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Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Monday, 8 October 2018

Diaclone Jetrobo F-15 Hi-Speed Fighter



Takara's Diaclone Jetrobo F-15 Eagle Hi-Speed Fighter from the Real & Robo sub-series, released in Japan in 1983, was the very first use of the now-legendary Transformers G1 Starscream mould. In my mind, it is as historic a figure as Diaclone Battle Convoy, the predecessor to G1 Optimus Prime. It represents an absolutely magical purchase for me personally, although not one I have ever chased with much fervour - which actually surprises me a lot. The manner in which this toy finds itself in my collection and was completed - it didn't start out as a purchase of a complete toy - is something of a reflection of everything I feel I am about in this hobby and what it means to me.



G1 Starscream - the very one pictured right here - was my first ever Transformer, bought at Toys 'R' Us Brent Cross in London, some time in very early 1986. I still have that childhood Starscream, and while I do not own a perfect condition version of that exact rubsign release, I do have a MIB unused Ceji Joustra Diaclone F-15 from 1984, and for me that was a good enough representation of what I'd call a symbolic 'pre-Starscream' for my collection. This was especially relevant as Ceji Joustra Diaclone is my greatest collecting passion, and the toy inside is essentially a pre-rubsign Transformers Starscream, so the symbolism was definitely there, even if the toy was not the very first version of the mould ever.


I've had that Joustra F-15 for many years now. It seems that since I started to concentrate more exclusively on collecting vintage Transformers again, my Starscream variant collection has - inadvertently - grown to some considerable size. I now have an Anime colours TFCollection reissue Starscream, E-Hobby exclusive reissue Black and Ghost Starscreams and a Plasticos IGA Mexican G1 Starscream to name a few.


The most recent Starscream I had added, again kind of by luck and not intentionally searching it out, was a European 1986 Ceji Joustra Transformers Starscream. This was especially significant as nobody had previously highlighted (or noticed?) the fact that Starscream's European box in 1986 was the only piece of known official Transformers packaging ever to feature the "Joustra" company name, so I attached a fair amount of symbolism to this Starscream too. Yadda yadda first childhood toy yadda yadda Joustra is my passion yadda yadda variant discovery etc. In many ways this still stands as the most symbolic representation of my initiation and long-lasting passion(s) in Transformers rolled into one variant release.


As I feel I will probably never shell out the money required for a vintage G1 Hasbro rubsign Starscream in absolutely perfect MISB condition, the Walmart exclusive Hasbro reissue of Starscream from THIS YEAR (how are we not still absolutely slack-jawed by this turn of events?) in vintage-style packaging was an absolutely perfect way to pay tribute to my first Transformers toy as it appeared on the shelf when I first encountered it.



I'm happy to forget ALL of that right now, because I have in my collection - and I cannot quite believe it - the first ever use of this mould, the Japanese Diaclone. Now, I have owned a Japanese Diaclone F-15 before, the Acrobat (pre-Thundercracker), and interestingly it was the first boxed Japanese Diaclone I had ever handled. I've also seen these pre-Starscreams for sale over the many years I have collected, and not gone mad trying to get one. After I did go for an unused one and saw it sell for about 6 times my bid, I filed it away in the "probably will never own" category alongside 'Marlboor Wheeljack' and 'Blue Bluestreak'.


Right now, something about the timing of this purchase really feels magical to me. Since returning to vintage Transformers exclusively, I've accepted how out of reach Diaclone collecting is for me now, financially. That boat sailed when I sold off all of my Japanese, Italian and Finnish pre-Transformers gems the last time, and the scene has moved onwards and upwards significantly. I'm happy with a decent loose incomplete red Honda City R these days, and I considered it a spectacular victory to land a mint red Corvette Stingray unused in its styro and a boxed Micro Change Series Eagle Meteor sphere in the last year within my current budget. So this is just...wow, it could just be 2002 for me again.

This F-15 was purchased from an online web store, and not under the nose of other collectors, I think they'd all seen it and just passed on it. It was missing 3 missiles (one was broken and present), both fists, one small grey rear wing and its stickersheet. The box was also kinda banged up, as was the styro. Not really a project that many of today's pre-TF collectors want to take on for 30,000 yen, especially as vintage Diaclone parts for this figure are going to be damn near impossible to source. From the pics I have posted above, you can see he's gained a few parts since I purchased him, but more on that later.




