When most collectors think Diaclone, they think of the beautiful, exotic and hyped Car Robots and Convoys that we’ve looked at over the last 3 weeks, but many other early Transformers came from Takara’s Japanese Diaclone toy line as well. This week we’re looking at the origins of the Dinobots, the G1 Jets, Constructicons and Insecticons, amongst others. And much like the Car Robots, the Diaclone predecessors of these well-known Transformers characters are just as fascinating and different from their eventual Transformers releases as the cars.
In keeping with the Diaclones we’ve already looked at, all the toys that would one day become the Decepticon jets, Insecticons, Constructicons, Dinobots and Omnibots originally hailed from the Earth-defending Diaclone forces vs invading alien Waruder army storyline, most of them still sporting Diaclone pilots. Nearly all the toys that Hasbro selected for The Transformers were good guys, Earth’s Diaclone defenders. However, many of those defenders were subsequently characterised as evil Decepticons to keep the numbers relatively balanced for the introduction of The Transformers.
A prime example of this are the Real & Robo Series Jetrobo Hi-Speed Fighter and Acrobat F-15 jets who would eventually become “Starscream” and “Thundercracker” respectively. The artwork on the boxes of the F-15s were slightly modified for Transformers use, and you may have noticed that in addition to the Diaclone driver, these unbelievably popular moulds originally had very sharp pointy wings, hard plastic nose-cones instead of rubber and “Diaclone” and “F-15 Eagle” factory stickers. The stickersheets are a little more Diaclone and airforce themed too. Unfortunately these two jets have quite an annoying design flaw in that their heavier hard plastic nose-cones cause the nose of the jet to sag and, subsequently, the head/chest to roll back in robot mode too. That aside, the sparkly blue on the Diaclone Thundercracker is something quite lovely indeed.
The toys that would eventually become the beloved Constructicons and the mighty “Devastator” started out as the Diaclone Construction Robo team, available in this glitzy giftset and also single-packed. As you can see, they weren’t always green and purple, and this set was even released a second time in slightly different colours featuring a few blue pre-Constructicons too. The artwork and giftset layout were used as a template for the Japanese Transformers “Devastator” giftset, and to a lesser degree for the Hasbro giftset. Interestingly, this set does not come with any Diaclone drivers, probably as the toys themselves were not designed with any space for them in mind. Also, exclusive to Diaclone, this lovely package contained a building site play mat and accessories:
Another very popular group of toys that were released as Transformers Decepticons but were originally from this line are the pre-Insecticons, or Insecter Robos. Now these toys were originally part of the evil faction in the Diaclone story:
This attractive Insecter Robo set features the gloriously named “Kuwagatorer”, “Kabutron” and “Battas”. The toys were available single-packed with a brilliant alien-type Diaclone driver but sadly those Waruder pilots didn’t make it to the giftset release. These colours were of course reproduced for the E-Hobby Insecticon Clone Army exclusive. Neither Hasbro nor Takara ever released a giftset version of these moulds for The Transformers, although there was a very curious Sears assortment number for all 3 Insecticons I found a few years back…
The last stop on our pre-Decepticon tour is the Triple Changer Jet Type, recognisable to most as the Diaclone release of the Decepticon “Blitzwing”. The eventual cream and purple design of “Blitzwing” is quite a departure from the military-inspired colour scheme of the Jet Type Triple Changer. The E-Hobby exclusive recolour “Overcharge” was based on this toy, minus the obvious Diaclone decals, telescopic tank turret and sharper non-safety conscious sword that make the Diaclone Jet Type unique. Once again, this figure was not designed to accommodate a Diaclone pilot, hence the lack of one in the package.
Before we look at a few other Diaclone goodies, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate another Triple Changer that didn’t make it to The Transformers, a lost brother of sorts. Here is the Diaclone Triple Changer Heli Type:
We’ve already had a glimpse of the Diaclone Dinosaur Robos (pre-Dinobts) at the start of the article, bet let’s have a closer look:
Displaying unique colours and features, the Diaclone Dinosaur Robos while not extremely rare, are a popular section of the line. Earlier versions will have had sharper teeth or spikes depending on the mould, the Tyrannosaurus (pre-Grimlock) having a blue waist, the Triceratops (pre-Slag) being mostly blue instead of red and the Stegosaurus (pre-Snarl) being mostly black instead of red. These Dinosaur Robos also came with drivers, explaining why your Transformers Dinobots have opening hatches.
