Why I miss the 80s part 4,673, the Tuba Ruba…

By Shawn Robare

While flipping though a bunch of old Boy’s Life magazines recently I came across a couple Toys ‘R’ Us circulars that had some interesting stuff. In the 80s toy companies had a leeway with products that you just won’t ever see again.

In particular there was a full-page ad for an awesome 1989 TRU exclusive Back to the Future II battery-powered DeLorean…

Much in the same vein as the Return of the Jedi jungle gym that I talked about last April, this child-sized motorized DeLorean is pretty damn cool and another example of one of my childhood fantasies come to life.  I never had the opportunity to own or even ride one of the plethora of Power Wheels toys cars and trucks that were so huge in the 80s, but you can bet I dreamed of having my own DeLorean so that I could tool around the neighborhood before jacking it up to 88pmh and blasting into the future (most likely to see if the Transformers really did have an Autobot base on Earth in 2005.)  It’s weird, I keep stumbling across these awesome relics of the past that I never knew existed, and always wished were available.  What’s next?  Were there child-sized motorized AT-ATs?  Was there an Airwolf themed swing set with ride-able helicopter seats?

Seriously though, how cool is that advertising artwork?!?  I love the exaggerated flames coming out from behind that little Power Wheels car.  It’s almost as if it has rocket powered thrust or something.  Also, that kid’s shades are the best.  They remind me of the Pizza Hut Back to the Future II promotion in ’89 that featured cheap plastic sunglasses in all sorts of wacky shapes…

Next up is a 1988 ad for Galoob’s Army GEAR dual action toys…

Army GEAR was Galoob’s attempt at bridging the gap between their Micro Machines and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe and Transformers toys.  The idea is actually kind of cool where on the one hand you’ve made some serviceable toy army weapons, but the fact hat they transform into battle stations with all sorts of little soldiers and vehicles inside is just genius.  Some of the sets were kind of ludicrous though, in particular a machete, which is just a weird item to be molded into a child’s toy.  Maybe Galoob teamed up with the Army after hearing about how video games where increasing soldier’s eye-hand coordination and making them better helicopter and jet pilots.  This was possibly their secret way of getting kids used to field-stripping M-16s and .45 caliber pistols…

The craziest item in the circulars was the most insane “board game” ever, Milton Bradley’s Tuba Ruba…

Tuba Ruba was Milton Bradley’s second attempt at selling sex in a box (22 years after introducing the slightly controversial Twister in 1966.)  This time around, not content with just introducing adults and children to the wonders of inappropriate touching in strange positions, MB upped the ante by adding bondage to the mix.  The idea is pretty simple, wrap the Tuba Ruba tubes around your (and an opponents) body and insert a ball at the top end.  Then you just wiggle and shake until the ball drops out the bottom.  I’m sure this became standard issue party equipment in 7-Minutes-in-Heaven closets all over the country.

If nothing else, I can say that toys have never been as exciting as they were in the 80s…

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  • Finky The Kid

    Wow, that Powerwheels Delorean is fantastic. Just seeing it now makes me as excited as that kid! Shawn Robare, you’ve dug up a jewel here!

  • Aixelsyd13

    Oh man! I had those GEAR guys & that flashlight! I had forgotten all about them until reading that. Wow. Ha ha. I never had Tuba-Ruba, but may have liked that when I was about 16 or so… ha ha.

  • Vanessa

    I love your site! I’m a devoted regular. I am almost pretty dang sure I remember the commercial for Tuba Ruba. Never thought ‘sex in a box’ when I was a kid. I would picture a segment or two wrapped around my arm. Then spinning while circling my arm, just to 380 and shoot/fling said marble into opponents eye, cheek, teeth…. whatever,as long as it left a nice bruise.

  • PhillyRadioGeek

    Sex in a box…HA!

  • Tim L.

    Must. Find. Tuba Ruba.

  • Rondal

    You’ve got me on those last two, but I definitely remember the motorized DeLorean. Aw, man, it was my fantasy car as a kid! I used to dream about adding all sorts of tech-gadgets to it (tvs, monitors, bright flashing buttons) and hitting the road. Of course there was always the pesky limitation of the battery life and the fact that I could barely squeeze into the driver’s seat… but still.

  • Paxton Holley

    HOLEEEEE SHIT, SHAWN! I’ve never seen or heard of that Delorean time machine power wheel. You just blew my f’n mind. I can’t even conceive of how awesome that toy would have been to own. Pax