Some of the lovelier details of the Japanese Diaclone F-15 packaging are showcased above. A number of times I have seen that stylised F-15 artwork on the box back posted on social media with people (including TFWiki) asking for the source. Well, it's on the packaging! The technical specifications of the F-15 are not printed on the box, but the box bottom does have the cool side and top view of the F-15 Eagle, not unlike the Car Robot boxes had. There are a fair number of bootlegs of this figure with similar packaging out there, so look out for "Robojet" text down the side compared to the official "Jetrobo", and always look for the official Takara logo on the box front. There are further differences on the toy itself.


This beautiful styro layout is very well known now, as it was used for the 1984 Ceji Joustra and GiG Diaclone F-15s, as well as the 1985 Takara G1 Decepticon Jets (minus space for the Dia-naut pilot).  Most of the reissues from Takara used the same layout too, but clear plastic trays instead of styro. In the above picture, the fists are from an early pre-rub G1 Starscream, as are one of the small grey wings and the intact long missile. Normally I am wholly against using non-authentic or differing release parts to complete a historic figure, but in this case I was ok with it. But how come?


The first release Japanese Diaclone F-15 had no copyright stamp at all. This is a trait shared with the absolute first release 1984 pre-rubsign Transformers Starscreams, too. You may also notice that the underside of the main wing, perpendicular to where the connecting peg is, is solid - not hollow like later Transformers Starscreams. There are a number of moulding features like this which are unique to the first release Diaclone F-15 and the earliest of early pre-rub Starscreams. Neither of these releases have any numbers moulded into their accessories or parts, including missiles, fists, tailfins etc.


There are, of course, some features that only the first run Japanese Diaclone F-15 has. The nosecone is solid hard plastic instead of rubber. The cockpit has a very cool factory sticker inside, shared only with the Italian GiG F-15 Aquila release of this toy. The tips of the main wings that you can see up against the red diecast shoulders are very long and pointed. This was changed for safety reasons for the rarer later release Japanese Diaclone F-15, the GiG F-15, the Ceji Joustra F-15 and all subsequent Transformers Starscreams. A shame, because it really gives a sleeker look to the toy and is definitely one of my favourite features of the Hi-Speed Fighter release.


It's got more than just some interesting moulding going for it, though. Check out those exclusive factory stickers! The red stripe on the main wing has "Diaclone" written on it and the material is more like decals than the thick red paper-base stripe sticker on Transformers Starscream. There is also a clear "F-15" factory label on the wing. You may notice the slightly transparent "F" shaped stickers on the blue tailfins too, compared to the solid red of the Transformers sticker there. Also on the blue tailfin, you'll notice the "RR" factory decal that stands for "Real & Robo". These features are also found on the GiG F-15 Aquila from Italy, and they really do add beautifully to the toy's look. As an aside, always check that red wing stripe for "Kingdam" versus "Diaclone" when trying to identify vintage bootleg parts.


And how could we forget this absolute gem of a feature, the Dia-naut pilot. The F-15 Hi-Speed Fighter in Japan came with the yellow pilot (red one in Italy, though), and this particular specimen's Dia-naut type and colour is shared with the New Countach LP500S (Sideswipe) and Corvette Stingray (Tracks) among others. For a toy with such a worn box, damaged styro, broken missile and missing parts, it was a real surprise that it came completely unused and mint. The Dia-naut is mint and magnetic, the main F-15 toy is mint, I mean just look at the crispness of the paint on the diecast. Unfortunately, the stickersheet is missing. The Diaclone F-15s never had instruction sheets as the sticker application map, as well as the conversion steps, are shown on the back of the box.

Ceji Joustra version of the F-15 stickersheet

Now, before I bought this Diaclone F-15, I already began searching for the missing parts. I figured it would be easiest to source early pre-rub G1 Starscream parts from the same mould instead of Japanese Diaclone accessories. I found a US Transformers dealer who kindly checked all his Starscream accessories and dug out for me one long missile with no number on it and a small grey rear wing which was solid and matched the Diaclone moulding.

