"We just had to kick ass"
— Mike Onslow on the team's goals

The International Wreck Crew (or the Plunderbird boys, as they were simply known) were responsible for the creation of the series of Plunderbird robots that were entered into Robot Wars through Series 1 to 5, as well as Extreme 1.

The Team[edit | edit source]

The team in Series 1

The International Wreck Crew was consistently captained by Mike Onslow, a model maker for a living, who was joined by Bryan Kilburn in all of their appearances. Mike and Bryan were joined by Jon Dilley for Series 1, but Dilley left the team after this series and was replaced by Ken Burt for Series 2 and 3. From Series 4 up until their retirement, the team only consisted of Onslow and Kilburn.

The team were famous for their striking demeanour, although behind the tough talking and bravado, they were one of the more sporting teams in robotic combat, and tended to be more concerned about their image than their robot's performance, for example in Series 4, the team arrived with their robot, Plunderbird 4, in a Chinook helicopter.

The Plunderbird Team pose in the arena during Series 2

Despite their light-hearted attitude, the team were not entirely unsuccessful, being awarded the Best Design trophy in Series 1 for their robot Plunderbird 1 and receiving the Sportsmanship award in Series 2 for entertaining of the audience with their 'tough guy' attitude and their fearless aggression toward the House Robots. Plunderbird 2 also reached the Semi-Finals of the Second Wars, only just losing out to Haardvark in the Gauntlet stage.

Besides the Plunderbird robots, Bryan Kilburn stated during an interview with the Robot Wars Magazine that he was working on a robot named Plunderbug One, an eight-legged walker. It is unknown how much progress was made on the project but it would have been a larger version of their Techno Games Battery Sprint entry Junior.

In 2016, Mike Onslow joined 'Team. Ablaze' to collaborate on Dystopia, although the team did not qualify for the TV series.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The name International Wreck Crew was a pun on International Rescue, the rescue organisation in the television show Thunderbirds, after which the robots are also named. These allusions were further emphasised in Series 4 by the use of the Thunderbirds theme music during the aforementioned Chinook sequence.

Image[edit | edit source]

"It's about time you pair of girlies got yourself a decent hard image!"
— Mike Onslow taunts the Sir Chromalot team

The team were famous for their image, always being clad in khaki clothing, black shirts and sunglasses, which they admitted made it hard to see.

The team fought two grudge matches during Extreme 1 with the Sir Chromalot and Mega Morg teams. The grudge with Sir Chromalot related to the teams' mutual entertainment value and a staged feud as to which was the better entertainers. Similarly, the battle with Mega Morg regarded which of the teams was the better singers, both having sung previously during the wars (see below). The fight with Mega Morg resulted in a victory for the Plunderbird team, while they lost against Sir Chromalot.

Songs[edit | edit source]

The Plunderbird boys sing "Have You Got A Srimech?" in Extreme 1

The International Wreck Crew even took the time to write various songs, writing and recording their own entrance theme (in Series 2), their own rap song (in Series 3) and then two other jingles in Series 4 and Extreme 1.

"When the noise and strength has gone, the power packs depleted.
Then the mercy of their foe will surely be defeated.
With ball and chain, hammer and saw, metal is destroyed.
Cryo circuits torn apart, cast into the wind.
Mechanical minds that have no soul and machines that have no fear.
Metallic monsters fight it out, Judgement Day draws near.
As the world spins to its doom, towards the end of time.
The earth is silent once again, from mankind's dirty crime.
— The Series 2 Theme Song
"We are the Wreck Crew and we're here to tell you, we're gonna bash them, we're gonna trash them, in the wars you know we're gonna thrash them, the forecast's bad, you'd better get runnin', it's gonna be tough - there's a Plunderstorm comin!
There's danger in the air, so you'd better take care, the crew is back and we're gonna attack, we're comin' for you down in the arena, ain't nobody ever gonna be meaner!
Your dreams will be gone, but we don't care, we just carry on, we'll always be there, we never give up or run away, cos the Wrecking Crew is here to stay!
We spell trouble with a capital 'T', so don't go takin' no liberty, if you think you're tough, then be our guest, 'cos we are the best, we destroy the rest!
The metal monster is big and mean, no-one inside, it's just a machine, shows no fear, will not surrender, so you'd better get ready for a fender bender!
— The complete Series 3 rap
"Shout out loud, make lots of noise!
There's damage to be done by the Plunderbird boys!
Gonna stamp on you, gonna hit you hard!
Gonna send your robot to the breaker's yard!
What's the word? PLUNDERBIRD!!
— The Series 4 Song
"We're big boys, we build big toys, we're handy with a spanner, if it don't work we go berserk and hit it with a hammer!
We took six months to build it, when we got there it won't go, now we've got to fix it, five minutes before the show!
'Ave you got a srimech? Course we 'ave?
We all love our robots, they're shiny and they're clean, but when they're in the arena, they're nasty and they're mean!
We're big boys, we build big toys, we're handy with a spanner, if it don't work we go berserk and hit it with a hammer!
We're all nice and friendly, when we're in the pits, but when we're in the arena, we smash each other to bits!
'Ave you got a srimech? Course we 'ave!
— The Extreme 1 Song

