Before The Transformers came the Takara Diaclone and Micro Change toys in Japan, and throughout our tour of many Japanese Diaclones we saw variations and exotic colours aplenty, be it Car Robots (Parts 1, 2 and 3) or other pre-Transformers ancestors. However, Japan was not the only country to bask in the glory of Diaclone. This week’s final chapter in our month of Diaclone goodness will explore foreign releases of Takara’s Diaclone toys in countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Finland and even North America!
While the 1983 Tokyo Toy Show is very famous for Hasbro becoming interested in Takara’s Diaclone and MC toy lines and starting the process of bringing the toys over to North America to become The Transformers, other toy companies, distributors and manufacturers were also securing licences with Takara to release their toys abroad. These included GiG in Italy, Ceji in mainland Europe and Scandinavia and Takara themselves released their toys in Finland and North America. While most of the foreign Diaclone releases contained obvious packaging differences to make them more appealing and appropriate to their respective markets, there exist some fascinating exceptions. For now, we’ll concentrate on some of the more interesting non-Japanese releases of the Diaclone variety.
Italy received a huge amount of Takara’s Diaclone back-catalogue, including a significant amount of Car Robots. You can see from the packaging of the pre-Mirage above that all Japanese text was removed from the boxes, “Trasformer”, “Auto Robot” and “GiG” logos added and all mention of Diaclone drivers removed. You may also notice that due to cigarette advertising on the original Japanese Diaclone Ligier F1, the “Citanes” (already a misspelling of French cigarette brand “Gitanes”) has been covered up with a sticker reading “Ligier 26″. Later versions of the GiG Ligier had that corrected text painted onto the toy instead of stickered. The safety-conscious Italians did not neuter the rockets, but they did replace the pointy plastic missiles of these toys with large black and orange rubber bombs referred to nowadays as ‘boppers’ by fans.
The Car Robots released in Italy are very interesting as they do not always follow the same colour patterns used by Takara in Japan, they are almost hybrids sitting nicely between the Diaclones and Transformers in terms of their attributes. For example, in Japan the above Hilux Wrecker was never available in green until the Transformers “Hoist”, but the Italian version came in Transformers colours but retained the “Wrecker” text on the side. The GiG N.16 Cherry Vanette in red was also unique to Europe (Italy and Finland) but only available in black in Japan. It should also be noted that the Italian Auto Robot numbering system did not follow the Japanese Car Robot system. The moulds for these toys were typically of the same era as pre-rub Transformers, although a few exotic non-Transformers Diaclone variants found their way into Italian boxes (Yellow Sideswipe, Blue Bluestreak) and they typically were the same as Japanese moulds.
Now this is a real headache, but a beautiful one! As you can see, the venerable Diaclone Powered Convoy was also released in Italy under GiG’s Auto Robot banner. This toy was available with the original Japanese blue coloured cab, but also exclusively in Italy with the red Battle Convoy cab. The box for the Powered Buggy was also translated into Italian and emblazoned with GiG logos. This variant-heavy release also came with a Diaclone driver which is pretty rare for the Italian releases of the Car Robots. GiG Powered Convoys have been found with regular grey missiles and the orange/black safety bopper missiles. The above specimen was one of the last Powered Convoys to be released and it was pulled straight from a factory case by the looks of it.
You can see the bopper safety missiles in action above, and while many of these look exactly the same, some toys had them moulded specifically to suit their different dimensions:
The Italian GiG release of the Jet-Type Triple Changer had specifically moulded safety missiles, no doubt a forced measure due to the relative size and constraints of the mould compared to the Car Robots; this toy had its launchers integrated into the main body instead of an external detachable launcher. Incidentally, the other original Diaclone Triple Changer, the Heli Type, was also released in Italy.
The GiG releases of the Dinosaur Robos (pre-Dinobots) are very interesting, as they came with Diaclone drivers which were even advertised on the front of the boxes. Available in the original Japanese colours (blue and chrome in the case of this Triceratops pre-Slag), the Italian Dinos were also available in Transformers colours and in the case of pre-Slag, even red and white like the sought after Canadian red Transformers Slag and the Slag seen in the Transformers cartoons.
The Italian GiG releases of Takara’s Diaclone toys are not particularly rare and it’s not uncommon to see near-complete collections, but not all European Diaclone toys are quite so simple to locate. The existence of Diaclone toys in Finland only became common knowledge outside of their home nation around 2004, and since then only a handful have been found. Prepare for something very special indeed…
These Finnish Diaclones were sold exclusively at a retailer called “R-Kioski” and actually say “Diaclone” on the packaging. They are very close in appearance to the GiG toys but with subtle differences. The toys are Japanese mould, original missiles and even Diaclone drivers. This Ligier above does not even have censored sponsorship, quite clearly painted as “Citanes 26″. So not only a country-exclusive, but a sort of store exclusive as well, good luck to all you completists!