Pic courtesy of Justin Masaru

Pic courtesy of Justin Masaru

I want to thank Justin Masaru for sending me pictures confirming that the Japanese Diaclone F-15 fists were the exact same mould as the early G1 pre-rub Starscream fists (from the version with no copyright stamping). Single tabbed, no numbers moulded on. In Justin's case, though, his specimen seemed to demonstrate that the Diaclone's blue plastic had more of a darker shade to it compared to the very blue Transformers edition. He also confirmed that the blue across the whole Diaclone F-15 figure was the same shade. This posed a problem for me, because it meant that any set of early pre-rub fists I found would not be a colour match.

It was still favourable to no fists at all, so I started looking at auctions and listings for pre-rub Starscream fists with no numbers moulded on them. I got an amusing reply back from a very well-known and long-time US-based G1 Transformers seller on eBay about this: "Yes they do and numbers are random and mean nothing." Not true, folks, not true. The number moulded on accessories indicates what iteration of the particular moulding that part is, so it can be used as a form of chronology when comparing similar parts with differing numbers moulded in.

1986 Starscream - check out the odd launching tabs

I found the above 1986 G1 Starscream release in the Netherlands, but it looked as though it came with single-tabbed blue fists. The seller confirmed that they had no number moulded on them, which was damn strange for a late rubsign Starscream! Anyway, I bought the Starscream, and then realised the seller had a second pre-rub Starscream for sale with double-tabbed fists, so clearly he'd mixed them up when he was selling them. I tried to purchase that Starscream as well, in order to retain the integrity of both (I know, I'm nuts) but he'd already sold it. At this point, I confirmed the purchase of the Japanese Diaclone F-15. So, I was now 30,000 yen + $45 + 55 Euros into this project.

It was only at this point that I contacted another Diaclone-collecting friend in Canada who had been inactive for some time. We'd just started chatting again regularly in a small group on WhatsApp, and on the off-chance I asked him if he had any spare Diaclone F-15 parts as I had one on the way, and was making do with G1 early pre-rub parts to complete it. The answer?

Pic courtesy of Gordon Yip

Unbelievable. He had a loose Japanese F-15 that he had bought years ago on Yahoo Japan Auctions, just because he needed one of the main wings for his own specimen. Sure the grey rear wing I needed was broken and the toy was missing missiles, but it had the authentic Diaclone fists! The right colour and 100% correct release integrity! It would also allow me to carry out an intensive comparison between the colours and specific moulds of the parts I had on the Diaclone and early pre-rub G1 Starscream. Sure, I should have gone straight to my friend first and not spent money on Starscream parts, but my experience has been that you shouldn't pass up opportunities to get rare accessories and figures, and what were the chances of a friend just happening to have a spare F-15 lying around?! Another $120 spent. Thank goodness for my own toy sales.



So that one from Canada is still on its way, but in the meantime, the Takara Diaclone F-15 Hi-Speed Fighter from Japan arrived, as did the 1986 G1 Starscream from the Netherlands and the spare grey wing and missile from the USA. As a result, I was able to piece together the heart-stopping beauty you see above and at the start of the article. Look how absolutely clean the lines are on this stunner. See how flush the main wings sit with the main body of the jet thanks to the shorter wing pegs. The crystal clarity of the smooth canopy, the gleam of the painted diecast and the visible but subtle "Diaclone", "F-15" and "RR" decals. Every inch of this figure oozes class, and the condition is such that it feels as though it was opened yesterday.



The missile launchers on the Japanese Diaclone are potent, and those rockets really fly. I noticed that the small grey rear wing from the early pre-rub Starscream had a sliiiightly different-shaped peg, meaning that it didn't slot into the blue tailfin quite as easily as the Diaclone one on the other side. So visibly in terms of moulding and colour, everything appeared identical, just that connecting peg was ever so slightly different. Such a shame, then, that the actual left-sided F-15 spare that's on its way to me from Canada is sporting a broken peg.


Breathtaking stuff. At one point, this release would have been a world-first experience for children and collectors in Japan. That iconic transformation of the F-15 mould from jet to robot involving the nosecone-through-the-arms bit. You can see how the longer wing points on the Japanese mould change the profile of the robot mode a bit towards the bottom of the legs. The main wings basically hug the robot body all the way down to his feet!


