Every corner of the Transformers universe has its own charm, its own appeal and its own secrets. While many foreign variant Transformers display interesting packaging variations, down in Mexico things were decidedly more exotic. From the sublime to the ridiculous, welcome to the world of Mexican Transformers! If you’re not familiar with the special Mexican variants of well-known G1 characters such as Prowl and Hoist, then you’re in for a shock or two…
In Mexico, The Transformers were released by a company called Plasticos IGA under licence from Hasbro and Takara, and it is believed that the toys were released from 1985 through to 1987. Now, Mexican Transformers by all rights should be massively rare as they are exclusive to Mexico, but in fact countries such as Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia and the UK imported Mexican Transformers en masse as they would have been much cheaper than buying stock directly from Hasbro. It is in these European countries that most Mexican Transformers have been found, having been sold throughout the 80s in some retailers.
The above IGA logo can be found on the boxes of Mexican Transformers in place of the usual Hasbro logo that we would be accustomed to. In addition to the different company logo, the first run of Mexican Transformers boxes in 1985 contained a lot of series 1 G1 Transformers, but the quality of the boxes and inner packaging, as well as the paperwork, were significantly lower than that of the Hasbro released Transformers. In fact, we will come to see that cost-saving measures were the main theme of these Mexican Transformers. In some cases, this proves to be detrimental to the condition of the figures but at the same time adding to the magic of their appeal.
A quick look at the back of a series 1 Mexican TF box shows a lack of Robot Points (no mailaway promos) and no tech spec bar (hence no red decoders included with the toy).
So let’s get stuck in with some of the earliest Mexican variants…
The Mexican Decepticon jets show some of the most obvious examples of cost-cutting and resulting variations. For a start, the Mexican jets do not come with silver die-cast wheels, instead they have black plastic wheels. The factory stickers on the jets, as with all Mex TFs, are much more papery and less elaborate than their US counterparts. Also no Mexican Transformers came with rubsigns. You can see that Mexican Thundercracker’s wing stickers are quite different to that of a US Thundercracker. It’s not all boring plastic and paper though, there are major differences in the look of the toys too:
For years Skywarp’s box photography showed him with a purple nosecone, accessories and rudders, but all US, European and Japanese Skywarps always had a black nosecone. In Mexico, they were clearly working to the very earliest prototypes and literature that Hasbro/Takara produced because they actually produced their Skywarps with a purple nosecone! In addition to the very attractive purple nose and black plastic wheels, the Mexican jets also had hard plastic nosecones with a funny moulded blob on the end, unlike the rubber nosecones found on Transformers jets everywhere else. Interestingly, another link to the past is that only Japanese Diaclones and KOs of those Diaclones have plastic nosecones.
You can also see from the last picture above that the Mexican Starscream is a wonderful shade of gunmetal grey with sparkly blue plastic. That too has a hard nosecone and black plastic wheels. The Mexican Thundercracker is quite a dull and dark shade of blue with very little sparkly in its plastic. Both Starscream and Thundercracker are missing the white stripes on their factory stickers.
OK here we go, this is where the serious stuff begins. Mexican BLACK Prowl! There are actually three known variations of this Mexican Prowl with small differences, but the main talking points are the mostly black colour scheme, the exquisite black robot head, the Spanish “Policia” and “Patrulla de Caminos” factory stickers. Some versions of Mexican Prowl have black doortops, some have white, and some of them actually still have the black curved police markings on the hood while the one pictured above does not. This is probably the most popular and desireable of all the Mexican Transformers.
While Prowl is the most desireable and classy of the Mexican variants, Hoist is probably the most bizarre…
A simply magnificent by-product of cost-cutting tactics, the series 2 Mexican Hoist did not come with a proper Hoist head but instead a green-moulded Trailbreaker head! While for series 2 the quality of the packaging had improved significantly and the toys actually had techspec stats, instead of using the re-tooled 1985/1986 moulds, IGA just recoloured the original 84 moulds where possible. As a result, the Mexican Hoist is a treasure.
Another delightful incident of just recolouring an older mould and releasing it as a new character, and my favourite of all the Mexican Transformers, is the first run IGA Smokescreen:
Absolutely beautiful, even sporting a Bluestreak-like T-bar roof. To date only one of these has been found, but of course there must be more out there. The corrected Mexican Smokescreen with the proper Fairlady Z Racing splitter and spoiler is much more common. The fact that IGA actually corrected the mould is something amazing in itself!
The above Smokescreen was found in the UK back in the 1980s, but it wasn’t all good news for kids and collectors. Back in the late 1980s there was a campaign in the UK to remove these Mexican Transformers from stores as it was found that some of the paint used in their detailing had certain amounts of lead in it. There was even a feature on a UK children’s news programme! As a result, those responsible for their distribution in the UK had to recall many of them and physically strip off the paint, replacing it with red paint where possible. Add into the mix the need for haste in order to get them back out onto the market and cash in, and this is the result…
The tremendously haphazard looking paint application on these toys has become world famous now amongst collectors. Can you imagine being the recipient of one of these ‘bloody eyes’ Mexican Transformers as a child? Needless to say Hasbro were keen to have these phased out of the market at the time.
