The first Transformers were from Cybertron, right? Wrong, they were originally from Japan, specifically Takara’s Diaclone and Microman toy lines. All of the well-loved and world famous Autobot cars and trucks seen in the first 2 years of Transformers originated from the Diaclone Car Robot sub-line which premiered in Japan in 1982. For those who grew up with the Autobot cars and only later discovered their true origins as Diaclone Car Robots, many mysteries of strange colours and features of those cars were solved and a door to a whole different world of collecting was opened.
The word “Diaclone” comes from “Diamond Cyclone”, where a diamond is one of the hardest materials known to exist on Earth and a cyclone is a powerful force of nature. To understand this we must realise that these early Diaclone toys had their own story and universe, unrelated to that of the Marvel-created Transformers. In a nutshell, the story was that the Diaclone forces were protecting Earth from the evil alien invaders of the Waruder army. The car robots themselves were not sentient characters as the later Transformers were, but instead were controlled by human Diaclone pilots. These little Diaclone drivers came with magnetic feet and occupied the little spaces created for them in the cockpits of the Car Robot vehicles.
This absolutely beautiful specimen of a toy was how Takara launched the Car Robot sub-category for the Diaclone line, the “Red Sunstreaker” as it has become known. The cars came packaged in small boxes with styrofoam inserts, functioning missile launchers and of course the aforementioned small Diaclone driver. Featured in numerous TV adverts and publications at the time as well as being based on the Lamborghini Countach LP500S, this would have been one of the most popular figures of the early line and certainly more attractive and exotic than the No.2 Onebox Cherry Vanette (“Black Ironhide”) and No.4 Onebox Ambulance (“pre-Ratchet”).
Due to the fact that posters of the Countach would have adorned so many young boys’ walls in the late 70s and early 80s, it was no surprise that Takara issued a second version of the Countach mould, but this time with a difference…
What could be more stunning? This No.3 Countach LP500S Patrol-Type epitomises the appeal of Diaclone Car Robots. A unique colour scheme and police theme for this mould wrapped around an iconic and breathtaking car which boasts an equally formidable robot mode. It’s just a shame that the box is quite simple with no artwork, as at this stage Takara were not yet commissioning artists to create art for these toys. However, when Takara got together with Nitto to release a series of 1/60 scale model kits, the above red and police Countaches were given unique and exclusive artwork for those kits, making them very treasured and valuable items. Here is the Police Super Tuning in robot mode, followed by the model kit with special artwork:
By the time Takara released the No.5 Hilux 4WD which would later become the Transformers “Trailbreaker”, the packages had started to include artwork which would later be made legendary by the Transformers packages themselves. The Hilux 4WD was also the first instance where the colour of the toy on the box, be it stock photography or artwork, didn’t necessarily correspond to the colour of the toy in the box.
The yellow variant of this toy was only available in Japan, even foreign releases of the Diaclone Hilux 4WD did not feature this scheme. The blue Hilux was available in Italy and North America in different packaging and the black version of the mould of course became the Transformers “Trailbreaker”. Understandably, this yellow variant is the most sought-after of all the colours and fetches the most eye-popping amounts at auction. There are even intra-release variations for the colour of the Hilux’s windows; some are clear and some are blue tinted:
Despite the fact that the Car Robot line started with four simple releases in advertised colours, the intra-release variations in colour and moulding and the sheer demand and rising market value make this a hugely difficult area for completists. The next toy in the line follows the example of the Hilux in that what was advertised on the box does not necessarily describe the contents:
The No.6 Honda City R was available not only in red as shown by the artwork, but also in silver. This is the first use of the mould which would later become the No.9 Honda City Turbo and eventually the Transformers “Skids”. The Diaclone Honda City R comes with a scooter for the Diaclone driver and a unique robot head mould which would make an appearance in the Transformers line during the reissue exclusive phase, but not the original 80s toyline. The silver version (“pre-Crosscut”) was also available in a 2-pack with another exclusive colour which we’ll cover in a future segment, and it was re-named the Honda City S. It is not impossible that the single-packed silver City R/S was only released after that 2-pack was first sold as the red version is far more common.
Now, to finish up with something altogether more familiar…
The Diaclone Car Robot No.7 Fairlady Z 280Z T-Bar Roof is arguably the most famous and notorious of all the Diaclone colour variants, and this is a direct result of the legend of the Transformers Blue Bluestreak. “Bluestreak” was of course an Autobot car based on this Fairlady mould. For The Transformers, the toy was released as an all-silver car whereas the boxart, paperwork and photography all depicted a blue toy. That blue toy was of course the original Diaclone, and that’s also where the artwork originated as you can see above.
Now what makes the situation even more confusing is that in the original Transformers cartoon, “Bluestreak” was not based on this blue release, it was in fact based on the other No.7 Diaclone Fairlady; the black-hooded silver car…which also did not exactly resemble the Transformers toy…
While this black-hooded variant was eventually reissued as “Anime Streak”, the much more valuable and desireable blue release has always been held back. This turn of events has just helped perpetuate its mystery, glamour and rising price tag. Is there anyone who doesn’t want a ‘Blue Bluestreak’?
That concludes our introductory tour of the first few Diaclone Car Robots and already we’ve touched upon some of the most beguiling, magical highlights and headline-grabbers of the whole toyline such as the Blue Bluestreak, Police Sunstreaker and Yellow Trailbreaker, all of which can command upwards of $1000 on today’s market in unused condition. This recent spike in Diaclone values can only be attributed to the growing interest in the history of the beloved Transformers Autobot cars and the influx of new reminiscent and nostalgic collectors thanks to the Transformers live action movies. However, it should also be noted that every day that passes, another of these already-rare gems finds its way into a welcoming collector’s home leaving fewer and fewer specimens in the hands of those who are unaware of their worth and value. Until the demand for these Diaclones sags again as it did at the start of the reissue exclusive era, the prices will continue to inflate. So if you’re just starting out in this area of collecting and are wondering when to dip your toe in the water, the best time to buy a valuable and rare Diaclone is yesterday!
Many kind and gracious thanks to Jeroen Blok, Ben Munn, Alessandro Musconi, Marco Salerno and Gordon Yip for their priceless contributions.
Start your collection of Diaclone-coloured Reissue exclusives at TFSource
All the best