Clutch is one of the highlights of the original Joes, while he might not have had the mystique of Snake Eyes, he was still a unique figure and character that was a lot more memorable than say Short Fuse or Grand Slam. He also came with the VAMP, probably the best vehicle released in 1982, so Clutch gets a few bonus points because of that. 1983 and 1984 took a lot of the first year’s concepts, and expanded on them, and since toys from all three years were on the shelves together, there was a necessity that they all worked together, so by ’84 the VAMP was revisited, this time as a desert attack vehicle. This made sense, because it was obviously different from the original VAMP, which made it a justifiable purchase, allowed another figure to match up with Tan Grunt, and by replacing the original VAMP with the updated version, it didn’t leave any holes in G.I. Joe’s retail presence.
Clutch, was one of the more unique original figures, he had a torso that wasn’t shared, and even though his head sculpt was shared with Breaker and Rock ‘N Roll, there were no shared colours in regards to hair colour, a thing that doomed figures like Grand Slam. The 1984 version has the same paint masks as the 82, but instead of olive drab, he’s now done up in tan. Environmentally specific repaints are a thing I’ll always make time for, it doesn’t expand an already bloated G.I. Joe universe too much, and provides different opportunities for characters to be used. The fact the tan matches up so well with Grunt, allows for someone to make a Tan Breaker custom, as well!
Appearance wise, while this figure is looking primed for desert warfare, figures like Duke, and Doc amongst others brought tan into regular combat situations, as well, so that allows this Clutch a little more leeway for use outside of the desert. It helps that he’s a vehicle driver, and that this version fits in well with both the VAMP and MK II, and even more so with the Mail-In version manufactured in Brazil (which is a much closer match than the domestic MK II). The nice thing about the VAMP MK II, is that while it’s brown, it’s a dark enough colour that it could work anywhere. So if you’re married to Clutch v2 being in the MK II, it’s still usable in the woods or whatnot. Funnily enough, in the short run the G.I. Joe line had in Japan, Tan Clutch was the included driver with the plain old VAMP, though it’s actually that weird VAMP variant that has the shovel on the fender.
In a way, Clutch as a figure suffers somewhat from being a Vehicle Driver. The figure is quite a solid design, and the uniqueness of his torso, isn’t something that has any detailing or whatnot that obligates him to being a driver. So this is a very solid figure that could fit in well with a more infantry based display or diorama, but since Clutch and the VAMP is such a ubiquitous pairing, the figure is almost doomed to not see as much use as he deserves. Which shows how far vehicle drivers fell by, even the late 80s where some of them weren’t even good enough to be usable as the driver of the vehicle they came with.
Clutch is one of my favourite characters, his early comics appearances where he had a great rapport with Scarlett, added a low-key comic relief aspect to the stories, Clutch being buried in sand up to his neck while doing body guard duty in issue #9, is a funny concept, but not something that requires too much suspension of disbelief. Clutch’s filecard also shows the man is far more than Greasemonkey he tends to be portrayed as, the dude went to some of the same schools Scarlett did. The executive bodyguard schooling is a neat aspect to the character, too, there’s a reason COBRA Commander was able to escape in issue #24, Clutch wasn’t on that mountain top.
The car enthusiast aspect of the character is one of those things that helps to normalize him somewhat.
This version is probably my preferred version of Clutch. While it’s not really all that different from the original, the colouring provides Clutch a little more oomph, while also allowing some of the more generic 1982 figures, the ability to exist without being overshadowed too much by a more unique figure in the same colours. Up until 2018, the Clutch mold was horrifically underused, as there were only the two domestic releases, and a few (mainly green) Funskool Variations. So while Clutch managed to fare better than Rock ‘N Roll or Steeler, it was still pretty slim pickings for Mrs. Steinberg’s pride and joy.
In 2018, the Clutch mold found its way into a bunch of Factory Customs, so there’s opportunity for a couple more easily done custom Clutch figures, though it’s not certain if they’re figures that wind up overtaking this version of Clutch as my overall favourite outfit for the figure and character.