In true Douglas Adams style, welcome to the 4th part of the “In Their Own Words” trilogy! And just like Douglas Adams influenced a generation of science fiction writers, the Transformers had their major influences as well. Takara’s Diaclone and Micro Change lines are not just populated with cars and cassettes, there are just as many odd peripheral and obscure rare products left for collectors to dig up in the field of pre-Transformers as there are with their more globally recognisable Transformers successors.
This week sees some fantastic contributions from our group of experienced and knowledgeable collectors, and what will become evident is just how much there is still to uncover in the world of Diaclone and Micro Change compared to the very well documented Transformers universe. Hopefully we can continue to provide some surprises and unforgettable eye-candy for pre-TF and TF enthusiasts alike. Without further ado…
Gordon Yip (33, Canada)
Micro Change Series MC-11 Magnum 44 Gun Robo with gold barrel
“Although this isn’t technically a pre-Transformers piece since Hasbro never made the 44 Magnum gunrobo into a Transformers toy, this mould is one of my favourite in the Takara gunrobo series. I have a “standard issue” unused 44 Magnum gunrobo MIB, but the specific item pictured above is a variant version of this toy that I purchased loose from Japan around 2006. What sets this variant apart from the standard release version is the colour of the cylinder which is gold chromed (the standard version is black plastic) and the handle is grey (the standard version is brown). Also, the accessories that came with this variant are molded in grey plastic that more closely match the colour of the handle, much like the standard release has the fists, bullets and launcher piece with brown plastic to match the brown colour of that handle.
There is also a GiG version of this variant 44 Magnum released in Italy, which like other GiG gunrobo releases has the red cap attached to the tip of the gun barrel. In my years of collecting, I have seen many 44 Magnum gunrobos in the standard colour, but the variant with the gold chromed cylinder that I own is the only Japanese release I have seen without the red cap attached to the tip of the barrel. I have seen a boxed GiG version with all variant coloured accessories.”
Martin Lund (33, Denmark)
Micro Change Series Trading Cards
“In all my time, I’ve only seen this one set. Found it some 10 years ago by chance on a Japanese auction site and instantly fell in love with some of the original artwork found on these. I’ve not been able to find much information on them – like when and how they were available, let alone if this is even a complete set – but my best guess is that they are from early 1983 based on the toys shown as hand-painted prototypes (the second batch of MC-04 minicars), mock-ups (pre-TF Soundwave with pre-Trailbreaker head) and concept drawings (Magnum 44 and pre-Megatrons, who all have real guns depicted on the back of their cards!).
I like to think of these as the predecessors to the trading cards that Takara started issuing with their G1 toys around 1986; colourful packaging art on the front and a shot of the alt mode on the back with extra technical info. Looking at the artwork we can recognise the now-classic Transformers packaging artwork for Frenzy, Ravage and Laserbeak in their original pre-TF incarnations, and for those familiar with Micro Change toy catalogs the images of Cassette Man and the Gun Robos in their initial pre-production glory. What really caught my eye with this set though is the hither-to unseen artwork for the Microx CameraRobo (aka Reflector) and all the 7 mini-cars. Why these weren’t used for their Transformers (or Micro Change) packaging is a big mystery – especially since I definitely prefer these very dynamic, detailed and beautiful pieces of art to their eventual Transformers depictions.”
Marco Salerno (33, Italy)
Diaclone Car Robot No.9 Honda City Turbo – Black
“All the Japanese single boxed Diaclone Car Robot colour variants that were supposed to be rare, sooner or later surfaced in various numbers: No.3 Countach LP500S Patrol-Type, No.5 Hilux 4WD yellow, No.6 Honda city R silver, No.7 Fairlady Black hooded or blue, No.15 New Countach LP500 yellow, No.18 Marlboro Lancia Stratos. Anyway, only one variation continued to be shrouded in mystery, as it seems to have surfaced very few times during the past few years. I am of course talking about the No.9 Honda City Turbo in black.
I’m not a pre-TF collector and the few pieces I have, Diaclone and Micro Change, were purchased by me only to give a bit of extra depth to my G1 collection. So I was very lucky to find this toy, thanks to a friend who lives in Japan; one day he sent me an email wondering if I was interested in purchasing a Black Honda City Turbo. How could I resist the appeal of this legendary item? It was an unbelievable feeling, as I never expected to ever own one. I’d like to repeat this toy was released only for the Japanese market. I tend to ignore why this black variant is so rare even in Japan, but I know why it is so special; because the art and the pictures on every No.9 Diaclone Car Robot box shows this robot in a black scheme.