As with the Transformers Dinobots, the real star of the Diaclone Dinosaur Robo team is the original toy that would become “Swoop”, the outstanding Pteranodon:
One of the most desirable non-Car Robot toys of the Diaclone line, the Pteranodon is valuable for many reasons. Firstly, the fact that it has gold parts and a blue chest means that this is the exact version of the mould upon which the cartoon “Swoop” was based for the Transformers animated series. In addition to that, the tips of the wings, tail and the dino beak are not rounded as Transformers “Swoop” was for safety purposes, meaning that this sleek dino really looks the part. A real treasure of the line in my opinion, but sadly getting quite prohibitively expensive on auction these days.
While many of the above toys were altered and re-badged for The Transformers, sometimes sporting alternative colour schemes, as with the Heli Type Triple Changer not all of the available moulds were utilised. Some were mass released, others were kept aside for mail-away promotions, billed as “reinforcements”. The Transformers “Omnibots” are a great example, but these were originally mass released as Diaclone Double Changers.
While quite clearly sports cars, and billed as “Double Changers”, these interesting releases were neither Car Robots nor Double Changers since for a start, they all had 3 modes! The No.1 Mazda Savanna RX-7, No.2 Ferrari 512 BB and No.3 Toyota Celica XX make for a delightful set of vehicles that display beautifully alongside the Car Robots. Maybe they were called Double Changers as they had 2 alternate modes, the vehicle and the attack mode? Eitherway, these releases did not house Diaclone drivers either and came quite late in the Diaclone line, so again maybe a sign of things to come as the Hasbro-led Transformers were becoming the priority for Takara.
The Omnibots were not the only mail-away Transformers toys that were previously mass-released in Japan for the Diaclone line, the Powerdashers were also originally relatively early Diaclone toys with Diaclone drivers too!
I do like to finish a piece strongly, and what better way to do that than to close with a set of Diaclone toys that not only still feature the excellent driver concept, but also the much-loved gimmick of smaller toys combining to form a bigger and more elaborate robot. Add to that the fact that these toys were not released as part of The Transformers anywhere except in Japan, and the general lack of any proper G1 train Transformers in North America and Europe, and you have one very special group of figures…
You have to go a long way to outshine the Diaclone Train Robo set. The trains themselves are delightfully intricate with their nice diecast wheels and track sections, and the combined robot which would later become the Japanese Transformers exclusive “Raiden” is a show-stopper too. This set, much like the Construction Robo giftset, comes with a play mat and associated scenery peripherals. The variation in locomotive types is a great asset too, the Shinkansen bullet trains being my personal favourite. Available in this amazing giftset, the trains were sold single-packed too, and the display value of the single-packed trains is such that most collectors are happy to pick up both the giftset and the individual 6 trains separately.
I’d forgive you for thinking that was the highlight of the show, but as happened with the Car Robots, Takara began to exhaust its moulds and releases for the Diaclone line and some incredibly rare repaints and remoulds were saved for the very end. The Train Robo set was to undergo a very special facelift and be released one more time in single-packed format, but in new colours…
Just gorgeous. This intensely difficult-to-find set of Special Colour Train Robo figures captured my imagination from the second I first learned of them, and I spared little expense or resource in trying to complete a set in the shortest time possible. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who were able to purchase a complete unused set outright, I had to track them down individually from Japan, the US and even Holland. But my goodness was it worth it, with the stunning all-chromed Trainrobo #7 Shinkasen bullet, the repainted #9 “Dr. Yellow” bullet and translucent red plastic #12 DE10 locomotive being notable highlights. Care must be taken when handling the figures though, chromed Diaclones are notoriously fragile and there are question marks over the quality control exercised over the last releases of the line, the chrome bullet’s leg snapped off straight out the box! Also, the combined robot (both original and special colour) is massively difficult to assemble, the later Transformers version had a few added parts and mould changes to assist structural integrity.
Hopefully you’ve been able to see that the magic of Diaclone is not restricted to exotically-coloured Car Robots that look fantastic alongside their much more familiar Transformers counterparts that many of us in the Western world will have grown up with. Many other Transformers also had their roots in Diaclone, and just like the Car Robots, often looking quite different in their original schemes! In fact, we have only explored the tip of the iceberg where this magnificent toy line is concerned, there are many non-Transformers related Diaclone items which we have not spoken about such as Fortress X and the Great Robot Base, legends in their own right. If you’re going to find a place in your heart and your collection for these incredible toys, make it a big one because there’s a lot to get in there, but the rewards are massive and the wonder never fades.
Very special thanks to Alessandro Musconi for his major contributions to this article, and also to Benjamin Davis, Nicholas Chen and Jeroen Blok for the use of their Train Robo Normal Colour photographs.
You can begin your collection of E-Hobby exclusives here at TFsource
All the best