What kind of Transformers collector are you? What does “rare” mean to you? Just how obscure and unusual do you want your toys? It’s all very well lusting after super-hyped Japanese items, sealed AFA museum pieces from North America or the odd bizarre minibot, but mainland Europe had its fair share of G1 treasures as well that are widely unheard of within the community. One of the fandom’s best-kept secrets, the unusual Transformers variants released in Europe are finally coming to light.
I should make it clear that this article will not be focusing too much on the first Milton Bradley-badged European Transformers in great detail, you can read about their inception, history and evolution in these thoroughly detailed and researched articles here. We’ll also avoid discussing GiG’s Italian ‘Trasformer’ toys for the time being too, instead making a few stops at some of Europe’s lesser-known but most fascinating G1 attractions.
This is as good a place to start as any! European countries such as France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Luxembourg and some of Scandinavia received Milton Bradley-branded Transformers in 1985, but not the complete collection that was released in North America, or even the extensive selection seen in the UK released under Hasbro’s various initial umbrellas. Hasbro had just acquired Milton Bradley and used their recognised brand to introduce their first wave of TFs into the aforementioned Euro countries. Shockwave was a part of this first wave, and you can clearly see the ‘MB’ logo on the box. You may also have noticed that the techspec on the back is in 4 European languages, like most of the text on its packaging, hence no “Transforms from laser gun to bla bla” text on the box front.
But you’re not just interested in a packaging variant with a different logo are you? No, you want more. And there is more…
The Milton Bradley Transformers Red Tracks is a very well-known and massively popular European variant. It shares the same outer box characteristics as the Shockwave; MB logo, larger multilingual techspec etc. What is remarkable about this release is that it is red instead of the typical blue of Transformers Tracks. By now, if you’ve been keeping up with our recent Diaclone articles, you will know that the original Diaclone release of the Tracks mould was red. That red Diaclone Corvette made it across the waters to Europe as part of the Ceji Joustra European Diaclone toy line as well. When Hasbro Bradley eventually absorbed all of Ceji Joustra’s Takara Diaclone stock, they had to repackage a lot of those toys into Transformers boxes. Thus, the Transformers Red Tracks was born. It is in fact a Joustra Diaclone Corvette with a rubsign, shoved into a MB Transformers box. Literally…
This spectacular packaging variant even retained its Joustra Diaclone-style styrofoam insert which required specially crafted cardboard supports to fit correctly within a Transformers sized box. There is an empty space for the non-existent Diaclone driver. When you get past all of the packaging weirdness, what’s left is the same super-slick and phenomenally attractive red Corvette Stingray, now officially ‘Red Tracks’. Even though the red version of this mould was available as a Japanese Diaclone, an Italian Diaclone, a Joustra Diaclone and now as an E-Hobby exclusive “Road Rage”, this MB Transformers version of red Tracks remains the most desireable and relevant to Transformers collectors.
Another fascinating MB Transformers variant is the MB Starscream, which sometimes comes packaged with a Thundercracker instead of a Starscream. There are of course reasons for all of these variants and packaging oddities, much of it can be traced back to the French toy company Ceji who Hasbro Bradley relied upon to manufacture a certain amount of Transformers for the European market. The red-footed Optimus Prime would be one of those toys:
This European anomaly was released not only in mainland Europe but also in the UK (specifically in Argos chains). The red on the cab is lighter than normal Primes and of course, it has red feet! The robot has a slightly differently-painted forehead grill as well, but that’s not been verified for every single red-footed Prime found. These Primes have been seen in Milton Bradley boxes, in later European non-MB multilingual boxes and even UK Hasbro boxes. They were all manufactured in France by Ceji, the same people responsible for distributing the Joustra Diaclones.
As we slowly transition between the Milton Bradley-badged European G1 Transformers to a more US-style Hasbro-badged European Transformers variety, the variants continue to come thick and fast. The packaging for these toys would no longer have a Milton Bradley badge, but Hasbro. Yet, they would still exhibit four languages on the box, but not necessarily the same ones as before. What about the toys?
This tiny bundle of joy was released in some European countries as “Pipes”, but is clearly a Huffer painted up in Pipes colours. The toy has no copyright and was undoubtedly manufactured again by Ceji in France, released around 1986. This Huffer-as-Pipes is very similar to the Mexican variants of the same toy minus the sparkly dark blue plastic, all affectionately referred to as “Puffer”.
A truly little-known group of variant toys that will surprise a few people (myself included!) are the post-MB era Decepticon jets from Europe. Mostly appearing in France and again manufactured by Ceji, these Euro release jets had Diaclone-style hard nose cones instead of rubber. In addition, they had black plastic wheels instead of diecast. Previously this was thought to only be a Mexican Transformers trait, but as it turns out, moulds like the Starscream were the origin of those Mexican jets! This Starscream has very slight differences in colour to the regular G1 Starscream and unlike the Mexican jets, the nose cone is perfectly moulded, no weird bobbles here.
Now for something quite big, in terms of revelation, size and significance…
Every fibre of your being is telling you that what you see in front of you is a G2 Devastator, but it isn’t! Look at the rubsigns, look at the yellow launching tabs on the giant’s forearms! It’s not a KO either, it is a genuine 1986 European yellow set of G1 Constructicons. Found mostly in France but sighted in the Netherlands as well, these were released carded on post-MB multilingual cards and have G1 copyrights, with the “JAPAN” section blocked off as they were again manufactured by Ceji in France.
This figure is so intensely beautiful that it makes me wonder why they were ever released in green at all. The fact that it has rubsigns and G1 features creates a very odd resonance, making it that much more attractive than the G2 Devastator. The fact that Ceji released this toy in 1986 in a colour that has been forever tied to Generation 2 and the 1990s is an astounding thing from which a number of conclusions could be drawn, or rather, jumped to. Could it be linked to the fact that the first Diaclone Construction Robo team was half yellow? Whatever the reason for it, the G1 Euro Devastator is a literal giant of European Transformers history.
Apart from the beauty of some of these toys, the sheer novelty factor of how different they are to other global G1 counterparts makes them very special and collectible. Most of the variants featured here are not widely known about, apart from the Red Tracks. These are of course the headline-grabbers because they are wildly different, but there are many more interesting gems buried in Europe that have yet to receive the same level of exposure as their exclusive Japanese and South American counterparts. Novelty aside, the number of references I have had to make throughout this article to Diaclone, Mexican Transformers, G2 and other significant chapters of TF history to which the European toys are inextricably linked and responsible for, should give you some idea of the importance of these releases and the recognition they deserve.
Many kind thanks to JB Martin for the closing picture in this article.
All the best