It is very easy to recognise an original specimen from a custom, because the original Diaclone has the same complex wheel hubs as the No.6 Honda City R, and the missile launcher has a black trigger. The Motocompo scooter is all black as well.”
Ras (27, UK)
Diaclone Campaign 2nd Prize Cards and Wallet
Price: $1,000,000. Probably. (As usual he “doesn’t know”)
“Many of these Diaclone campaign cards have artwork on the front, and some have prototype toy pics on the front, but all have line-art on the back. There is also a plastic Diaclone wallet to house them”.
In addition to this info, Dave Barry has provided the following explanation:
“That case and card set were runner up prizes in the Diaclone chromed car campaign contests where you cut the license off your Car Robot’s toy package and mailed it in to enter. The (wallet) pass case was used to protect kid’s train passes. There’s also a Microman Micro-Change card set out there as well”.
Now where have we seen a set like that just recently… moving on:
Paul Hitchens (34, UK)
Arabic language carded Diaclone Change Attacars
“These Arabic language Diaclone Change Attacars are the only ones of this type I have ever seen in my years of collecting and dealing. These toys were of course originally part of the Japanese Diaclone line and came packaged with drivers. They were also released in Europe as part of the Joustra Diaclone line and then those Joustra toys were sold off to GiG in Italy where the moulds were released as ‘Destroy Car’. These Arabic versions are the only versions that come carded and you can clearly see that they are Takara licensed. They are also unpunched and probably rather difficult to find!”
I’ve tried to translate the cards for these as best I can, and from what I gather the red writing at the top of the cards translates as “Cars of the Future”. The writing just to the right says “Transforming vehicles” or something to that effect. The yellow Lamborghini Cheetah is called “Space Lamborghini”, the red Starion Turbo 2000 vehicle is called “Starion Digger 2000” and the black Onebox Vanette translates somewhat less clearly as “Attack Efenti”. The rest of the text basically describes the toys as regular vehicles that transform into war and space machines.
Francesco Ristori (35, Italy)
GiG Dinosaur Robo Triceratops – Red
Price: 80 Euros
“This toy originally came in its first version as the regular Japanese blue variant, just the box and missiles changed, as GiG regularly did. But the most complicated part of the story is yet to come. What we knew was that GiG also released also a variant with a G1 colour scheme. The stamp on the outer side of left thigh said : “-kanji- © TAKARA CO. LTD. 1980-184 JAPAN”, the usual overseas stamp. Well, a few years ago I was looking for more info about the italian variant and there were rumors about a “Canadian Slag lookalike Triceratops”. I had to know more about these rumors but found nothing. Then an Italian collector surfaced who was a little into Diaclone telling me he had one of them, just found in his basement, for cheap. The guy who sold me the toy couldn’t even imagine the rarity of the piece cause he wasn’t into TF collecting that much either, so he had never heard about the infamous Canadian red Slag.
I wanted another specimen for my final-display-mania, so I posted a wants list on italian forums and unexepectedly another smaller collector offered me another one for almost double the price of previous one. At the time I had the first Triceratops with chrome horns and no autobot stickers on, the second one had G1 red plastic horns and autobot stickers inside the jaw and on the dino’s head but no tf heat-rub sticker on the back at all or even signs of glue, making things complicated but totally fitting the rumors. Till today, only one other specimen similar to mine has shown up again from a local basement..the previous owner painted the red plastic hands black with a pencil during his childhood and the seller didn’t even know the value of it and sold it for 35 euros to a fellow Italian collector who later took off the dirt and gave it new life.”
That concludes the fourth part of our trilogy, and since this particular group of articles is being driven as much by positive reaction from our readers as various collectors keen to contribute gems from their collections, we will be bringing you one last (honestly!) part to this series of collector-led pieces next week, don’t panic!
Many kind thanks to the contributors yet again; Gordon “VF1” Yip, Paul “The Spacebridge” Hitchens, Marco “Puffmarko” Salerno, Martin “Fighbird” Lund, Dave “Bermuda Mohawk” Barry, Goochflarn “Ras” Belchleather, Francesco “EVOLVE” Ristori, Byron “Himawari” McNichols and my dad.
All the best