Like the other very early pre-rub G1 jets I have owned, as well as the Japanese Diaclone F-15 Acrobat, there is a slight design flaw in that the hard plastic nosecone causes the head and canopy to roll backwards in robot mode due to the weight. With this very unused specimen, a little persistence means that it stays in place but the tendency to drift backwards is still there. Interestingly, if you place the Dia-naut in the canopy in robot mode, the whole thing stays in place due to the extra weight of the pilot. This makes some sense as the Diaclone figures were not sentient as we understand Transformers to be, and would have required the Dia-nauts to be piloting them when active.


So in the above pictures, one of the long grey missiles is from that 1986 G1 Starscream, and you may notice the colour difference as it happens to be slightly discoloured. But, the fists are also from a Transformer, the early pre-rub Starscream fists with no numbers moulded that I mentioned previously. It's the correct mould, 100%, but the colour was supposed to be wrong. Yet, when I compared the fists to all the blue sections on my Diaclone F-15, they were the same! Could it be that the images Justin sent me of his F-15 contained slightly discoloured fists? Blue Diaclone plastic has been known to discolour very easily, just look at all the 'Blue Bluestreaks' with discoloured plastic doors and blue Hilux Wreckers (pre-Hoist) with blue plastic that has gone darker over time. 

Pic courtesy of Justin Masaru

Speaking to Justin about this, he did say it was a possibility as the colour of the fists did not match the nosecone colour on his F-15, and you can see his specimen pictured above. I suddenly noticed a bump in the nosecone and asked him if the nosecone on his F-15 was rubber, and indeed it is! So, inadvertently, I'd finally cottoned onto the fact that the Japanese Diaclone F-15 came in three variants:

- Hard nosecone, pointy wings, no copyright (1983)
- Rubber nosecone, pointy wings, no copyright (1984)
- Rubber nosecone, shortened wings, Takara + dates copyright (1984)

I tell you, a few years ago, nobody would have imagined this many variants to exist within a single mould for a Japanese Diaclone release. Justin, of course, already knew!



It never ceases to amaze me just how much this hobby has to offer its fans, even those who collect the very finite vintage Transformers and Diaclone figures. For variations of well-known toys to still be discovered 30+ years after release is a testament to the degree in which individual running changes were made to the toys and the diligence of the fans who never stop analysing this stuff under a microscope. This started out as a slightly expensive but heartfelt purchase for me, a toy I had always coveted yet never really chased due to what I already owned.



Colour variant Diaclone is extremely exotic and that's what gets people's attention, but even the Diaclone items whose colours were not changed for Transformers have their mysteries and their unique features. Just looking at this F-15's packaging is a worthy enough reason to own it; the diagrammatic art of the jet half on the box front in perfect concert with the half of the toy jet visible through the plastic window, not to mention the first use of that glorious artwork that would become Decepticon Air Commander Starscream.



Somehow, every vintage purchase recently has led to a discovery or at least more education for me personally, and this F-15 has been no different. I was happy to discover that the early-pre rub Starscream parts were basically an exact match for the similarly-moulded Japanese Diaclone...well, at least the fists and missiles seem to be. That tiny difference in the grey rear wing tab is something to take note of. 



I feel exceptionally lucky to have so many versions of my first ever Transformers toy, and finally the original release of it from Japan in 1983. The journey to complete this figure has been peppered by the essential assistance of wonderful people in the community who have shown a willingness to help, contribute and educate, and I'm lucky to call them friends. The journey has involved a discovery or two for me, and I've always loved that about this hobby. It has involved resourcefulness and research to find the bits I needed, and any success I have had in my vintage collecting has always had elements of that.

It's cool variations, it's being able to put together a toy made up of 100% authentic and original accessories, maintaining its release integrity...and I'll be honest, I did not expect that when I committed to the purchase. It's photography and being able to showcase this marvellous piece of history with a better camera and skills than I had the last time I had a Diaclone F-15 at hand, as well as re-creating some lovely Powered Convoy stock photography. It's having a vintage Dia-naut in my collection again. It's Diaclone, it's Starscream, and it means the world to me.


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All the best
Maz

4 comments:

  1. Another triumph of an article.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loved every single bit of this, such an intense effort to research a variant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, bud!

      All the best
      Maz

      Delete