Robots[edit | edit source]

Name Weight Class Series
Plunderbird 1 Heavyweight Series 1
Plunderbird 2 Heavyweight Series 2
Plunderstorm Heavyweight Series 3
Plunderbird 4 Heavyweight Series 4
Plunderbird 5 Heavyweight Extreme 1, Series 5, US Season 1

Wins/Losses[edit | edit source]

  • UK Wins: 5
  • UK Losses: 8
  • US Wins: 0
  • US Losses: 1

Series Record[edit | edit source]

UK Series[edit | edit source]

Main Series International Wreck Crew Series Record
The First Wars Heat, Gauntlet with Plunderbird 1
The Second Wars Semi-Finals, Gauntlet with Plunderbird 2
The Third Wars Heat, Round 1 with Plunderstorm
The Fourth Wars Heat, Round 2 with Plunderbird 4
The Fifth Wars Heat, Round 1 with Plunderbird 5
The Sixth Wars Did not enter
The Seventh Wars Did not enter
Series 8 Not selected with Dystopia (Mike Onslow)
Series 9 Did not enter
Series 10 Did not enter
Robot Wars Extreme Appearances
Series 1 Entered with Plunderbird 5
Series 2 Did not enter

US Series[edit | edit source]

US Series International Wreck Crew Series Record
Season 1 War of Independence, Round 1 with Plunderbird 5
Season 2 Did not enter
Nickelodeon Did not enter

Robot Wars Live Events[edit | edit source]

The team's robots haven't fought in the recently rebranded Robot Wars Live Events, but team member Mike Onslow once made an appearance at the Robot Wars Live Event at Guildford 2016 where he got the audience singing along to the team's srimech song from the first series of Robot Wars Extreme.

Outside Robot Wars[edit | edit source]

The team also competed in the 2001 edition of Techno Games with a walking robot named Junior, which finished fourth overall in the Battery Powered Sprint. On Techno Games, the team went by the name The Smith Twins, and humorously denied having ever entered Robot Wars[1]. The team originally intended to build a larger version of Junior for Robot Wars, but it was not finished. They returned, joined by "Miss Smith" ('played' by Vicki Allgood from Dartford Girls Grammar), the following year in the Swimming Competition with Stealth Stingray (a robot they claimed took 15 years to make), which lost its heat to Roboduck and Buoyant.

After their Series 5 defeat, Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn retired from Robot Wars. However, Onslow and Kilburn continued to use Plunderbird 4 in live events (as Plunderbird 5 had been damaged beyond repair), with some degree of success, before later deciding to retire it for good. Since then, Onslow and Kilburn have brought the shells of their remaining Plunderbird machines for display purposes to certain robotic fighting events, most recently coming along to the 2011 UK Championships with Plunderbird 2 and 4, as well as the cutting disc weapon pod used on Plunderbird 1. Despite Plunderbird 5's shell being disposed of years ago, Mike Onslow still owns at least of its original drive wheels. The team also own of the side plates used on the original Series 1-2 incarnation of Sergeant Bash.

The team's workbench displaying some of the components of the Plunderbird robots, their awards and the side plate of Sergeant Bash in 2019

In October 2018, Mike Onslow appeared on the Channel 5 series The Great Model Railway Challenge, collaborating with Laurie Calvert to built a model named Plungerbird, referencing the Plunderbird robots.

Bryan Kilburn and Mike Onslow in 2019

Mike and Bryan as casuals in 2019

In January 2019, Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the editing and marketing of a mockumentary, Plunderbirds: Talk Robots, and the production of a physical DVD for the film. In the documentary, Onslow and Kilburn would (in character) explain the workings of a combat robot, and sales of the DVD intended to raise money for various charities. However, the Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, with £765 being pledged towards the campaign's £10,000 all-or-nothing goal, resulting in no funding being received from backers.

In March 2020, Mike Onslow lent Plunderbirds 2 and 4 to Wefit Autocentre in Alton, and donated a side armour panel from Plunderstorm, an unused side panel from Plunderstorm, and a Plunderbird team poster for a charity raffle[2].

Trivia[edit | edit source]

An interview from the original Robot Wars Magazine

  • International Wreck Crew are one of five teams to win more than one award, the others being Team Mace, Team Nemesis, Team Razer and Team Steel Avenger (if the unseen Best Costume Award given to The Steel Avenger in Robot Wars Extreme 1 is included).
  • In an interview in Issue 1 of the original Robot Wars Magazine, a fourth member of the team is listed and pictured - Tim Scott, the Team Engineer. However, he never appeared on the televised show.
  • Mike Onslow was part of The Steering Committee.

Honours[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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