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

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Hasbro G1 Drag Strip - The Hidden Stickers


The mission to uncover hidden Generation 1 Transformers mysteries and erroneously long-held beliefs is one that seems to have no end, and for that I am grateful. Most of the credit for the subject of this article, however, goes to the inspirational Lee Cheney (@Leeroybrownhu9) who discovered hidden stickers on the label sheet of the 1986 Stunticon Drag Strip. The full account of his adventure can be found on Twitter, called "Lee-Roy's Drag Race", and I will reference that in this article, too, where I took the project a step or two further.


Courtesy of Botch The Crab

This all started with Lee's desire to own a lovely G1 Drag Strip. He was unable to locate a mint one on eBay with pre-applied stickers due to the fact that no two ever quite seemed to have been done up the same way. For a toy with a mere five stickers on the label sheet, that seemed a little odd. Mint stickers applied G1 is a rare thing anyway, as Lee found out, so he took it upon himself to get an unused Drag Strip and sticker it up himself.


When I start these stickering missions of my own, I try to assemble all of the reference material I can. This includes packaging artwork for Transformers, pre-production imagery from catalogues if it exists, pre-Transformers paperwork if relevant and the actual release paperwork that comes with the toy as well. Sometimes, as was the case with Turbomaster Hurricane, I even used the real life vehicle that provided the basis for the toy as a sticker reference.

Courtesy of Getty Images

In the case of Drag Strip, the original six-wheeler Tyrrell P-34 Formula 1 car upon which it is based bears no resemblance in terms of stickers and livery. With Drag Strip also having no Diaclone release history - although the Stunticons and much of Scramble City do have their design origin in Diaclone - that leaves very little to dig up if the toy's instructions and sticker-map are not clear.

Courtesy of Botch The Crab

Drag Strip's sticker map on the back of his card is anything but unclear. It's easy to read and leaves almost nothing to interpretation. No, the issue here is not that it's hard to read, more that it's just wrong. Or at least, that is what Lee believed. He noticed that the sticker map indicated two short strip stickers of equal length on the sidepods, stickers #2 and #3. The thing is, on Drag Strip's stickersheet, those two stickers are of differing lengths. In fact it is sticker #1 (indicated as belonging on the rear wing) and sticker #3 that are the same length.


As a result, it is not uncommon to find vintage G1 Drag Strip toys with one short sticker on one sidepod, and a long one on the other, or alternatively, two long stickers on the sidepods and one oddly short sticker in the middle of the rear wing. It was this inconsistency in interpretation, caused solely by the numbering of the pre-cut stickers on his label sheet, that led Lee to do some research into what the reason was for the odd sticker inconsistency.

Courtesy of Sixo

This is where Lee came across this imagery on the back of G1 Drag Strip's card. In the above image we are using the 1990s Classic gold card release stock photography, but it's the same image as that used on the vintage 1986 release card. Where the final production Drag Strip has a moulded recess on the front of his nose for the rubsign, the prototype/mock-up in the stock photo has it on the sidepod. Lee concluded that this was why one of the sidepod stickers was shorter than the other, because one of them had to co-inhabit the sidepod with the rubsign!

However, this opened a whole new can of worms. What's the deal with the fat stripe sticker on Drag Strip's nose, below his windscreen? The final version has the rubsign there and absolutely no factory or label sheet stickers that belong there. Also, there's a continuation of the stripe sticker on the sidepod whereas production Drag Strip again has nothing intended for that area.


This is where Lee made an incredible leap, the discovery that really brought his project into its own. He found that on Drag Strip's final production stickersheet, those extra stickers all exist...they're just not machine cut like the other numbered ones are! The above image shows you where he found stickers #6, #7 and #8. These would need to be manually cut and then placed on Drag Strip to re-create the look of that proto/mock-up on the packaging. 

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

Lee carefully removed the rubsign from Drag Strip's nose and replaced it with as much of a fat stripe as the sticker sheet had printed on it. There was not enough to go all the way up to the windscreen and curve around it as seen on the Drag Strip card back. He also cut the smaller strips and continued the stripe sticker on the sidepod all the way to the rear wheels. Absolutely beautiful!

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

He did the same on the other sidepod, but instead of the rubsign shown in the mock-up, Lee used the Decepticon sticker. The sticker map suggests the spot between Drag Strip's lower legs for that one, but it sure as hell looks spiffing right there on the right sidepod! 

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

This final image of Lee's Drag Strip, with the help of the most synthwave of filters, really set my imagination alight. I absolutely had to re-create this most stunning of G1 sticker jobs so that I too could own a beautiful Drag Strip close to the original prototype. The thing is, with many of my own sticker projects, I aim to re-create what I feel the designer of the toy intended, an intent that may have been lost due to errors in paperwork or forced corner-cutting as the iterations mounted up.

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

The thing is, how can we be sure that what Lee created was the intended look for Drag Strip? After all, they went as far as moulding a recess into the nosecone in order to accommodate the rubsign, and that's too huge a step for it to have been in error. Also, the mock-up imagery for Drag Strip does not feature the black windscreen sticker whose purpose is obvious. In order for the rubsign to exist on the nose, you can see why they had to dispense with the stripes on the nose. 

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

In addition, Drag Strip's card artwork and mock-up imagery show no sign of the Decepticon symbol sticker (#5) in the recess between his lower legs. In fact the art shows it on his collar, and it simply doesn't exist in the proto/mock-up photo. So, the final production Drag Strip with its windscreen sticker, lack of nose stripe, moulded rubsign recess etc may be the actual intended layout, it's just not quite as glorious as the prototype or mock-up. The 'hidden' stickers on his sticker sheet that remained uncut may just have been a result of the final changes being too late in the day to allow for a redesign.

