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

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Mysterious G1 Tracks Stickers

Generation 1 Transformers are magical. Not just the toys, but everything that surrounds them, to this day. The fact that I am finding it impossible to do a straightforward stickering of a vintage or reissue G1 toy without finding some mystery, inconsistency or long-ignored point of fascination is a credit to just how mad everything being produced at the time was, and just how much this hobby and this area of Transformers collecting still has to offer even seasoned enthusiasts. This is how I came to discover that most of us have been stickering G1 Tracks incorrectly for 33 years!

This was supposed to be a straightforward photoshoot of a new Transformers G1 reissue I received recently; the Takara Transformers Collection #4 Tracks. Since I'd decided to take my time photo-documenting or writing about my recent haul of purchases, it's taken me a while to get around to Tracks. The idea was that I would open up the reissue, apply the stickers with the utmost care and then photograph Tracks for my ongoing Transformers reissue and vintage galleries, aiming to showcase G1 toys precisely how they were intended to look by the designers, despite common misconceptions, errors and typical wear affecting such photography of certain figures throughout the years.

As you can probably guess, just as with the stickering of G1 Quickswitch, E-Hobby Detritus/G1 Hound and G1 Punch-Counterpunch, the process was not at all straightforward. In the case of Tracks, a toy that is as common as any in Generation 1, you would not imagine there would be any ambiguity in the instructions. There are tons of photos of G1 Tracks online, as well as stock photography, artwork and a great deal of reference material. The issue in this case was not to do with a disagreement or inconsistency between official art, imagery and literature, it was more a lack of information overall! Before we get into that, though, G1 Tracks has a colourful past we should talk about.

Tracks started life as the Takara Diaclone Car Robot No.21 Corvette Stingray, and he was red. Red in Japan, red in Italy (GiG), red in mainland Europe (Ceji Joustra)...and black in Finland.

For 1985 back-of-box artwork, Tracks was still depicted in his Diaclone red colour, causing a fair amount of confusion among children and adult collectors for some years until the chronology was ironed out by investigative and collective collector research.

1985 US Catalogue

1985 UK Catalogue

Tracks was a blue Corvette for Transformers, but clarity was not aided by the fact that his artwork and stock photography depicted him with a black masked face, given that the toy itself featured a red masked face. The US catalogue photography above shows the black face, and bizarrely, the UK 1985 catalogue shows him with a silver face, much like the Diaclone red Corvette had.

All of this is completely academic, though, right? Surely none of the above need have any effect on adding the stickers to a reissue G1 Tracks, seeing as how by then all of the surrounding Tracks-based mysteries were basically solved. Sure enough, as you can see above, I managed to do a pretty bang up job of putting the stickers onto this absolutely gorgeous figure. 

It never ceases to amaze me how terribly easy it is to put a sticker on a G1 toy incorrectly; whether it is simple misalignment, incorrect orientation or errant placement due to misinterpretation of the instructions, specifically the sticker application map. With Tracks, we know the flames go on the hood, we know what way up the wing stickers go, we are aware of the little Autobot symbol on the back window, the waist sticker and the knee stickers. The box art, stock photography and many online examples guide the way.

It's still not easy, though. Those foot stickers have to go on absolutely correctly and experience undulation in two places, but still be aligned with the toes and the angled top of the feet/ankles! The lower shin stickers have to be aligned with the sides and the top of that cavity, and still be placed accurately within that sloping recess; not easy!

And then, folks, then we get to the stickers that have to go on the missile launchers and the backpack attachment. Stickers 8, 9 and 10 on the above reissue Tracks stickersheet. No problem, I guess, since the instructions and old G1 Tracks instructions, box art etc have been helpful so far.

Think again.

G1 Tracks instructions - sticker application map

This is the sticker application map from the G1 Tracks instructions. The same graphic is used in the reissue instruction sheet which is modelled on the 44 Tracks Takara release. It's absolutely tiny, and I could barely make out where stickers 9 and 10 were supposed to go, especially as the graphic for the backpack seems to be back to front, or at least has the launchers facing the wrong way. The locations of stickers 9 and 10 (the green strips) seem to be on the rear of the backpack attachment, where the vents are. So basically, they'd always be behind the figure when the robot - or the flying car attack mode - were viewed from the front.

G1 Tracks box art

This was in agreement with the box art. The green strip stickers for the backpack should be on the back of that attachment, and therefore the artwork above does not show them. Despite this apparent confirmation, I could not find enough evidence online from other collectors' photos to establish a most commonly accepted location for each sticker. Everyone seemed to be doing it differently, or just not at all!

TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-25 Tracks

G1 cartoon Tracks

Even more bizarre was the fact that Masterpiece MP-25 Tracks had the sticker detail (not green but yellow band with a red band/triangle running through the middle) on the front of the backpack, identical to the cartoon depiction of Tracks! Now we know the animators took some liberties with how they depicted these G1 Transformers in the cartoon when compared to the toys, I mean, Tracks had a humanoid face for one thing! But, on this occasion, they were onto something.

Takara Diaclone Corvette Stingray stickersheet

Takara Finnish Diaclone Corvette Stingray instructions

I decided to go back to the source; Takara Diaclone instructions. I didn't have any handy, unfortunately, just the above picture of the Finnish version instructions and the Diaclone stickersheet. The sticker application map was there in the bottom left-hand corner, and from what I could make out, the green strip stickers 9 and 10 (top right of stickersheet) were in a different place to the Transformers instructions. I needed a better close-up photo and more evidence.

