Monday, December 3, 2018

Recoloring From The Past

Like most things in life, toy production is an expensive business. Toy companies pump in a lot of money into their products and do whatever they can to maximize profits. Which is why it is a common practice in the industry to reuse as many toy designs/molds as they can, repackaging, tweaking or at the very least recoloring them in order to convince the consumer to keep buying more product while at the same time lowering production costs.

The same is true for Transformers wherein you have a lot of characters who share the same toy mold or design, differing only in a few details, most commonly in their colors. Takara and Hasbro have become experts in getting an existing toy, recoloring it and selling it off as someone else.

Lately, it’s become pretty common for Takara and other 3rd Party companies to start looking back at the Transformers toy line’s history to get ideas for new recolors that would strike that nostalgic chord of the fanbase. Almost every Transformer collector knows that most of the first toys released in the 80’s were basically pre-existing Diaclone toys mostly recolored and repackaged for the US market. And now, it’s these original Diaclone colors that are serving as inspirations for new toys being released today.

Back when I was heavily into doing 3D Transformers, I too would oftentime mine old Diaclone ideas to create more 3D characters myself. Often times I would receive the help of fellow fans, most notably Joe Toscano from Prowl Pants' Custom Masters, who would write proper backstories for these “new” characters. Anyway here are some of my favorite “expanded universe” characters that we came up with.

Everyone knows that the original police car of the Transformers was Prowl. But apparently, the “police car” deco was used a lot for other Diaclone car robots. One of the most popular was a police deco version of Sunstreaker, which served as the inspiration for this character.

Crime Scene Investigation

"If you chase two turbofoxes, both will escape"
Originally a law enforcement officer in Iacon, Warrant has adapted easily to his new role as Autobot liason to Earthen police forces. Intensely interested in details; will comb crime scenes for hours with his dizzying array of optical and olfactory sensors. Will never act before amassing enough evidence to get a solid lead on a suspect; feels it is a waste of his time. Those less patient would rather have him shoot first and ask questions later. Intelligent; processes data quickly. Carries a stun rifle that can paralyze suspects with excellent accuracy up to four hundred feet. Cybertronian roots sometimes make him prone to underestimating or misinterpreting human intentions and motives.

Having done an excellent job on their official masterpiece version of Sunstreaker last year, it was pretty much expected that Takara would set out to maximize its usage by making the police deco version of Sunstreaker official as well. This year, they released Cordon. To differentiate him further from their masterpiece Sunstreaker which was based more off his cartoon appearance, Cordon looks more like the original toy, with a little more detail thrown in, most especially with a brand new toy centric head sculpt (that really should have been included in the original Sunstreaker release as extra parts). I expect a Diaclone red Sunstreaker to follow shortly.

Interestingly enough, not to be outdone, Sunstreaker’s brother Sideswipe also had a police deco version in the Diaclone line. But since Prowl filled out the police car quota for the original wave of figures, “police Sideswipe” was tweaked into “firechief Sideswipe” and dubbed Red Alert for the second wave of Autobot cars. Still this didn’t stop Takara from re-releasing police car Sideswipe, renamed Clampdown as an exclusive years later.

I too made my own 3D version of Clamp Down, but seeing that there were already quite a number of Sideswipe repaints out there (Clampdown was actually partnered up with another repaint, a black Sideswipe called Deep Cover), I decided to tweak my version further and make Clampdown female.


"Let the glory fall to others."
Stoic and reserved, no Autobot takes the war more seriously than Clamp Down. While even the most serious of her comrades will occasionally relax between battles, Clamp Down is all business. Studies mission logs and surveillance tapes in her free time, searching for specific traits and weaknesses in each Decepticon that she can exploit should they ever meet in combat. It's rumored that she has similar information on some Autobots as well, should they ever waver from the cause. Shoulder-mounted mortar can fire various munitions up to ten miles.

In keeping with my female version theme, I gave the Diaclone black Ironhide the same treatment with an additional touch of gold to replace the red. To differentiate her more from Ironhide in vehicle mode, I turned her into a sort of surveillance vehicle.