Why did they change it all? Maybe because those tiny stripe stickers are just too fiddly to apply. Maybe because without the rubsign front and centre, it would not be obvious enough that Drag Strip was a Decepticon in vehicle mode. After all, his Decepticon sticker ends up under the engine in vehicle mode if you follow the official sticker map. Interestingly, the cartoon animation model for Drag Strip has a Decepticon symbol bang in the middle of his nose, where the rubsign is. 

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

What could not be disputed, though, was just how beautiful Lee had made his G1 Drag Strip. So even if it could not 100% be proven to be the intended design of the toy and stickers, it sure was nicer. I decided that I wanted to follow in his footsteps, and after meeting him at TFNation 2019 and getting the lowdown in person, I was ready to go!

Courtesy of Graham

I decided I would start by going through all of Lee's research again and see what I could add to the project, especially as Lee himself ended up with three variations on the theme! Coincidentally, I came across an image of the vintage G1 Menasor giftset box top posted by Graham on Twitter which you can see just above. That Drag Strip was identical to the one on the card back that Lee used as a reference...except the rubsign on the sidepod was now on the left side! In order to re-create that proto look as accurately as possible, I had to be sure which was correct.

Courtesy of Ras

During TFNation 2019, I introduced Lee to well known prototype and pre-production collector Ras. I knew that Ras owned the actual prototype Drag Strip used in the original G1 stock photography and wanted him to see Lee's project. I went to Ras in order to get an image of this proto, hoping to determine once and for all which side that rubsign was originally on. As you can see from the image of that exact prototype above, it was on the left sidepod! This means the vehicle mode stock image from the G1 Drag Strip card back was reversed. That prototype Drag Strip, that incredible piece of history, cemented for me that instead of the Decepticon sticker Lee used on the sidepod, I wanted to put the original toy's rubsign back there and re-create that proto look even more faithfully.

So that's exactly what I did.



I am so thrilled with the results, and would recommend taking this route to really bring a G1 Drag Strip to life with what ended up being such a love letter to the prototype. Sure, cutting those tiny strips that go on the sidepods and the nosecone stripe sticker was difficult (you can see my scalpel wasn't sharp enough). Sure, there is a "1" visible on the tiny stripe sticker on the right sidepod from an area of the stickersheet that was not eventually intended for use. Sure, removing the rubsign was a bit hairy and I had to use black marker on its rear to stop it being patchy when re-applied to the sidepod with Toyhax Stickerfixer.




My goodness was it worth it, though. Drag Strip has never looked so complete as he does with Lee's advice on using absolutely all of the real estate on the label sheet. What makes me happiest is how this is all possible without any reproduction stickers, but with everything that one actually gets in a vintage G1 Drag Strip package. 


Now, we can't ignore the fact that the Drag Strip design was changed from proto and stock photography to actual release. To ignore the fact that he had a windscreen sticker and moulded rubsign recess added would be to ignore a major step in his evolution leading to release. As a result, while Lee and later myself went to great lengths to re-create the look of that gorgeous original resin and plastic Drag Strip proto, I wanted to also pay tribute to what the instructions and sticker map say about certain parts of his final look.




To that end, I placed the Decepticon faction sticker exactly where the instructions told me to, on the section between his lower legs. I justified this by way of every Decepticon needing his allegiance proudly displayed in robot mode. Also, the way that the chrome engine piece has two little pegs ensuring that it never fully sits flush in that recessed space tells me that the Decepticon sticker is meant to go there. It never experiences any rubbing from the chrome engine piece. I absolutely love how that rubsign of his remains visible at the end of the stripes on his arms in robot mode. Visually, he just has so much more going on now than if you just follow the sticker map.

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

Courtesy of Lee Cheney

Even Lee had more attempts at using different looks for his Drag Strips. The one pictured immediately above uses two stickersheets to achieve a particular look, and the Decepticon sticker goes over one of the stripes to mimic the proto. He even managed to squeeze the rubsign AND the nosecone stripe sticker on there together.


There is no completely right answer to the mystery of G1 Drag Strip's stickers, but what Lee has done is demonstrate why there are extra parts to the sticker sheet, why one sidepod sticker is shorter than the other and how to use all of this to your advantage in creating a marvellous-looking specimen. 

I may have gone one step further in determining that the rubsign/symbol was originally on the left sidepod, but that - and the use of the rubsign instead of the sticker on that sidepod - is a decision that any collector can now make based on their aesthetic preference. While I chose to mix the prototype look with an element of the final intended look, there's nothing stopping a collector using two Drag Strip sticker sheets to take it EVEN further. The possibilities, and the mysteries of G1, are seemingly endless!


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All the best
Maz


8 comments:

  1. He had the stripes on the fronte in cartoon too.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj31cWEkJfkAhVJI7kGHTioCeUQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Ftfwiki.net%2Fwiki%2FDrag_Strip_(G1)&psig=AOvVaw2rhABKs8_QnlY4FmsVczaR&ust=1566585403755140

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Correct, but the stripe on his rear wing was turned to match the stripe on the front, which is understandable...and of course he had the Decep sticker on the stripe as well!

      All the best
      Maz

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks so much dude! And thank you for your incredible archive of massively useful G1 paperwork!

      All the best
      Maz

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  3. Replies
    1. Cheers Nic, I really appreciate it! :)

      All the best
      Maz

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  4. Maz taking us all to school, thanks man.

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    Replies
    1. Haha thank you for the kind words! Lee did all the heavy lifting on this one :)

      All the best
      Maz

      Delete