Recent bouts of nostalgia-driven Generations Transformers releases have seen many previously ignored depths of niche G1 plumbed for new toys. This has seen the most obscure elements of post-movie gimmick-laden vintage Transformers such as Monsterbots get fresh figures, as well as allowing the Powerdashers to finally get in on the Generations act. While there are still some notable gaps (think Pointblank and Omnibots), the fact that “Zetar”, “Cromar” and “Aragon” exist as modern Transformers toys is quite a wonderful thing, so let’s take a bit of a look at the G1 Powerdashers.
These toys started out as Takara Diaclone figures, not unlike a significant portion of early G1 Transformers toys. They were primarily part of the pre-Earth vehicle sci-fi phase of the Diaclone line that launched in Japan in 1980. In Japan and Italy, these little pull-back motorized bots came with magnetic Dia-nauts under the “Diaclone” line. They were also released by Ceji Joustra in their “Diaclone” series in Europe, as well as by Takara in North America under their “Diakron” line.
The Ceji Joustra/Diakron era is the first occasion that the names “Zetar”, “Cromar” and “Aragon” were used, and today’s Generations Powerdashers still carry those names, which is an awesome callback! Those names were even used before the Generations release by IDW and James Roberts in More Than Meets The Eye #16, a flashback episode.
Whereas the Japanese and first Italian versions of these toys were boxed, later Italian runs, Ceji Joustra and Diakron releases were carded, with the Dia-nauts not making it to the Ceji Joustra release. There were many similarities in the cross-region packaging, with Diakron and second run GiG packaging being almost identical other than the logos and language of the copy. The Ceji Joustra versions, as with all the releases from that line, stand out because of their glorious exclusive packaging artwork created by the Brizzi twins. Since the Brizzis wrote and illustrated the Ceji Joustra Diaclone comics, I’d say there is a strong case that it was they who originally coined the names “Zetar”, “Cromar” and “Aragon”.
These first iterations of the Diaclone Dashers, called “F1 Dasher”, “Drill Dasher” and “Sky Dasher” respectively for their 1981 Japanese Diaclone release, were intended to be used with the Dia-naut pilots in the driving seat or cockpit. Those spaces for pilots remained when the toys were repurposed for Hasbro’s Transformers toyline, with some changes to the deco and even moulding of the toys themselves elsewhere. For example, the blue plastic on the F1 Dasher and Sky Dasher would become black for Transformers release.
Of course, the Hasbro Transformers Powerdashers were not available at retail like their Diaclone predecessors, or even the Diakron releases in North America in 1984. In 1985, you had to collect 2 Robot Points off Transformers packaging and send it to Hasbro along with $3.00 to receive a Powerdasher toy, and you could not select which one you would receive! Hasbro territories outside of North America would not receive this offer, and Takara also did not make the Powerdashers available as part of their Transformers line.
The image above is from the Powerdasher Drill instruction book, which interestingly just refers to the toy as “Powerdasher”, just like the other two. They all share the same tech spec and function as well. “Friendly, cheerful and obedient”, I love it!
The Powerdasher Drill – known again today as Zetar – is a great little toy. His highly distinct drill head is only topped by the adorable robot face sticker that is attached to it. The drill was rounded off at the tip for safety reasons compared to the previous Diaclone releases. He had stickers on his legs removed compared to the Diaclone toy, and the Autobot sticker on the chest replaces the “Drill Dasher” sticker that would have been there originally. Interestingly, the first run of GiG packaging referred to him as “Perforer”.
Due to the nature of his transformation, he has articulated knees, elbows and shoulders. There is a lot of chrome on the toy, too, and that is a major source of wear on specimens that have not been preserved as well. The Drill is probably the best looking of the the Powerdashers in both modes, and certainly my favourite.
The Powerdasher Car – known once more as Aragon – features a ton of chrome and a more interesting transformation than expected for a simple pull-back figure. As mentioned above, for Transformers release his lower legs were cast in black plastic instead of the blue of the earlier Takara Diaclone. He also had a couple of stickers from the front of the car removed compared to the Diaclone release. The Powerdasher car most resembles the high wing F1 cars of early 1969, but the Italian Diaclone release packaging labelled him as a “Dragster”.
Like the other Powerdashers, his headsculpt features a slightly unusual sticker, slapped onto his chromed engine block. Articulation is restricted to his shoulders and – thanks to his transformation – a turning head. There is some movement in his heavily-chromed feet, too. This is a toy that has to be experienced in-hand to be appreciated, because both visually and physically, there’s more going on than you’d expect. One thing you’d be right to assume, though, is that chrome wear is a massive issue with vintage specimens.
Finally, the Powerdasher Jet, or Cromar (or “Bomber” on the earliest GiG packaging). While this toy no longer came with a pilot for Transformers release, he did continue to sport a fetching face sticker depicting a happy robotic smile, with space for his prominent red nose to protrude through it. His torso was also changed from blue plastic to black for Transformers release, and like the other two, had an Autobot sticker added too. He did, however, have the blue and white striped Diaclone stickers on the chrome nose omitted for TF release.
Layered with plenty of chrome, it is extraordinarily tricky to find in excellent shape, and was in fact the last one I needed for the set. The nose of the jet – which splits to become his arms – suffers greatly over time with wear, as do the small wings that are revealed inside his legs. The Powerdasher Jet struggles to stand well in robot mode on account of his thin legs and afterburner feet. He probably has the least articulation of the three in this set, but they were clearly not marketed as expensive main line releases in the vintage era by Hasbro.
I don’t believe that the G1 Powerdasher Drill or Jet have a spot for the Diaclone Dia-naut that was quite as glaring as it would have been on figures like Grimlock, Optimus Prime or the Decepticon Strike Planes. While the F1 Dasher/Aragon/Powerdasher Car is the most obvious of all on account of him having a blatant race car cockpit, the Drill above or the Jet had less obvious spots for the Dia-nauts, so their omission was not quite as big a miss as it was for other G1 toys. Stick one on them, though, and it does naturally bring another dimension to the design and playability of the toys.
Surprisingly, that was not the end of the story for the Powerdashers. Fast forward to 2019 and War For Cybertron: Siege, the Powerdashers are finally re-imagined as modern Generations class Transformers toys! They were retools of other deluxe class Weaponizers from the Siege line. Zetar was released through Generations Selects by Takara Tomy Mall and some North American retailers as a retool of Brunt, with Cromar being a retool of Sixgun. Aragon, however, was controversially only available in a 3-pack with Holo Mirage and Decepticon Impactor through Amazon in North America, but through regular retail outlets in Asia. Aragon was a retool of Cog.
The legend of the Powerdashers continued, as around the same time, Takara Tomy started releasing re-imaginings of the original Diaclone Dashers as part of their premium Diaclone V2 line, specifically the Trivers subseries. There have been numerous versions of the “Trivers Dasher”, “Trivers Trijeter” and “Trivers Tridigger”, all featuring a Dia-naut partner, high levels of interconnectivity with other Diaclone Trivers figures, tons of accessories and everything you have come to expect from the intricate and expensive Diaclone line. The Tridigger pictured above is probably the closest in visual DNA to the vintage Dashers (sporting yellow and black colours, too).
So from being near-40 year old vintage obscure Diaclone and mailaway G1 Transformers oddities, the Powerdashers now have modern articulated Generations class representations, as well as high end modern Diaclone iterations with various repaints featuring a degree of cross-compatibility that boggles the mind, and punishes the wallet. One could say that almost every style of collector is catered for when it comes to these guys nowadays. What a time to be alive, what a time to be a Powerdasher!
All the best