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The Green Machine
In the late Sixties, the toy company Marx introduced the Big Wheel to the world. It was a compact three-wheeled wonder that would ultimately become iconic. Every kid wanted one.
Less than a decade later, Marx would up the ante by creating a new type of wheeled wonder. While it still relied on a big wheel to drive it forward, it was different in almost every way. It was low to the ground with two handles for steering that controlled two widely set rear tires.
It was The Green Machine.
As you can see from this add that ran in comics in Seventies, the design and feature set was impressive. You had:
Adjustable Bucket Seat
Swivel-Action Rear Wheels
Racing Sick Tires
Hug the Road Top-Proof Design
Direct-Drive Pedal System
Super Size Mag Style Wheel
It was mind-blowingly different and it was not at all what I wanted.
Everyone in my neighborhood had a Big Wheel. Heck, some of the kids had already moved on to bicycles when the Green Machine showed up under my Christmas Tree.
Getting a Green Machine was a real surprise. Not just because I didn’t ask for it, that was not unusual for gifts in our house. It was a surprise because the Green Machine was more expensive than the big wheel.
As you can see in this sales ad from 1977, a good deal pricier for what you would think most parents thought was the exact same thing.
Oddly enough, not my parents. I would later find out that the reason was simple, my Mom thought the Green Machine was cooler.
An interesting thing in the above ad is the available color options on the Green Machine. It says available in green or black. I have looked far and wide trying to find a black Green Machine, but have so far come up empty-handed. So either this is an error or I am missing something.
As pointed out by commenter “NP,” I read the article wrong. Its not black OR green, it is black AND green, the color of a Green Machine. I guess I just got excited at the prospect of a sleek obsidian trike.
I would love to have owned a “Black Machine.” I was not able to mock one up, but here is what a “Purple Machine” might have looked like.
Other Green Machine Variants
The Green Machine style was copied by several companies. I have spotted a few, mostly in catalogs and ads from the time.
The Green Machine Shadow
In 1979, Marx released an updated version of the green machine. Billed as a sleek modern update on the original, the Shadow had updated stickers and coloration, but most importantly it had a dramatic airfoil over the rear manifold.
The Blue Max Machine
The blue and yellow “Blue Max Machine” by Empire. Sadly I have only some B&W ads for it right now. So It doesn’t capture its “blueness” but you can see it is very similar in design to the Green Machine. With its lower price tag, I could see a lot of kids who wanted the Green Machine getting a Blue Max instead.
The Batman Machine
Probably the most legendary of the variants is the Batman Machine, which was an amazing 1977 Sears exclusive. It had slick Batman theming in the form of stickers and a very different color scheme. I imagine this is very similar to the Blue & Yellow colors of the Blue Max. It also had a wonderful Batman pennant. That way when you are cruising down the sidewalk with it flapping in the wind, everyone will know, that kids IS Batman.
Retroist Contributor Rob O’Hara had one and it looked like it was all sorts of amazing.
The Incredible Hulk Machine
The Batman Green Machine is the branded “Machine” that most people reminsce about, but Marvel also got in on the action with their Incredible Hulk Machine. This variant is differentiated solely from colors and decals, but it does have a very unique green, gold and purple color scheme. I can only assume it was less popular than the Batman Machine because it lacked a cool Incredible Hulk penant.
My First Experience on a Green Machine
It would be months before it was clear enough outside to take my Green Machine a spin. In retrospect, you would think seeing this dazzling green trike cruising down the street would draw all sorts of positive attention. It did not.
Instead, it became a source of mockery. The reason? It was different. So the kids in my town didn’t know how to process it. They could only focus on its one major flaw. The width of the Swivel-Action Rear Wheels was too wide for our sidewalks.
I was crushed and defeated until one day the full power of the big wheel was revealed. It was a warm spring day and I had taken my Green Machine down the street to race against two friends. I didn’t win the race, but as I crossed the street boundary that was the finish line I decided to try and spin out by pulling the steering levers in different directions. This resulted in just about a 180 degree spin.
At this point in the story, the full potential of the Green Machine was instantly realized. Now this green monster was no longer something to be joked about, it was a toy everyone wanted.
That summer was the last one my friends and I were small enough to ride trike style toys. So I would be the only one in our group to ever have a Green Machine. We raced hundreds of times that year and a few times I might have crossed the finish line first. But no matter what place I was in, I always ended the race with dramatic spin, and in the eyes of my jealous friends, this als made me a winner.
Green Machine Advertising
If you need to be sold further on the merits of the Green Machine, here is a commercial that shows it in action.
Two things I want to point out after repeated watching of this ad. First, because the Green Machine is now made by Huffy. A lot of vintage commercials and ads attribute the original Green Machine to Huffy. Secondly, they really lean into their slightly too wordy slogan:
For guys 8, 9, 10 years old who really know how to ride.
While I don’t disagree with this, I think they really missed an opportunity here to market this to gals as well.
My girl cousins who lived across the street from me could get this thing going and pull nearly a 360. Which was something to behold.
They loved the Green Machine and while nothing was preventing them from getting one, it was not being pushed on them so overtly.
Amazing that the limitations of the time could prevent a company from possibly reaping even larger profits.