However, it was not packaging details that put Finland on the Diaclone/Transformers map. It was this:
This is the legendary, mythical and spectacular Finnish-exclusive black Diaclone Corvette Stingray – or ‘Black Tracks’ – from 1984. This item was first seen in Japanese super-collector Fumihiko Akiyama’s collection at BotCon Japan, and subsequently sparked a worldwide treasure hunt to discover its origin. Thanks to a Finnish Diaclone Truck Crane (pre-Grapple) appearing for auction and soon after a Finnish collector contacting a fellow UK collector, I was able to reveal in 2005 on my own website after much speculation that this toy was indeed a Finnish Diaclone. A few more have surfaced since then, and always the demand for them has been beyond hysterical. Those that have sold, have sold for a great deal. The toy itself has grey accessories and as with the Ligier, has the exact same moulding as the Japanese Corvette, long-stock gun and all. A simply magical release. The pre-Ironhide (black and red), pre-Sunstreaker (red), pre-Grapple are also believed to have been released in Finland. Who knows how many more?
Before I move onto my absolute favourite area of any Diaclone or Transformers-related collecting and my personal specialist area, we should also speak of Takara’s attempts to market Diaclone toys in North America. The Countach LP500S Super Tuning (red and yellow pre-Sunstreaker), Hilux 4WD (blue pre-Trailbreaker) and Onebox Cherry Vanette (black pre-Ironhide) were among a handful of toys released under the “Diakron” banner in North America before the Transformers were born. The boxes for these cars look a great deal like the eventual Transformers Autobot Car packaging in dimensions. Later on, they tried again to release a number of non-TF Diaclone toys like the Gats Blocker, Diatrain and Cosmo Roller as “Kronoform”.
And so, finally, I am able to share with you my truest and deepest love in all the Transformers and pre-Transformers universe, the wondrous and unrivalled releases of Takara’s Diamond Cyclone and Microman toys in countries such as France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria etc. It gives me a very special pleasure to present Ceji Joustra’s “Diaclone” line:
Featuring mesmeric and stirring exclusive artwork produced by Paul and Gaetan Brizzi, these releases are often just referred to as ‘Joustra’. Micro Change and Diaclone toys alike were released in Europe by Ceji as “Diaclone”. There was even a special good versus evil story concocted by the creators, the first instance of Takara’s Diaclone toys being given sentient personalities as opposed to being controlled by Diaclone drivers. These stories were included with most of the toys as an exclusive comic strip, sometimes just in French and sometimes translated into German. You can see from the above picture that a number of Takara’s Car Robots and Change Attacker Cars were released in this line, but also a Jetrobo and Microchange minicars, cassettes and Microx camera. Other releases include watches, M1910 Browning Gun Robo, Powerdashers, Gats Blocker (who was the main villain in the story), Diatrain and Cosmo Roller. Amazingly, the Joustra minibots feature Autobot stickers, covered briefly in our World of Minibots article.
Oh, did I forget to mention who the main hero of the Joustra Diaclone story was?
The Joustra “Diaclone Truck” was basically the foreign release of Takara’s Battle Convoy with its emotive “Diaclone” text on the trailer, but actually unique as it came with grey Roller and missiles and dark blue trailer parts. And that’s to say nothing of the simply breathtaking exclusive artwork. Collecting this toyline for me has proved the biggest challenge of my collecting life, as each and every release has special significance to other collectors who may only be interested in buying Optimus Prime variants, or Browning variants or minibots etc, and that is because this Joustra Diaclone line really has a little bit of everything…but presented better than anything that ever went before or after, in my humble opinion.
The Joustra F 15 (pre-Starscream) is presented as the original Diaclone was but without all the Diaclone “F15″ labels on the factory stickers. The stickersheets for Joustra toys were basically Diaclone stickersheets with the Joustra-specific “Diaclone” text logo on them and a sticker-map printed on the back for placement details. This was necessary as no Joustra toy comes with instructions. You can also see the lack of a Diaclone driver and the lovely Joustra exclusive comic leaflets, usually the first thing to go missing from these sets. It’s very interesting to note that this F 15′s artwork depicts the Diaclone pre-Thundercracker, not pre-Starscream.
The first wave of Joustra Diaclone toys are not considered supremely rare, although toys like the Change Attacker Van, Battle Convoy, Powerdashers and pre-Trailbreaker are notoriously difficult to find. It’s the second wave of Joustra Diaclone released in 1985, but cut short due to Europe’s love affair with The Transformers, that really fire the imagination…
Still featuring exclusive artwork but no longer a comic, the hyper-limited second wave of Joustra releases are – along with Finnish Diaclones – the last bastion of Diaclone mystery. Some of these second wave figures have never ever been found in their packaging and so the secret of their artwork remains hidden. This year I was able to discover the world’s first Joustra Diaclone pre-Wheeljack and also two Joustra Red Tracks were found, so there is hope. It will happen. I will make it happen! Other gems of the second wave of Joustra Diaclone include a Powered Convoy with blue cab, the Scorpion watch and yellow pre-Sunstreaker.
This brings us to the end of our month of Diaclone articles on the TFsource Blog, and what a month it has been. From the ancient and prestigious original Japanese Car Robots that pre-dated our beloved Transformers through to the later Diaclone rarities that stood no chance against the onslaught that was The Transformers marketing hurricane in Japan, America and Europe. We’ve looked at some of the beautiful and exotic colour variations available in Japan of toys we have become familiar with in our childhood, and finally we’ve touched upon the rich and opulent world of foreign Diaclones, culminating in a brief encounter with the majesty of Ceji Joustra’s two -year “Diaclone” odyssey. A tough act to follow indeed…
Gracious thanks must go to Martin Lund, Livio Fazzalari, Jeroen Blok and Frank Milkovich for their photographic contributions to this article.
All the best