COLLECTING THOUGHTS: Black Chase Keychain Minibots (part 1)

I recently had a collecting breakthrough.

Sure, it’s not something big or flashy or anything like that. Oh, and forget about it being the kind of thing loads of people are actively hunting down right now. But hey, it was a milestone for me, at least. Yes, I finally acquired a black Takara keychain G1 Cliffjumper!

For those that have never come across these curious before, they were sold as 7-Eleven exclusives in Japan in 2003. Alongside Cliffjumper, there were three other G1 Minibots released, both in their classic colour schemes and in black as a limited ‘chase’ option, with the big twist being that they were all blind-boxed, so you had no way of knowing which toy you were actually getting. If that was a challenge at the time, you can likely imagine how difficult it makes tracking these things down almost twenty years later!

The fascinating thing about these toys is that they weren’t made using the same moulds as the vintage specimens, although they look almost identical at a cursory glance. As well as the obvious addition of the keychain hook, lining them up side-by-side with their classic counterparts will reveal some subtle but noticeable differences. They were initially released in 2001 by a company named Fun4All under licence from Hasbro, although only in their more familiar colours. Takara wouldn’t utilise the new designs until two years later, making them all the more tantalising for collectors like me by introducing these black variants!

Of the four, Cliffjumper has by far and away proven the most elusive, although ironically, after several years of searching, I finally managed to track down both him and Brawn within one week of each other! I’m a massive fan of the vintage Cliffjumper design, having acquired a minty pre-rub version of it in 2019. However, seeing it decked out in black is a dream come true at long last!

With all of these toys, it’s a simple matter to remove the keyring chains, meaning that aside from the visible rings to attach them, they present like the classic designs in a new noir colour scheme. That chibi-style Porsche 924 Turbo alternate mode never looked as sleek! I even mentioned in a recent review of the black X-Transbots Toro that I was excited to pick this up eventually, so it’s great to have ticked that box.

Cliffjumper presents equally well in his robot mode, and again, it’s almost impossible to believe that this isn’t the same mould as the vintage equivalent, given how close they look. Of course, this version was also used to make the Botcon 2002 Tap-Out, so it’s been well-used along the way.

Ultimately, their differences become much more apparent once you get both versions in hand. The vintage specimen on the right has more defined lines and angles, giving a more precise result overall, whereas the keychain mould looks almost ‘softer’ by comparison. It’s most noticeable on the arms and feet and certainly in the face too. It’s an incredibly close job, but the evidence is there when you look closely!

Next on the roster is Bumblebee, who, again, is a newly-moulded version of the classic toy design. This was the first of this set that I picked up, and at least from my experience is the most common to stumble across, which feels like a big coincidence since the character went on to become the child-friendly face of the franchise in subsequent years. I doubt it was produced in higher numbers than the others back in 2003, though.

As with Cliffjumper, he looks very sultry in black, with the only colour on offer being the red Autobot logo on his chest and the decal on the back of his chromed head section. Bizarrely, this is modelled after the vintage equivalent sticker on Bumblebee. In contrast, Cliffjumper’s has been replaced with a second Autobot logo, although I have no idea why Takara chose to make them inconsistent in this way. Like Cliffjumper, though, Bumblebee is proudly sporting the keychain ring on his shoulder.

The chibi-fied Volkswagen Beetle alternate mode is about as iconic as they come in Transformers, so seeing it in black for the first time is certainly a thrill! It’s amazing that the classic Bumblebee toy had never been released in all-black before this, given how great it looks. Despite this being a newly-moulded endeavour, it seems extraordinarily close to the classic thing and was also used to make the Botcon 2002 release of Glyph.

As with Cliffjumper, the moulding differences between the keychain Bumblebee and the vintage release become much more evident once you line them up together, although they’re not as stark this time. The most apparent aspect is that some of the windows appear slightly more ‘sunken’ into the car’s body on the new version, and again, some of the edges are a little ‘softer’ too. Really though, this is about as close as you’re ever going to get with a newly-produced mould and makes a fantastic accompaniment to the original toy.

Join us for part 2, when we look at the rest of this line-up!

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About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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