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

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Ceji G1 "Puffer" Pipes


It's been a while, hasn't it? The longest period of time between Transformers articles from me for almost a decade, but it's taken quite a gorgeous and special vintage Generation 1 Transformers item to inspire me to write again. Since returning exclusively to collecting vintage G1 Transformers toys, I inevitably gravitated back towards my variant G1 and pre-G1 roots, but obviously with a modest budget there's only so much one can afford. Finding the above Ceji G1 Pipes - given the fan name "Puffer" - in a mixed lot of junkers was a touch of the good old days for me, and worthy of an article.



I had tried to win a Ceji Pipes earlier in the year but the price was as high as I'd been afraid of, and therefore inaccessible to me. When this jewel in a sea of mud appeared, I knew I'd be dusting off the article and photography kit as soon as it was in hand. What we have here is "Puffer", originally made famous by Dutch collector Devvi in the early '00s on his website, Devvi.com. But why "Puffer" and not just Pipes or Huffer?

Pic courtesy of Ras

The toy is Ceji-manufactured from France, as the company helped Hasbro Bradley fulfil Transformers stock obligations in 1986. After ceasing the distribution of Ceji Joustra "Diaclone" toys in 1985 - as the licence for all of those toys transferred to Hasbro Bradley - Ceji produced a number of items for the Transformers brand, including the yellow G1 Constructicons


This "Puffer" would have seen release in countries like France, Belgium, the Netherlands etc and was clearly intended to be Pipes, the season 3 minibot. However, the keen-eyed among you will have noticed that the toy is actually Huffer, just painted up to resemble Pipes; a nice and easy way to avoid retooling costs using existing toy moulds. This was a very common source of variants in Mexico, where Plasticos IGA repainted a number of moulds instead of retooling them into the new characters. There was also a "Puffer"-style Pipes in Mexico, manufactured by Plasticos IGA, but the blue on that toy was darker and sparkly.

Plasticos IGA "Puffer" - variant 1

Plasticos IGA "Puffer" - variant 2

So the European 1986 Ceji "Puffer" - a portmanteau created by fans from "Pipes" and "Huffer" - was sold on multilingual Pipes cards which you can see a little way up in this article. It is distinguishable from a Mexican "Puffer" by way of having a rubsign like all Ceji Transformers do, and by the non-sparkly baby blue colour of the toy.

Huffer - Puffer - Pipes

The blue and white scheme on the Huffer mould makes Puffer, in my opinion, the most handsome version of the mould, ever. It's got the hugely retro simple robot face of Huffer with the awkwardly-angled chrome arms, but classier colours. The blue is noticeably lighter than on a standard Pipes, as you can see. The vintage G1 Huffer photographed above is also not quite as nice a mould as the Ceji one, whose legs to actually retract the whole way, unlike my poor Huffer. 

Huffer - Puffer - Road Ranger

Even next to the gloriously lush E-Hobby exclusive "Road Ranger" with its nice crisp moulding and fancy paint job, Puffer still comes up top in looks. I can imagine that a yellowed one with rinsed chrome probably wouldn't have the same visual effect, but weirdly I've rarely seen discoloured ones.



Here's the gorgeous Puffer in vehicle mode, sporting the tell-tale rubsign on the roof and non-cylindrical chrome pipes of the Huffer mould. The grille does not protrude as it does on the Pipes mould and you can still see the "MM" moulding in the side of the cab, which stands for "Microman", paying tribute to the toy's Takara Microman Micro Change Series roots. See also the smaller feet compared to the full Pipes retool.



One of the features of Ceji "Puffer" that always intrigued me was how he has absolutely no copyright markings at all. You would expect him to have Takara and Hasbro markings with dates, but the country of manufacture blocked out. But he has nothing at all, which is not the norm for Ceji Transformers. This undoubtedly led some early vintage discovery-era collectors to conclude that this was not an official product.


Since then, of course, a handful of carded specimens have surfaced, completely cementing this toy's origin. It's one of those old school variants that collectors have known about for almost 20 years, in the same category as Red Tracks, Red Slag, White Astrotrain, Black Prowl etc. As a result, it almost exudes a bit more prestige and feels as though it has a more glittering history to it. No surprise, then, that collectors lust after it. The exceptional looks will see to that, even if it is not quite as rare as the Plasticos IGA versions (the sparkly blue/white and all sparkly blue variants).


I have always liked the vintage G1 variants where the toys had all the fundamental features of the Hasbro G1 run - rubsigns, Autobot symbols and Hasbro packaging design - but completely different colours to normal. It's why I actually prefer the look of the Milton Bradley Red Tracks to that of the Diaclone; the rubsign on the red roof just gets me. Same applies to the yellow Ceji Constructicons with their tell-tale rubsigns.



It's for that same reason that I appreciate Ceji Puffer above many of his South American variants from Peru and Venezuela; it's just that much closer to being an actual Transformers toy and character, I guess. Like a forgotten release that slots perfectly between the 1984/5 Huffer and 1986 Pipes. A missing link, almost. The fact that his backstory is tied so closely to my beloved Ceji Joustra toys just makes this variant all the sweeter. 


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All the best
Maz







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