Late night post means another Diaclone Quickie! No wacky colours this time, instead it's the Daddy, the predecessor to he who would be known the world over as Optimus Prime. This is the Japanese Takara Diaclone Car Robot No.17 Battle Convoy, the first ever official use of this now-famous toy mould. Released in Japan around August 1983 (which would put it after the Tokyo Toy Show of that year interestingly), I'm not sure it became quite the poster boy for Diaclone the way it did for Transformers, I think Powered Convoy (pre-TF Ultra Magnus) stole that thunder a bit by 1984. It is, however, an absolutely mighty piece of history and toy design that deserves every drop of praise one can afford.
|Diaclone Battle Convoy|
|Notice light blue plastic, bloated parts, metal plates. Oh and "DIACLONE".|
At the time of release, there were no such burdens of history placed upon the mould, the mantle of "Optimus Prime" did not hang around the toy's neck, but it must have been a big deal for Takara and the Diaclone line as it was sold at a considerably higher price point than any of the preceding Car Robot figures, 3800 yen to be precise. We can see that this dreamy package features no box artwork - that unmistakable Jeffery Mangiat TF artwork would come later - but he does have "DIACLONE" emblazoned across his metal-plated trailer. Three Diaclone drivers are a real treat, he comes with bloated accessories and a flat-back buggy. Why? Wait and see!
|Best bumper sticker ever|
There are minute moulding details on the cab that allow one to pinpoint exactly what TF or pre-TF version of the mould is in hand. Square smokestack connectors, the location of the raised vertical bar on the shoulder and a lack of a tab on the rotating head plate are just a couple of tells. The Japanese Diaclone trailer has a unique combination of light blue plastic, metal plates...erm "D I A C L O N E - Battle Convoy", and the brutally powerful mega launcher inside.
|Mega launcher and Spiderman x3|
The buggy launcher in the Japanese Battle Convoy trailer (also in early 01 Takara TF Convoys and VSX Convoys) is especially strong, it genuinely flings the pre-Roller across the room. You can see it's a completely different shape to a regular Prime trailer launcher, hence the lack of cylindrical pegs on the back of the pre-Roller vehicle. The metal plates in the trailer allow for the Diaclone drivers to attach firmly via the magnets on the bottom of their feet. The command centre is the same light blue as the legs on the trailer. And yes, the "Go" sticker is supposed to be placed in the corner of the trailer door/ramp like that, it's what the Diaclone instructions say!
|Optimus? Is that you?|
|Hose. That damn hose.|
I doubt there is any toy or action figure that can lay as much claim to the term "iconic" as Optimus Prime, and such has been the success of The Transformers that I challenge anyone to look at that red truck-cab robot and see anything other than Prime on first glance, even if they know it's Battle Convoy. There is some difficulty in getting the robot to hold the gun straight due to its bloated proportions, and that head plate was a real bugger to rotate. This is a mould that has been revised countless times through its lifetime, and having the first ever iteration in hand, I can see why.
|Not a variant in sight, but a few tasty mock-up protos|
Other than the various configurations of the cab and trailer, and how they can interact, the back of the Japanese Diaclone Battle Convoy throws up an interesting fact that I just noticed. Diaclone packaging and paperwork is generally lots of fun because it features some of the toy line's exotic colour variants compared to the eventual Transformers colour schemes. However, Battle Convoy's packaging shows only Diaclone versions of Hound, Smokescreen, Prowl, Jazz, Sideswipe and Mirage in the same colours as they ended up appearing in Transformers. Pre-Blueatreak is shown in his 'anime' colour scheme. Granted, the figures picked for that scene don't have wacky alternates in Diaclone apart from Mirage in red (not released yet at the time), Sideswipe in yellow (also not yet released) and Bluestreak (the infamous blue), and those were the most current Car Robot figures available. It's an interesting coincidence nonetheless.
Despite years of collecting and documenting Diaclones, despite there not being all that much seriously unique about the Japanese Diaclone Battle Convoy compared to certain pre-rub Optimus Primes and the Joustra Diaclone Battle Convoy that is my personal favourite, I cannot deny that finally having one of these in my hands last year counted as a landmark event in my collecting career. The gravity and history of the figure are beyond question. It was the first 'Prime', the daddy, and despite being pitched as simple mecha driven by pilots, knowing what he would become means that Battle Convoy is completely inseparable from Optimus Prime - and therefore greatness - in my mind.
More on Battle Convoy HERE
All the best