The Grapple is actually another of the quite interesting Mexican variants, also having red Inferno-coloured feet! However it should be noted that not all Mexican Grapples are like this.
Other Mexican Transformers to receive this red-eye treatment include Astrotrain, Inferno, Blitzwing, Topspin, Twin Twist and Devastator (giftset and single packed version).
Those who truly show a love for these Mexican variants will not be swayed purely by the famous headline-grabbing variants like Prowl, Skywarp or Smokescreen. They will also show appreciation for the much more subtle variants that gently hint at the aforementioned IGA cost-saving.
Whichever Mexican Transformer you look at will display differences in the factory stickers, and usually any white paint used will have a much more creamy off-white appearance, especially painted die-cast sections. This Red Alert goes one step further, actually missing all red paint from the arms/doors, relying completely on the factory “FIRE CHIEF” stickers to maintain the red colour around the bottom of the vehicle.
Interestingly, all Mexican Transformers’ missile launchers work potently. If you don’t care about lead poisoning, why should you care about firing missiles!? Notice also that the silver paint used on Red Alert’s face is significantly duller than the shiny silver paint used on US/Euro Transformers faces. Sideswipe shows the same feature, and the Mexican Bluestreak is painted mostly in this dull grey silver with no red paint on his face or head at all!
No article about Mexican Transformers can be complete without a look at the stunning minibot variations available south of the border. As discussed in last week’s minibot article, instead of releasing the re-tooled 1986 minibot moulds IGA just repainted the existing 1984 mould minibots. The above Huffer/Pipes and Gears/Swerve hybrids are two of the most stylish minibot variants available anywhere in the world.
In addition to the logical hybrids featuring the signature IGA recolouring philosophy, the Mexicans also released uniquely coloured minibots such as the yellow/blue Windcharger (“Tailgate”), blue Bumblebee, white Bumblebee and silver Cliffjumper. Some have claimed these colours are based on early Takara prototype photography of strange-coloured minibots never released.
We’ve already discussed the fact that not all Mexican Transformers are packed with stunning and exciting variations. Some are very normal with just the standard lack of factory sticker and paint quality. Here’s a list of what’s been found so far:
*Optimus Prime (w/red eyes and without, with and without factory
stickers on diecast cab section)
* Ratchet (no hand stickers but red cross on roof; unpainted diecast
* Ironhide (unpainted diecast shoulder connectors)
* Bluestreak (no red paint on face, flat grey windows)
* Prowl (3 variants of ‘black’ Prowl)
* Hoist (with Trailbreaker head)
* Grapple (with red feet or corrected orange feet)
* Inferno (Reversed arms, then corrected)
* Smokescreen (regular and Smokestreak )
* Bumblebee (red, yellow, blue, white, silver)
* Cliffjumper (red, yellow, blue, silver)
* Windcharger (no paint on face)
* Tailgate (white, yellow; non-modified Windcharger mold)
* Brawn (Simplified face)
* Outback (non-modified Brawn mold)
* Pipes (all-blue, blue/white; non-modified Huffer mold)
* Swerve (non-modified Gears mold)
* Twin Twist (with and without red face)
* Top Spin (with and without red face)
* Snarl (red eyes, no paint on diecast backpiece connector)
* Metroplex (Yes! Really!!)
* Red Alert (no red paint on doors)
* Wheeljack (Different factory stickers)
* Megatron (Made in France!)
* Soundwave (Black painted feet)
* Starscream (Silver, plastic nose and landing gear)
* Thundercracker (Plastic nose and landing gear, dull blue)
* Skywarp (plastic purple nose and landing gear)
* Astrotrain (with and without red eyes)
* Constructicons (singlepacked; w/red eyes and without on Devastator head)
* Devastator giftset (w/red eyes and without on Devastator head)
* Ramjet (Sparkly red plastic)
* Thrust (Sparkly red plastic)
If you should happen to find something not on the above list (Mirage, Sunstreaker, Jazz, Dirge, Slag, Sludge etc) and it has low quality papery factory stickers, possibly red eyes, try to verify by looking at the copyright to see if the “JAPAN” is covered by a block like the one shown above. Not all Mexican TFs have this copyright feature though, so packaged samples are still the airtight test of authenticity.
It is so rare these days to still have mysteries and undiscovered variants left in any section of Transformers collecting, so when a silver Mexican Bumblebee surfaced just a couple of months ago it was quite an exciting occurrence. However, in my honest opinion, Mexican Transformers have never been entirely about multicoloured minicars, we can leave that to Brazil and Peru. Mexican Transformers are about the huge variations and wild differences like Spanish-text black Prowl, Trailbreaker-head Hoist as well as the wild minibots and purple-nosed proto-reminiscent Skywarp. If you are ever lucky enough to score a mint Mexican Transformer, any sort of close scrutiny will uncover a raft of differences (minute usually) between the Mex and US version of the same toy, and finding out that what you have is just slightly more exotic and interesting than the widely available US/Euro versions of a toy is what variant hunting is all about!
Huge thanks to Morgan Evans, Martin Lund and Tim Bannerjee for their kind contributions to this article and the community.
All the best