Maskatron as a general robot that resembled the villains from the series. Steve Austin’s robotic foes also had facial masks that revealed the robotic circuitry upon removal.
Since Kenner planned for owners to face Steve Austin against the Maskatron action figures, they included several triggers around his limbs. Thus, when staging a battle between Maskatron and Steve Austin, Maskatron’s limbs flew off as Steve hit him.
This action figure also came with three different masks, giving the character the ability to assume different disguises. Each of these faces resembled a character from the show. For instance, two of these masks also resembled characters from the series: Steve Austin and Oscar Goldman. However, the final was a general man with no specific character tied to it.
While the toy came fully clothed, removing these clothes revealed his full cyborg body. The front of the chest featured removable circuitry. Meanwhile, his back opened to provide storage for the spare masks. He also came with a robot claw and plunger which both attached to his arms.
1. Steve Austin – Original (1975)
Launching the Six Million Dollar Man toy line, Kenner released the highly praised Steve Austin action figure to store shelves in 1975. While they could have simply sculpted a mold that resembled Lee Majors, Kenner decided to craft an action figure packed with gimmicks to help bring the bionic man to life.
To make it feel that owners had their hands on the real bionic man, Kenner included three major gimmicks in this toy. First, Steve Austin had his bionic eye. To create the effect of the bionic eye, Kenner crafted a hole that went directly through the head sculpt. So, owners could look through the hole in the back of the head to view things from Steve’s perspective.
The toy also had removable bionic legs and right arm. Later, Kenner created replacement arms and legs that expanded the options for play with these parts. However, his right arm had an action feature right out of the box. By turning the head toward the right arm, owners could press the button on the back of the figure to activate the lifting mechanism inside. Thus, the toy would slowly lift the engine block that came with it.
Distinct to the first edition of this toy, the left arm featured a ball joint at the left arm. So, this arm could rotate up and down rather than just turn forward. Unfortunately, these toys had a “bionic skin” on the right arm, which was prone to deterioration. Most current versions of this figure have either hardened or tattered skin.
What were your favorite Six Million Dollar Man toys?
Today, we have shared with you our picks for the top ten Six Million Dollar Man toys from Kenner. However, we would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite toys from the series were.
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Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!