Every once in a while, I put together an article like this for the Source Report which consists of vintage Transformers and pre-Transformers discoveries, mysteries and points of interest that I had not come across before. This is not to say that the whole fandom were unaware, just myself! Having recently decided to dig right back into the vintage Transformers scene, beyond just buying the toys I was after, I’ve come across some of the great research and discoveries that must be attributed to the community of collectors that never cease to amaze. Once upon a time people would ask me questions about pre-TF, G1 or minibot specifics, but now there are niche groups all over social media where many members have more knowledge of these specific areas of vintage toys than I ever had, so I defer to these guys more often than not. Getting back in touch with this side of the hobby has been eye-opening, as it always is when my focus shifts for a time. Let’s have a look at what’s come to light recently.
First off, let’s take a look at this very early 1984 release Autobot Sunstreaker. Notice anything interesting about his stickers? You should, they’re from the Takara Diakron DK-1, AKA “Red Sunstreaker” that was released in the US under the Diakron brand name in 1983. These Diakron toys were available mostly in North America, but also have been found in smaller quantities elsewhere. There were 3 car robots (“Red Sunstreaker”, “Black Ironhide” and “Blue Trailbreaker”, to use their fan names), and other repackaged non-Transformers moulds from Diaclone. At first, the possibility of a yellow Diakron Countach (Sunstreaker) did cross my mind, but the more of these I found, the more it started to become clear that actually what had happened was that Hasbro had shipped some early G1 Sunstreakers with Diakron stickersheets. Because of the obvious “Diakron” and “DK-1” on the labels, it’s easy to tell when a Sunstreaker came packaged this way.
I was absolutely stunned to find that collectors had also discovered a G1 Transformers Trailbreaker that had a Diakron DK-3 stickersheet sealed in the baggie! This would support the theory that a few early Trailbreakers, Sunstreakers and maybe even Ironhides were shipped with Diakron stickers instead of Transformers ones. It’s not hard to come to that conclusion, after all. These toys needed to be shipped out, Diakron stickers existed in the US and in Japan at the appropriate facilities due to their earlier release. As far-fetched and almost madly off-brand a practice it may seem for such a high-profile toyline, I sometimes like to remind myself that for 99.99% of the people involved, this was just work. Mistakes, inconsistencies, incompetence, patch jobs…all par for the course and do not always have traceable explanations.
Speaking of stickers, I recently decided to sticker up an E-Hobby exclusive Detritus, a repaint of G1 Hound. The stickersheet for Detritus is similar to Hound’s in that every sticker has an equivalent, to be placed in the same location. Or so I thought. When actually looking for official pics of Detritus and comparing it to his character art, there were many ambiguities and some stickers simply did not fit in the orientation suggested by the instructions. So in situations like that, I normally refer to original G1 literature for the same mould, for clues. With the G1 Hound stickersheet, amazingly, I had the same problem. Sticker #10 on the Hound sheet is a 2-part silver rectangular strip, you can see it in the image above on the stickersheet under the white star sticker.
If you look at Hound’s sticker application map, there is no mention of #10. Hilariously, looking on Google and eBay, I found used Hound stickersheets with only sticker #10 remaining on the sheet! I was clearly not the first person to have this problem. Looking more closely at the instruction book seen above, I noticed in the transformation images, sticker #10 could be seen applied to Hound! There they were, on the sides of his waist…and had I had a Diaclone J-59 stickersheet to hand, I may have been able to solve the mystery a lot quicker. Interestingly, the Detritus sticker that corresponds to this, the one also not mentioned in the Detritus sticker application map, is actually one long strip. I had to manually split it in two in order to apply one half to the left side of his waist, and one to the right. Amazing how one small oversight by the producers of Hound’s booklet over 30 years ago could have led to similar confusion and misinformation – and even sticker-cutting errors – on a toy released 2 decades after it.