Takara Diaclone Corvette Stingray box art

Have a look at the original Japanese (and Italian and Finnish) Diaclone Corvette Stingray box art. What do you see on the front of his backpack attachment above his head? YES! The green strip sticker! That green strip was edited out for the G1 Tracks box art - along with the downward-pointing gun (G1 Tracks had the stock shortened so he could actually point the gun up, unlike the Diaclone) and the feet being closer together. Diaclone stock photography, albeit of the Stingray mock up proto, also shows the green strip sticker (sticker 10) on the front of the backpack. But where's sticker 9, the shorter and patterned green strip sticker, supposed to go?

A close-up of the Diaclone sticker application map shows clearly that sticker 10 goes on the front of the backpack, not the back of it where Transformers instructions suggest. Sticker 9 is shown just above it, but with a black and white photograph, it's still very inconclusive. However...

...a close-up of the attack mode photo from the centre of the Diaclone instruction sheet gives it away. The whole toy is now shown as being stickered up, with the stickers showing up as white on the black and white image. You can see sticker 10 on the front of the backpack with the red triangle in the middle pointing downwards - just like with G1 Toon and Masterpiece Tracks! You can also see the shorter sticker 9 slap bang in the middle of the detailed moulding on the top of the backpack. Not the front of it like sticker 10, not the back of it like the G1 instructions say, but right on the top.

G1 Tracks sticker application map - flipped!

Check out the above sticker application map for G1 Tracks again. Remember I said that the backpack graphic was the wrong way up? Well I cropped the main backpack attachment graphic in Photoshop and rotated it 180 degrees, but kept the location of stickers 9 and 10 in exactly the same place as on the original depiction. Guess what? That's right, the placement for 9 and 10 now perfectly mirrors the Diaclone instructions; sticker 10 in the front edge of the backpack and sticker 9 on top of the backpack in the middle of all the moulded detail!

Sure enough, among all of the fancy circuitry moulded into the top of Tracks' backpack, there is a flat and blank rectangular space, perfect for placing sticker 9. This was clearly documented in Diaclone paperwork and even evident in Diaclone stock photography and the box art. For whatever reason, the G1 instructions featuring the sticker application map had the backpack printed upside down, with the stickers shown to belong in the wrong place, on the back of the backpack where they'd basically never be seen unless Tracks was viewed from the back in robot or attack mode! 

I still find it fascinating that the G1 cartoon animators (and subsequently Masterpiece) got it right, despite the incorrect G1 toy depiction in his paperwork and art, but maybe their reference was the original Diaclone stuff. It's entirely possible seeing as how Bluestreak ended up resembling his silver and black Diaclone predecessor and Swoop ended up in the Diaclone colours too.

It makes absolutely perfect sense for stickers 9 and 10 to be on the front of the pack and visible in all modes. The colour scheme matches most of Tracks' stickers and it adds necessary detail to that part of the toy that remains in sight. I should mention that both parts of sticker 8, the strips that go around the launchers, had trouble staying down. I had to get the Toyhax Stickerfixer out immediately to ensure adhesion! Those were very tricky to keep aligned as I rotated the launcher between my fingers, sticking down the long strip as it curved around the circumference of each launcher.

A perfectly stickered Generation 1 Transformers figure makes for a breathtaking sight. The fact that the stickers were often so bright and colourful, as well as complementary to the aesthetic of the toys, means that having them in perfect condition really elevates the displayability and impact of the figures exponentially when compared to worn specimens. 

I'd like to believe that now, after a night of research and community contributions, as well as a huge amount of surgical care on my part, I have a 100% perfectly stickered G1 Tracks that looks entirely as its designers intended it to straight out of the box. I've had unused Diaclone Corvettes and unused G1 Tracks specimens, I've even had perfect reissues of all colours and versions of this mould, but this is the first time I have had a perfect stickered specimen, and it sings more harmoniously than I have ever known this toy to do so before in my possession. 

I love G1 Tracks, I love Generation 1 Transformers and I love the seemingly endless number of mysteries, inconsistencies and stories it continues to present me with so many years after its time. I also love that I had to go all the way back to Diaclone to get the answers to this riddle.

Many kind thanks to Jerry Arnold (Diaclone Corvette instruction close-ups) and Botch The Crab (G1 Tracks instructions and box art) for outstanding contributions and assistance.

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All the best


  1. Maz, I've only recently found your blog. I am so very happy I have! I find your reviews and photography thought provoking and always entertaining. This entry is particularly interesting. I have never really understood where that d@%n green sticker was acctually supposed to be applied.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, lovely to have you here! :D

      In 30+ years I'd never gioven a second thought to those green stickers as every Tracks vintage, Diaclone or reissue I had owned remained unapplied, or I had used specimens. It was the first time I had sat down to sticker one up, and I could not believe that those locations on the G1 instructions were correct. Hence the wild goose chase :D

      All the best

  2. "Not so elementary after, my dear Watson!" This 'investigative escapade' titillates the very spark of curiosity unlike any other in this genre of enjoyment. Maz, I pray your passion never leaves you! May you be blessed.

    1. Oh thanks so much, what a lovely comment! Greatly appreciated, dude.

      All the best