With few exceptions, all of the toys Kenner produced in the vintage Star Wars line were based on items seen on-screen in the films. The Imperial Troop Transport was the first item produced that was NOT based on something seen in the films. The toy included a story booklet that showed how the Empire used the vehicle, to give kids an idea of how to play with it.
It’s a cool toy. For its day, it was advanced, with push-button sounds from the movie.
I picked one up from my friend Jared at Salt Lake Comic Con. It’s incomplete (missing the prisoner restraints and radar dish) and the front wheel is broken, but I got a good price on it. Jared was unaware of the sound functions at the time, and we had a great conversation about it. Thanks, Jared!
I had recently assisted my friend Brandon in repairing the sound in his, so I felt confident I could do the same on this one. As usual, I started with a good tear-down and cleaning. I wasn’t too worried about the stickers, as some were already missing and the rest were badly flaking and peeling. The battery terminals were badly corroded, so that was a first order of business as well.
To disassemble the transport, begin by removing several screws from the bottom. Don’t worry about the screws on top – yet. These hold the sound unit in place. Once the screws in the bottom are removed, the top and bottom of the toy hinge open. Swing it open, then work the body off of the pegs on the base.
if you flip the main body over, you’ll see the sound module. It’s a fairly simple yet ingenious setup: A small plastic “record” is turned by a motor. There’s a small plastic stylus that rides on the record, and a passive speaker cone sits on top of the stylus. No electronic amplification, just the vibration of the cone. If you ever put a needle through a paper cup then held it onto an LP, this is the same idea. The 2-position switch adjusts the speed of the playback.
To remove the sound module, remove the 3 screws on the top of the main transport body. Carefully remove the blue and black wires from the switch (they’ll just pull off) and slip the “wall” that the switch is mounted on out of position.
Now, remove the blue and red wires from the battery holder. Pay attention to where they go. If you get them backwards, the motor will run the wrong direction.
As with most of these vintage Star Wars toys, the motors seize up. In my experience, most of the time a couple drops of 3-in-1 oil (or WD-40) is all it takes to get them going. You can access the necessary spot to oil the motor without tearing the sound module apart. It can be seen here on the left:
If it’s easier, you can remove the screw that holds the top on, remove it, and have better access to the motor. BE CAREFUL here. There’s a small belt (a glorified rubber band) that runs around the motor shaft and turns the record. If you pull the motor out of place, the belt inside will slip off. Here you can see the sound module with the cover removed, and the small passive speaker cone.
I haven’t had to replace a belt, and I think tearing the sound module down far enough to do so could be very difficult. But, it could probably be done.
I took the sound module apart enough to see the record spin. Here’s a short video:
There’s also a small contact inside that triggers the motor. This is usually corroded and needs cleaned. Clean it gently with some cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol.
While you’re at it, clean all of the electrical contacts.
To clean the corrosion off the battery contacts, I used some 400 grit sandpaper. A wire brush on a dremel would work well too, just be careful to not damage the surrounding plastic.
Once I got the electronics working, I cleaned all of the plastic parts of the toy. I soaked everything (except the sound module) in a bath of warm water and mild dishwashing detergent. Then, I gently scrubbed with a toothbrush to remove the dirt from the crevices. I then allowed all of the parts to dry thoroughly, then polished the plastic with some Novus Plastic Polish.
Once everything was dry, I re-assembled the toy. It goes back together pretty easily. I then applied some replacement decals that I printed on sticker paper and sealed with 3 coats of Krylon crystal clear acrylic spray paint. I referred to a scan of the original instruction sheet I found online to get the decals in the correct places. I’m very happy with how it came out, it will make a nice addition to my collection!