Sure, we’ve been here before, and sure we’ve talked about some of the wacky things that Plasticos Iga did with the Transformers brand south of the border, but as with any good holiday destination you’ll never see it all in one visit. Because of that, we’re back in Mexico to have a look at a few more intriguing and unique Mexican G1 variations on a number of household names like Megatron, Prowl and Smokescreen.
Many of the stand-out and famous Mexican variants manufactured and released by Iga in Mexico (then imported into Europe) were covered in our last sojourn into this world of freaky colours and moulding, but this is our opportunity to delve a little deeper and look at some of the lesser known gems from this significant chapter in Transformers history. Apart from being released in Mexico, Iga-manufactured Transformers were imported into countries like the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden. These toys would often be stocked by smaller stores, newsagents or discount shops due to them being cheaper for retailers to procure than direct Hasbro product.
The Mexican Megatron has been a known variant for some time, with it’s rough-to-the-touch dirty looking die cast metal sections, “Made in France” copyright and slightly less-than-pristine chroming. What was not so well known was just how lovely it looked in its box. Having seen a couple of these “Lider Decepticon” Megatrons in the last year, I’m beginning to think the lack of factory sticker on the lower chest section is actually a genuine variation. Also of interest is the fact that the box copyright points to a 1987 release, and a 1984-mould G1 Transformer would normally have seen Mexican release a year later than in North America.
Initially, it was quite the mystery as to why a Mexican Iga-manufactured Megatron would say “MADE IN FRANCE”. Usually, Iga toys would just have a block over the “JAPAN” section of the copyright, so why do Mexican Megatron and Soundwave have French copyrights? Having seen a few more similarities between other Mexican TFs and French Ceji-manufactured G1 toys recently, it seems clear that some Ceji moulds used for early European Transformers were sent to Iga in Mexico for their Transformers manufacturing around the time when Ceji went bankrupt. They apparently saw out their last days making toys for Hasbro Bradley in Europe in 1986, and then sold off their moulds to Iga and possibly El Greco in Greece.
To date, Metroplex is the only 1986-mould toy found in Mexico that isn’t a minibot, and in my opinion that makes him quite special. These later releases like Megatron and Metroplex (circa 1987) may not be immediately spectacular like Mexican Prowl and Hoist, but they are significantly rarer because there appears to have been much less importing of these later Iga offerings. That’s not to say there is nothing special about them…
Questionable moulding quality, non-existent rubsigns and off-white plastic come as standard with Iga Transformers, but one rather welcomed characteristic of these toys is the beautiful sparkly plastic seen often in blue and maroon sections of various toys from Mexico. Metroplex is no exception, and with all of those maroon parts ranging from massive handguns to Sixgun’s parts, the unique flavour afforded this gorgeous giant really sets him apart from his US counterpart. Make no mistake, this is a really really nice toy.
On the subject of sparkly metallic maroon plastic, another Mexican variant that benefited greatly from dollops of the stuff was Iga’s interpretation of the wonderful conehead Ramjet:
If you compare the packaging for Iga Ramjet with Megatron’s, you’ll notice the much more glossy appearance of the former’s box. It seems that any 1984-based Iga release has a very matte appearance, and 1985-based Mexican TFs have glossy packaging more reminiscent of the American Hasbro templates. In the case of Megatron, it doesn’t appear to even matter that it wasn’t among the first wave of Mex TFs, it’s still based on a 1984 Hasbro packaging template.
It’s not just the attractive metallic maroon wings that Ramjet shares with Metroplex, but also the off-white cream colour of the main body. The nosecone is hard plastic with the customary mould blob on the end, and the wheels are black plastic unlike the Hasbro silver diecast wheels. Of course we used to think that this was an exclusively Mexican feature, but it turns out Ceji in France were manufacturing Starscreams, Ramjets, Dirges and Thrusts with hard noses and black wheels before Iga. Much like the French Megatron mould, it appears to follow that Ceji sent the jet moulds and specifications to Mexico. The Mexican Ramjet has the exact same blocked copyright as the Ceji-manufactured Euro Ramjet. Same metallic wings too.
While we covered Mexican Prowl in detail last time we looked at Mexican Transformers, it’s always nice to see a boxed specimen that has never suffered breakage or wear, and it also allows us an opportunity to see the lower quality of early Iga insert packaging. The stock photography of Prowl in robot mode that usually occupies the side flap can be seen spilling over onto the left side of the box front. This is a feature shared with the very early Hasbro pre-rub Prowl which still has “Diaclone” on its factory labels (see HERE), just another example of Iga using early Hasbro packaging templates.
Now, we cannot very well speak of Mexican Prowl without at least one gratuitous shot of its legendary robot mode featuring more black than any other version of the mould:
We also mentioned another spectacular Mexican Fairlady Z variant in the first Mexican Transformers article; the first release Iga Smokescreen which was actually a Bluestreak in Smokescreen colours. It was commonly believed that Iga quickly sorted their corner-cutting by releasing a fully corrected Smokescreen with all the re-tooled Fairlady Z Racing parts. That was wrong.
This tremendous transitional variant Mexican Smokescreen has a proper Fairlady Z Racing front splitter, but the T-Bar roof and rear windows lacking a spoiler are pure Bluestreak. The chrome appearance of the hood sticker, matte yellow robot horns and slightly different factory “38″ and tail-light stickers are the same as every other Mexican Smokescreen variant, but the fact that this specimen sits nicely closer to the first release Mexican Smokescreen and a few steps away from the fully corrected version makes you wonder if there are other transitional variants out there, something one step closer to the fully corrected Mexican Smokescreen.
We’ve seen some big-hitters in this week’s article when it comes to variations and rarity, but let’s not forget the little guy. For some collectors, Mexico is all about the minibots, but not everyone knows about Windcharger…
Admittedly, this is no yellow and blue Windcharger or blue Bumblebee, but Mexican Windcharger deserves his moment in the sun. A much lighter red than most standard Windchargers, the red Iga version of this toy had a plain grey mouth plate unlike the shiny silver seen on pretty much all other Windchargers. Keep an eye out for it, this is by no means an easy toy to find, especially when auction pictures mostly show these toys in vehicle mode. The next picture illustrates the aforementioned unique characteristics of the Iga Windcharger, as well as highlighting the lower quality printing on the factory chest sticker:
In my experience, a subtle variant like the Windcharger can be just as interesting and valuable a collection item as any of the really distinct headliners from a particular range. The Mexican Ramjet with its very slightly different colours and links to Europe is one of my absolute favourite purchases of the year, not to mention a complete steal at £22 ($34 approx) boxed! Knowledge is power after all, and if you can spot something just slightly special and different amongst a lot of more common toys, then you too could nab a rare and obscure gem from one of the richest sources of variant Transformers in the world for a great price.
All the best