We all know by now that the history of Transformers is littered with examples of obvious changes made during the franchise’s production. Look at any era of the robots in disguise, and you’ll find evidence aplenty of tweaks made to the toys, characters or surrounding lore while they were still being developed.
What’s especially intriguing are the times when two characters have been seemingly swapped with one another for whatever reason, even if it’s not always 100% confirmed that such a swap took place. Whether it’s changing allegiances, names or even elements of toys, here are six such examples from Generation 1 that are worth some consideration!
#6: Sideswipe & Sunstreaker
Let’s start with one from the very earliest days of the franchise that’s already well-publicised from over the years. Whilst it’s never been outright confirmed, the prevailing theory is that the bios of Autobot Lamborghini brothers Sunstreaker and Sideswipe were swapped at some point before release, the evidence for which is in the tech spec text itself. Sunstreaker’s bio talks about him firing ‘laser-guided ground-to-air rockets’, even though his toy features nothing resembling a rocket launcher of any kind, whilst Sideswipe is sporting just such an accessory on his shoulder. Meanwhile, Sideswipe’s bio mentions that his ‘arms act as powerful piledrivers’, likely a reference to the removable shoulder pieces on Sunstreaker’s toy, which can indeed be installed as wrist-mounted weapons. It also highlights the character’s ‘rocket backpack’, which could be inspired by Sunstreaker’s ‘super tuning’ modified engine block on his back. Thanks to his cartoon portrayal, the piledrivers and rocket pack became signature parts of Sideswipe’s arsenal, even though they were seemingly always meant for Sunstreaker!
Again, this has never been fully proven, but the evidence seems clear enough. It may have happened due to wider name and colour changes during production, as there’s further evidence that the red Sunstreaker and yellow Sideswipe toys from Diaclone were initially planned for use (with Spinout also being the original name intended for Sunstreaker). Unfortunately, even the man behind it all, Bob Budiansky, doesn’t quite remember, so it’s all lost to time!
#5: Dogfight & Windsweeper
The Triggerbots and Triggercons are some of the most memorable toys from 1988, or at least the most ubiquitous! Both teams feature pop-out cannons activated at the touch of a button, although there are also some differences between how the good and bad guys function. The Autobots’ weapons are chromed and spring-loaded, whereas the Decepticons are sporting non-chromed, gear-turning guns instead. At least, that’s true of two examples in each set, but not of the airborne characters! Dogfight and Windsweeper buck the trend, with the former being an Autobot with non-chromed, gear-turning guns and the latter a Decepticon with the spring-loaded, chromed variety. Consider that they’re the two fliers of the six toys, and it’s not at all implausible that they were somehow swapped during production at some point, presumably just with different colour schemes.
#4: Camshaft & Downshift
OK, this one we know is true! The Omnibots were the unsung heroes of 1985, relegated to mailaway status despite their inherent charm and killer alternate modes. Yet the names of two of their number have caused some confusion over the years, especially given how inappropriate the moniker ‘Camshaft’ is for the toy in question. You see, the Mazda RX-7 doesn’t actually have a camshaft in its engine, a fact that many fans have pointed out with great hilarity over the years. Takara evidently picked up on this point and swapped the character’s name with Downshift, resulting in a significantly more logical solution all round.
Ironically, a similar situation later came up during the early days of the Binaltech line in 2004, with Camshaft originally slated to be the identity of the updated Mazda RX-7 design that would become Jazz. Yep, you guessed it – that car doesn’t feature a camshaft, either.
#3: Artfire & Stepper
Photo credit: @JasonWiltshire
Back to fan theory time, although again, this one is strangely compelling despite never being proven. Artfire and Stepper remain two of the most desirable toys from vintage Japanese G1, giving repainted Targetmaster makeovers to some of the classic Diaclone designs of the era. Yet the character names have never made much sense and may have been swapped at some point before release. Consider that Artfire is a fire truck with ladders for one to step on (I know), whilst Stepper features a signature flame decal on his chest, which could even be described as ‘fire art’. OK, I appreciate it might sound a little tenuous to begin with, but there’s more! You see, the Targetmaster sidekicks included with the pair are technically swapped too, with Artfire’s partner, Nightstick, a re-use of the original Fracas design that came with 1986’s Scourge, and Stepper’s partner, Nebulon, being the same as Cyclonus’ own Nightstick.
Oh, and we’re not done! As if the case wasn’t compelling enough, when 2000 Car Robots rolled round, one of the Spychangers was a black car with a fire emblem on the bonnet in very clear homage to the classic Stepper toy… except his name is Artfire! It can’t all be a coincidence, surely.
#2: Flywheels & Battletrap
More conjecture for this one, although the evidence for it is a little flimsy at best. Still, fan theory frequently maintains that the names of 1987’s Duocons, Flywheels and Battletrap were swapped prior to release, if only because some believe the alternative would make more sense! The main root of that is ‘Flywheels’ not being an entirely suitable name for a robot with a tank alternate mode, given that such a vehicle doesn’t have traditional wheels. In truth, you could probably argue that either name makes sense for both characters, although perhaps more compelling is that their identities were briefly switched during their Japanese animation debut in the Headmasters episode The Master Sword Is in Danger!! Is this evidence of something? Who can say?
#1: Longtooth & Stranglehold
Let’s finish with a particularly persistent fan theory with precisely zero evidence behind it other than ‘it would sort of make sense… maybe?’. Still, if you look at the second-year Pretenders from 1989, you’ll notice a definite theme doing on, with human-styled shells for the good guys and more monsterish designs for the bad lads, just as happened the year prior. Except there’s a notable exception in both cases, with Autobot Longtooth presenting as a weird humanoid walrus creature and Decepticon Stranglehold looking every bit like Tom Selleck in bondage gear. So, wouldn’t it be logical that these two were simply swapped somehow? Well, yes, it would, especially as Longtooth has a skull emblem on his belt, exactly the same as Octopunch (and, of course, Bludgeon has a skull for a head, so maybe that’s thematically a thing?).
The only real caveat is that the inner robots of both toys certainly don’t support the idea of a swap taking place (with Longtooth’s car mode and Stranglehold’s rhino form feeling equally representative of their respective factions somehow), but it’s a compelling notion nonetheless! Could it be true? We may never know for sure.
So that’s our list! Did we miss any other notable swaps?
Thanks to @JasonWiltshire for helping with the Artfire & Stepper photo!