While determining the scale of the Millennium Falcon vehicle may have set in stone the 3 3/4″ scale of Kenner’s Star Wars figures, the Falcon itself didn’t arrive in the toy stores until 1979. The first vehicles to appear were, in fact, Luke’s landspeeder, a TIE fighter and the iconic Rebel X-Wing fighter.
Lighter and sleeker, the X-Wing was much more likely to see some “flight” than the bulky Falcon was. Its laundry list of features was fairly simple. Pressing on the “R2-D2 head” in the fighter’s fuselage “opens the S-foils into attack position,” or, more simply, opens the wings into their familiar “X” position. (Pressing a blue release switch drops them back into a closed position – ungracefully, I might add!) A clear cockpit canopy swung up to allow one figure to sit in the pilot seat, while the forward landing gear could be swung down or up at the bottom of the fighter’s nose. (There was no rear landing gear; two “fins” stuck out of the bottom of the “engines” to stabilize the fighter’s rear section when it was sitting.) With the addition of two AA batteries, a red LED in the nose could be activated which, along with a buzzing sound, apparently stood in for the X-Wing’s lasers.
Like the Falcon, an impressive amount of detail was sculpted into the X-Wing’s surface, particularly on and around the engines, but as with all of the early Kenner Star Wars vehicles, any color detail on the surface was left up to the consumer; paper decals were included, though as you can see in this specimen, the typical wear and tear of play, and quite a bit of storage time, have tended not to be kind to many of the decals. (This one also has a missing “gun” from one of the wings – I’ve never understood the toy companies’ insistence on re-releasing vehicles and accessories in “battle damaged” form, when we kids of the ’70s and ’80s managed that quite nicely on our own.)
Whereas today, Hasbro includes special exclusive figures as an incentive to pick up their latest vehicles, the X-Wing was enough of a novelty at the time that it came with no figures. Indeed, the first trio of vehicles pre-dated the second wave of figures, so instead of Luke in his pilot gear, the publicity and packaging photos for the X-Wing’s first release showed Luke in his Tatooine farmboy duds climbing into the cockpit! (Again, in reference to the anything-but-tried-and-true small scale of the figures that had been decided to make the Falcon affordable for Kenner and the consumer marketplace, the packaging points out that “mini-action figures” are not included.)
When my age was in the single digits, my older brother wanted a Mustang more than anything. Not to be outdone, I wanted an X-Wing fighter. Thanks to Kenner (and my parents), I think I got my wish first.