Occasionally, a random social media interaction leads to unexpected but outstanding results.
So it was some time ago when @hausofsega replied to a post of mine on Twitter. They dropped a mention of a vintage 1983 Japanese book which featured numerous photos of old Diaclone prototypes, many of which differed significantly from their final retail counterparts (and, by extension, the versions we came to know as the earliest Transformers toys).
To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. I had to know more, and fortunately, they were only too happy (and generous) to oblige, confirming the identity of the book in question and even providing some incredible scans of the contents!
It’s taken me far too long to comb through and put this together, but now, finally, here are some of those gorgeous prototypes presented for your viewing pleasure! Big thanks to @hausofsega for helping with this.
#9: No. 1 Countach LP500S (Spinout)
Let’s start with the one, the only, the original Car Robot of them all – the red Countach that would become Sunstreaker in Transformers. Sure, we’ve become much more accustomed to it being yellow in the decades since, but that doesn’t mean the red take hasn’t remained iconic in its own right and has, in more recent years, been repurposed as the character Spinout for both Masterpiece and Generations updates. Still, that colour on the vintage mould remains forever a Diaclone exclusive. Although the copy seen here looks to be all but identical to the retail release, it never fails to illicit a distinct thrill.
#8: No. 4 Onebox Ambulance Type (Ratchet)
Now we come to the ambulance who later found fame as Autobot medic Ratchet in Transformers. However, back in the Diaclone days, it was simply the retooled and repainted Onebox Ambulance. These pictures immediately stand out for the presence of a Diaclone driver both in the vehicle mode and, crucially, behind the windscreen of the robot form. The G1 Ratchet toy has come in for many a kicking over the years due to its lack of a more traditional head, but seeing the design as it was initially intended more than mitigates such a complaint. Otherwise, the most remarkable aspect of these prototype photos is doubtless the Japanese text down the side of the ambulance, which was absent from the final version, as well as the white shaft connecting to the primary weapon of the battle platform.
#7: No.12 J59 Jeep (Hound)
Let’s get to this book’s real meat and potatoes, shall we? The prototype you see here is undoubtedly one of the more apparent variances from the corresponding final toy. Yes, this is still the Jeep toy that would become known as Hound, but there are some vast differences to what we eventually received; in fact, it’s an entirely different sculpt! The core design is primarily the same, but everywhere you look, specific touches prove to be a massive departure to the now incredibly familiar figure in our collections, as anyone who has picked up the recent Retro reissue can testify. Colour-wise, it’s a lot more uniformly green, lacking the black sections on the legs, arms and crotch and missing most of the chrome on areas such as the engine, weapons and wing mirrors.
#6: No.11 Fairlady Z Racing (Smokescreen)
Next up is Smokescreen, or at least the figure that would become him! In this case, things seem broadly similar to what we received at retail, save for an absence of decals on areas such as the hips. However, once you start scrutinising the details a lot closer, you’ll notice some details are likely hand-painted here, including the prominent “38” numbering on the doors and bonnet. Oh, and did we forget to mention the blatantly hand-written “Datsun” logo on the front bumper? Because, let’s be fair, that’s hilarious. The Diaclone release would have a proper logo in this place (unlike the later Transformers version), so this was presumably a late addition!
#5: No. 9 Honda City Turbo (Skids)
The Skids design was one of the most prolific during the Diaclone years, pumping out no less than five separate versions in a short span (assuming you include both the original Honda City R and later City Turbo mould variants). What we see here is primarily the same as the final take. However, the most apparent difference is some of the decals used, which are entirely different to what we’re now familiar with, with the slight exception of the silver thighs. Otherwise, the stipe down the side of the car looks nothing alike, and I’m having trouble correctly discerning this prototype’s exact colour. Is it black or blue? Answers on a postcard.
#4: No. 3 Countach Patrol Car Type (Cordon)
If there was one toy colour scheme from the Diaclone era that’s never been used in Transformers that desperately deserves a new G1 reissue… well, it’s blue Bluestreak, isn’t it? But hey, “police Sunstreaker” falls very close behind! The figure seen here is, like ‘Spinout’, seemingly identical to what we saw at retail, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to behold. Though this deco would later inspire the character known as Cordon, this vintage original remains a timeless classic.
#3: No. 8 4WD Wrecker Type (Lift-Ticket)
Did you know that G1 Hoist is one of this writer’s personal favourite Transformers toys of all time? Well, it is. Consider it a great travesty then that the alternate Diaclone colour schemes of this original toy have never made it into Transformers in any way, then. With that era seemingly now past, it leaves me yearning after them in pictures such as this. The toy may be the same as its final retail release, but wow, it’s such a beauty to behold. The character would eventually become known as Lift-Ticket, thanks to a 2015 Timelines toy and later Generation Selects effort.
#2: No. 5 4WD Hilux (yellow Trailbreaker)
Much like ‘red Hoist’, the mere idea of yellow Trailbreaker is enough to make me weak at the knees, largely because I find it so incredibly different to the eventual black take we became familiar with during Transformers. It’s another idea that’s fallen by the wayside since (and has yet to be used in the successor line in any format, not even for a modern Generations attempt thus far), but at least we can admire it in its heyday here. Glorious.
#1: No.10 Fire Truck Long Ladder Type (Inferno)
Finishing us off for today is this prototype effort which, like Hound above, varies so wildly from the finished figure that it deserves exceptional scrutiny. We now know this fire truck as Inferno, of course, but we see an early attempt at that toy here. Again, it’s an entirely different sculpt, a lot blockier and less detailed than what we came to receive. This head sculpt looks much more like his later Transformers cartoon interpretation, weirdly, although I’m sure that’s just a coincidence! Otherwise, the basic design is the same, although the moulding varies wildly, as do colour choices such as the silver knees. Oh yes, and your eyes are not deceiving you – that is a red pair of Trailbreaker fists you see there, not the eventual Inferno hands!
So that’s our list! Thanks again to @hausofsega for sharing the pictures. Which of these prototypes has caught your eye the most?