Covert Ops

“That wasn't me”
Low Light is the Autobot that wasn’t there. Her arrival on Earth was made known to only to a few of her comrades and even to this day, most Autobots and Decepticons believe her to still be in Cybertron. Low Light utilizes an extensive cloaking mechanism that renders her practically invisible to the naked eye, as well as to most heat and motion detectors. She also carries a specialized neuro-disruptor whose diamond tipped needles goes straight to a targets central processing unit wiping out the subject’s short term memory banks, thus erasing any memories of ever encountering her. While a “non-existent” existence would drive most Autobots mad, she prefers it. It makes her job all that much easier.

The only modern toy version of this was done as another exclusive by third party company Voodoo Robots. Unfortunately I missed out on it when it was first released and is pretty much close to impossible to find now in the wild at a decent price.

Then we have Wheeljack whose Diaclone version looked really different. It wasn’t just colored differently, it sported a totally different and unique head sculpt This Diaclone version was often referred to by fans as Malboor, since the real life race car it was based on was sponsored by the Philip Morris tobacco company, producer of Marlboro cigarettes. As a result, the car’s deco looked like a Marlboro cigarette box.

Anyway, I took this design and created my own character called Breakout.


“If you’re not doing anything, then you might as well be dead”
Patience was never Breakout’s best asset, can never seem to stay in one place for very long. Breakout just feels that there’s always something that he should be doing all the time, whether it’s scouting the farthest defense perimeters hoping to run into Decepticons or studying every single battle diagram he can lay his optical receptors on. He cannot stand long stretches of downtime cooped up in the Ark or just relaxing with fellow Autobots. His pro-active nature is admired by some of his comrades, but most find it just plain annoying.

Years later, Takara went another route releasing their own masterpiece version of this Diaclone design but making him into a Decepticon named Exhaust, as a callback to his...smokey past. Unfortunately before it could be officially released, it was delayed over legal trademark issues brought up by Philip Morris. If that wasn’t bad enough, the paint job also raised flags with the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement as well as the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which under federal statutes stated that smoking-related markings may never be used on products that could be intended for children. As a result, Exhaust’s deco had to be tweaked in order for it to finally be released.

Keeping with the cigarette theme, Joe Toscano from Prowl Pants' Custom Masters even made addition variants for his custom Marlboor action masters. How about some Lights or Menthol versions?

Finally we have “black Tracks” which was dubbed Stingray in homage to his Corvette alt mode. I filled in his backstory.

Front Line Assault

“Don’t start the party without me!”
By land, air or sea, Stingray charges full force, shouting battle cries with all guns blazing. Most of his comrades figure he has either nerves of steel or a constant death wish. Truth be told, Stingray has neither. He’s just a practical ‘bot who understands that in a war, there always have to be soldiers on the frontline and they play an integral part in winning a war, even though many of them most likely won’t live to see the end of it. His almost unrivaled speed and firepower make him a perfect candidate to lead an assault, and he knows it. So instead of sulking about the situation he is in, Stingray has decided to make light of his situation and treat each battle like one big party. Deep down though, he is fully aware of the risks that come with his job, he just takes solace in the fact that other Autobots will benefit from what he believes to be his inevitable sacrifice.

For some reason I actually didn't make an updated tech spec image for this guy...

Figuring that their newly minted Decepticon car Exhaust needed a road buddy, Takara officially made their masterpiece version of black Tracks into the Decepticon Loudpedal. Who according to his entry in the Transformers Wiki, is “a genius without peer: he is one of the galaxy's foremost musicians. Unfortunately, that's not a skill the Decepticons recognize the value of…. And so Loudpedal lives a double life as the wildly popular underground musician C Shadow”.

I spent around 5 years building up my own 3D Transformers virtual collection. And I big reason I enjoyed it so much was that it gave me the freedom to “create” my own characters. Hopefully in a later post I can explore a lot more of them.

*I would like to thank U.NEM studios & tfsquareone for allowing me to use some of their pictures for this post. Check them out!