We know robots are cool and cars make for popular toys. We also know cars that transform into robots are exceptionally cool, but there is a special place reserved in the hearts of children (and adults!) for transforming cars which happen to be emergency vehicles. Whether it’s G1 or Diaclone, Robots In Disguise or Binaltech, the police car remains a talismanic member of a toy line.
This week we concentrate solely on the earliest part of the Transformers police dynasty, the Diaclone patrol cars and G1 Prowl variations. Whether it’s the exotic appeal of rare pre-Transformers police versions of characters like Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, the distinctive and uniform black and white colour scheme of this elite band of cars or just the subtle changes between variations, the attraction of the patrol car robot is undeniable.
The first transforming police car released by Takara in 1982 was the Diaclone Countach LP500S Patrol Type, or ‘Police Sunstreaker’, a police repaint of the earlier red Countach LP500S Super Tuning. Not only was it an eye-grabbing white/black vehicle, but the pin-up choice of many 80s schoolkids and young men, the Lamborghini Countach. The probable success of this release was undoubtedly responsible for all the other police cars we’ve had in Diaclone and Transformers ever since.
This symbol found on the hood of the Diaclone Police Sunstreaker is based upon the Japanese police force emblem, the ‘Asahikage’, and is most prominent on this very first Car Robot police car. Another distinguishing feature of this release is the Japanese police lettering on the side of the vehicle:
With the stickers being such a huge part of the Police Sunstreaker’s overall look and design, the sheer age and relative rarity of the toy compared to other Diaclone/TF police cars makes inevitable sticker wear a serious issue when it comes to the displayability of this toy. Often the hood sticker is found misaligned, or the side stickers are yellowed and peeling. It is thought that there was even an Italian GiG release of the Police Sunstreaker (in a red Sunstreaker box) which did not feature the Japanese police emblem on the hood or any Japanese lettering on the black side stickers.
While the G1 Transformers Autobot car selection contained just a single police car over the two year span of 1984 – 1985, Takara’s Diaclone line not only had more than one police car, but more than one police Countach too. Such must have been the popularity of this car in Japan and the police theme, that Takara saw fit to release the New Countach LP500S mould in a police colour scheme at the end of 1983, having already produced it in red and yellow.
While the main police emblem has become a little less traditional and more Diaclone-themed, the ‘Police Sideswipe’ has the Japanese-style ‘Asahikage’ police emblem as a stickersheet decal which can be applied to the hood. The Japanese police lettering on the sides of the vehicle has now been replaced by English “Police” lettering too.
If stickers and yellowing were an issue for the Police Sunstreaker, it is ten times worse for this mould. The number of partially yellowed examples of the New Countach Police Car is really something, with MIB unused examples often showing serious yellowing on the plastic hood. The stickers are very prone to fading and wear on this toy too. It’s no surprise really that even loose mint examples of these Diaclone police Countaches can fetch hundreds of dollars.
Between the two patrol Countach releases, Takara blessed the Fairlady Z mould with its 4th scheme after the blue and blackhooded No.7 (pre-Bluestreaks) and the Racing No.11 (pre-Smokescreen), a highway patrol car. Notice all the Japanese city names on the doors, these were exclusively available on the Diaclone stickersheet, allowing the owner to decide exactly which patrol their police Fairlady would grace. Or in the case of this Fairlady, all of them…
Now the Fairlady Police pictured here is not a Japanese one, but a European version, so while the factory hood and door stickers don’t say “Diaclone” and have the simplified shield graphics, the stickersheet decals still maintain the Diaclone heritage. You can see above the red mark inside the yellow star on the Police Fairlady’s shield emblem, complete with “Diaclone” lettering.
Again, the ‘Asahikage’ logo can be found as a stickersheet decal meant for the hood, something that was carried over to a Transformers Prowl stickersheet too. Speaking of Transformers Prowl, one should not confuse the police Fairlady with the “Diaclone”-emblazoned European G1 Classic Heroes Prowl which you can read about in our Classic G1 Transformers article. Interesting how all the Diaclone police cars were repaints of earlier releases, the patrol cars were never once the first incarnation of a mould, such was Takara’s confidence in the success of police schemes on figures that had already seen plenty of action.
Staying with Prowl, but taking a big leap away from Diaclone, we come to the very famous Mexican Transformers Iga-manufactured ‘Black Policia’ Prowl. A mostly black colour scheme (including robot head and hands) with cream white sections and Spanish factory stickers make this release one of the most interesting Transformers variants ever found, of which 3 further intra-release variants exist. It’s so different from a Fairlady Police Diaclone or a normal Transformers Prowl that it could quite easily be considered a separate character altogether.
The stickers and plastic quality on Mexican Transformers are often far lower than that of their Japanese, North American or European counterparts. Peeling factory labels, broken rear windows and windshields are even more common on Mexican Fairlady toys than regular US Transformers Fairladies or Diaclone ones, and that really is saying something. We can see that the police shield on the Mexican Prowl is a darker blue but heavily based on Transformers designs. The Spanish text is all Iga and a fantastic distinguishing feature of this toy.
It is not at all surprising that those of us who came to appreciate Diaclone through Transformers-filled childhoods are so enamored with the patrol-type versions of favourites like Sunstreaker and Sideswipe. They, much like the black Mexican Prowl, could quite easily be incorporated into the Autobot ranks of one’s collection as completely separate and new characters. While the Diaclone Police Sideswipe was given new life as the E-Hobby exclusive reissue “Clampdown”, Sunstreaker’s mould was never reissued.
It is for those reasons above that customisers and kitbashers have been creating new police versions of previously-untapped G1 car moulds like Jazz and Tracks for years. My own custom Police Jazz above featured a specifically commissioned Police Jazz sticker set from Reprolabels. This set is now regularly offered and sold as part of their ever-growing selection thanks in part to how good it looked even on my shockingly-painted police G2 Jazz. It’s a shame the stickers have yellowed before the toy!
As I said at the start of the article, though, the only thing cooler than fancy police cars, is police car ROBOTS!
Looking every bit the elite heroic transforming police squad, I have no doubt that toys such as Diaclone Police Sunstreaker, Sideswipe and Mexican Prowl will remain valuable, desirable and fiercely fought over for years to come. It can be such a shame, though, that many of the police car variants are so difficult and expensive to find in respectable condition.
Further feeding collectors’ desperate desire to personify, characterise and assign identity to the different police car variations released throughout Diaclone and Transformers worldwide is the Japanese Takara/Nitto Countach LP500S Patrol Car Type model kit seen in the middle of the above shot. The glorious exclusive boxart afforded that release just screams out for a character tech spec. Maybe we shouldn’t see the number of police cars in Diaclone as such an oddity, after all the premise of that series was centered around pilot-controlled mecha protecting Earth as a formidable force of nature against alien invaders. A crack police squad is a very human interpretation of such a protective force.
The Transformers universe is filled with brilliant sub-groups and these police car robots are no exception. Just seeing them together fires the imagination, and they wouldn’t look at all out of place as a special band of enforcers within the Transformers extended universe. Quite apart from any sort of fanboy desire to see them characterised, they just look sublime together, as cars or as robots.
All the best