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

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Diaclone "Sample Smokescreen"

In 2007 a host of prototypes, samples, pre-production materials and other such vintage behind-the-scenes treasures were unearthed via ex-Hasbro employees in Rhode Island. Alongside original G1 amd G2 boxart, hardcopy resin prototype G1 Hot Rods, Headmasters and mock-up unreleased Generation 2 Autobot cars and jets was something of astronomical significance historically to the Transformers character "Smokescreen". This is a post on the production sample Diaclone Car Robot No.11 Fairlady Racing 280Z Turbo that was sent to Hasbro by Takara, probably in 1984, in order to be evaluated for a Transformers release.

Diaclone "Sample Smokescreen"

There's the Takara "SAMPLE" sticker

The provenance for this piece is entirely locked up in where it came from, the ex-Hasbro employee who had all the pre-production Generation 1 prototypes that were matched to the earliest catalogue and Toy Fair photography. On the face of it it's just a Diaclone pre-Smokescreen with a "Sample" sticker slapped on the top, but once you look at the figure inside the history unravels before you.

No trace of Diaclone

In the first instance, we notice a few key things. The toy is unmistakably unused and completely mint, quite fabulous condition with the missiles attached to the sprue and the chrome on the handgun immaculate. Secondly, there is no paperwork at all and the Diaclone driver is missing. If this item was indeed ever in the possession of Hasbro, direct from Takara, and being evaluated for Transformers release then of course all of the Diaclone features/literature that would be irrelevant to The Transformers would have been removed.

Absolutely pristine...

...and covered in hand-written markings

As if that weren't proof enough (and let's face it, it isn't), any car manufacturer or Diaclone-specific factory stickers were surgically removed by hand. This included the "DATSUN" from the front bumper, the "Turbo 280ZX" from the rear lights and the "RR" from the hood. In their place someone has coloured in the sections by hand, and some of that colour has transferred onto the perfectly preserved styrofoam insert.

Production Diaclone Smokescreen (GiG)

Note the "Datsun" and "280 ZX Turbo" stickers

The regular Diaclone version of the toy can be seen above (the GiG version actually) and you can clearly compare the two toys to see what was physically removed. Hasbro obviously were not interested in using manufacturer lettering, logos or model information. Not in Smokescreen's case anyway. Those stickers are part of what make the Diaclone Fairlady Racing 280ZX Turbo so very special, but the lack of those elements on the 'Sample Smokescreen' are hugely telling and a lovely look at the process of evolution from Diaclone to Transformer.

"BI" and "BR"

Notice the marking on the right-rear window

So what about the markings written directly onto the sample? The "BI" on the roof indicates where the rubsign gets placed on a Transformers Smokescreen and the circular marking on the right-rear window indicates where a small Autobot sticker is placed off the stickersheet. The interesting one is "BR" on the hood where early Transformers photography shows Smokescreen sporting a large Autobot sticker. By the time the toy reached production, like the Diaclone before it, Smokescreen featured a big "38" factory sticker there instead. If you look at a G1 Smokescreen box, you'll see the Autobot sticker and a distinct lack of a "38" on the hood.

Still the definitive G1 Smokescreen toy...

As for what "BR" and "BI" stand for, my words from the TF-1 article on this toy:

"The actual letters used, "BR" "BI" and "D" must in some way correspond to the big factory Autobot hood sticker, the Autobot rubsign on the hood and the small Autobot symbol on the rear window respectively. I have not been able to fully decipher what each set of initials stand for, despite a number of theories. One of which includes "BR" standing for "Bot Red" and "BI" standing for "Bot Incandescent", the former indicating a large Autobot symbol in red, the latter meaning an Autobot symbol that glows with applied heat or rubbing, but that's quite a stretch and leaves a blank over the "D". Maybe it isn't a "D" at all, and just a circle to indicate exact placement? Maybe the "I" stands for Insignia? They could equally be references to something completely meaningless like arbitrary letters/designations given to prototype stickers on a design sheet or even code for colours and orientation of stickers. At this stage it's just guesswork."

Can you see the removed section on the front bumper?

At some point, this very sample sat on a boardroom table or in the hands of a designer. This very item was sent from Japan to the United States and would have been used to decide whether or not this stunning toy would make it as a Transformer, and where other Diaclone models and decos fell, Smokescreen arose. It is physical history, it is the most important "Smokescreen" toy in existence, and quite frankly, one of the most special and spectacular things that I have ever owned or seen in 15 years of toy collecting. It will be dearly missed. I hope I have immortalised it the way it deserves.

Diaclone defector

To read the full 'Sample Smokescreen' article go HERE

All the best

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