Here’s a fascinating one! Recently, one of my UK collecting buddies posted a set of images online of Micromaster base Countdown interacting beautifully with the Brainmaster figures from the Motorvators. This is nothing unique with respect to smaller Transformers feeling completely at home in larger bases, but the way in which the Brainmasters slotted in *absolutely* perfectly to the above photographed spots on Countdown, appropriately perched right in front of a computer console, tells a story of intention and design. It makes further sense when you consider that the Rocket Base (Countdown) was featured in the Transformers Victory cartoon, alongside many Brainmasters, and Victory Brainmaster toys like Laster, Braver, Blacker and Star Saber all came out in 1989, as Countdown did in the US and Europe.
What have we got here? Transformers Minispies? Takara-released Mecha Senshi (pre-Minispies)?
No, actually, something else. These are Minispy/Mecha Senshi moulds, but the copyright on the toys says “Koma Japan”. Piquing the interest of collectors, here are the Koma-branded ones, unpainted and available in a pink hue as well. Not much is known about these, so it’s all speculation, and collectors are very wary of putting misinformation out into the wilderness since it can take a decade and more to disprove it, and then get people used to the idea that what they hold as fact can be wrong, years down the line when actual facts surface. What is known is that Koma released pre-assembled versions and also model-kit versions, and do not share exact moulding with the Takara figures, but they do share moulding with the Asia bootleg. So, just a separate thing with no relation, then? Seems a cut and dry case.
And then this picture surfaces. A Hasbro case box with assortment number 5709 – 1985 release minibots with Minispy figure included. It says right there, clear as day on the case box “Minicar asst w/Koma car”. This would imply that the Koma connection was official. So is it a case of Koma having had access to the Takara moulds for the pre-Transformers release and running off a bunch of their own? Did they purchase the licence from Takara to produce Mecha Senshi/Minispy moulds and then do a deal with Hasbro for Transformers release? The Koma-stamped figures apparently came out after the original Takara Mecha Senshi ones, so another wild possibility is that when Hasbro wanted to license them, Takara may have been maxed out producing Transformers figures for Hasbro, employing Koma to take on production of minispies for Hasbro, leading to Koma then possibly releasing their own branded ones on the sly to make a bit of profit. There’s just not enough proof to validate any theory at this point, but you can probably assume that with the case box above prominently featuring their name, Koma were officially involved in the Minispy story at some stage.
For the last story in this edition of ‘News to Me’, I’d like to present the Takara Transformers E-Hobby New Year Special Alert (Red Alert) and Lambor (Sideswipe) from 2002. At the time, Alert and Lambor had already been reissued as minor show exclusives in Japan in the Collector’s Edition packaging, so this re-release seemed entirely unattractive to many, even if the two figures came with a new extra stickersheet with recoloured stickers. Apart from the dodgy factory sticker placement of Lambor’s headlights and the moulding on the right foot for both being dodgy as anything, what did I only just learn about these toys upon purchase a couple of months ago?
Check out those rims! The effect is very subtle, but the outer rim of the hub caps on both New Year Special Lambor and Alert is gold. This is made more noticeable in the above images by the lighting I used for the photos, and I only saw it for the first time after returning to my computer to photo edit! Then I went back and compared the rims to a standard reissue and it was right there, impossible to ignore. I even checked against MISB pictures online, and again, I could see the gold tint. This is actually a really classy looking thing on these cars, and coupled with the alternate stickersheets, makes NY Alert and Lambor some of the most underrated reissue exclusives ever released. Just a shame the factory stickers are soooo bad.
That’s all for this chapter of ‘News to Me’, and sincere apologies if none of the above was actually new to you (good work keeping up with the vintage scene!). These opportunities to share newly-discovered bits of vintage and G1 Transformers history are becoming rarer and rarer, so they are to be treasured even more when there’s enough material for me to put out such an article. Concentrating entirely on G1 again, I hope to be able to write articles like this more than just once a year.
Many kind thanks for info, reference and pictures to Ras, Dave Barry, Dan Ghile, Shu-Stock, Justin Masaru, Botch The Crab and a couple more anonymous contributors. Thanks for keeping the flame burning, guys, and for allowing me access to your knowledge!
All the best