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

Monday, 12 August 2019

Hasbro G1 Reissue Smokescreen - Devolution

In 2003, Hasbro released a reissue of the Generation 1 Autobot car Smokescreen as part of their Commemorative Series line of G1 sold exclusively in Toys 'R' Us. This was after Takara themselves had reissued Smokescreen in 2002 as part of the TF Collection book-style series. It was a wonderful time. The toy you see above is the Hasbro Commemorative reissue of Smokescreen, but with a slightly historical - and custom - twist applied by myself. So what's the story?

#38 Electramotive Datsun 280ZX

Takara No.11 Fairlady Z 280ZX Turbo Racing Type

Well, in May 1983, Takara - as part of their Diaclone Car Robot line - released the No.11 Fairlady Z 280ZX Turbo Racing Type. This toy was a re-tool of the earlier Fairlady Z that would become "Bluestreak" and paid homage to the #83 Electramotive Datsun 280ZX Turbo raced in the early 80s IMSA GTO Championship by Don Devendorf (and others). However, for the 1982 Fuji Speedway 6 hours round of the IMSA championship in Japan, the car carried #38, and it's that specific version that the Diaclone and subsequent Transformers toy is based on.

Stock photos of Smokescreen

UK catalogue art and stock photography of Smokescreen

The Transformers version of this toy, Autobot Diversionary Tactician "Smokescreen", was released in 1985. I got my own example of Smokescreen from Argos in Wood Green, North London in very early 1986. He was my first Autobot car, and has an incredibly special place in my heart. I've owned a number of variants of this toy down the years, including Mexican variants with Bluestreak bodies and, most importantly, the original Takara Diaclone sample that was sent to Hasbro in Rhode Island for evaluation as a Transformers toy in what must have been 1984.

This was a really significant part of Smokescreen's history, as the toy itself had a number of key Diaclone identifiers removed by hand, and then had sections painted/fixed to resemble the potential Transformers version of the toy. There were even hand-written indications of where Autobot symbols were going to go on the figure, guidelines that actually made it to the box artwork and stock photography of the toy.

Those of you who are familiar with Transformers and Diaclone versions of this toy will know that on the hood, there has always been the accurate "38" from the original race car. However, this hand-altered sample shows that an Autobot symbol was supposed to go on the hood in place of the "38". You can see in the pictures of Transformers Smokescreen's packaging, art and UK catalogue photos a little higher up that this concept was carried forward to quite a late stage.

This created a problem when Hasbro eventually decided not to remove the "38" factory sticker from Smokescreen's hood. They had artwork, stock photography and even a sticker application map in the toy's paperwork that indicated the main Autobot logo should sit on the toy's hood. Kids, collectors and owners down the years have employed a number of solutions to this issue.

Takara Diaclone - Takara/Hasbro Diaclone sample - Hasbro G1

In the photo above you can see the original Diaclone, the adjusted sample and then the Transformers toy. On that particular TF specimen, the owner had decided to put the Autobot symbol on the back of the robot head, meaning it is visible on the hood in vehicle mode, but not robot mode. Others simply put the Autobot sticker on the "38" hood sticker, which creates a crowded look and just simply cannot be the original intention of the designer, or whoever was responsible for adapting the toy for Transformers.

Diaclone box art

Transformers box art (courtesy of Botch The Crab)

It's pretty clear from the Transformers box artwork, from the stock photography on the packaging and even from early catalogue images of Smokescreen that the intention was to put the Autobot symbol on his hood in place of the "38", and that look even made it into the G1 cartoon and - subsequently - the TakaraTomy Masterpiece versions of Smokescreen.

This brings me back nicely to the Commemorative reissue Smokescreen I so kindly received for my birthday from JB Martin in 2011, completely unused, and a little project I undertook!

Some of you who follow this blog and my social media will know that since 2015, my goal has been to collect Generation 1 Transformers in opened but exceptional condition, including vintage stickers placed completely correctly, but as I believe the designers intended. This has occasionally necessitated the purchase of unused sticker sheets to apply myself, after extended research on the origins of where stickers were mapped, such as the example with G1 Tracks and his stickers.

Every once in a while, it's nice to remind yourself why you really partake in a hobby, and what it is about that pursuit that brings you the most joy. I always find applying stickers, taking photos or just researching G1 and pre-G1 stuff extremely enjoyable, and a quality way of passing the time. I always meant to apply stickers to this reissue Smokescreen so that he would fit in with the look of my collection as it evolves, but I decided to take it once step further.

I'm sure you can see where this is going. While I know that by removing the "38" sticker I am going against what the vintage G1 Transformers Smokescreen toy ended up looking like, what 99.999% of the Smokescreens in the world will have been like, but I always thought the placement of that Autobot sticker over the "38" on the hood was an untidy solution, not the best fusion of Autobot and real life race car. It was fine for Diaclone, there was no faction symbol and it was trying to be as accurate as possible, but for G1 it was not elegant enough.

Here he is, then, my Hasbro G1 Commemorative Series Smokescreen with the factory "38" sticker removed off the hood and replaced with the main Autobot symbol off the sticker sheet. Some of the stickers for this toy are very tricky to apply! Neither the vintage nor reissue instructions make it clear that one has to fold the top of the stickers that go on the sides of his hips, nor where the bar sticker on his belly should go, but I think I did the best one could hope for!

When Hasbro released Smokescreen as a Transformer, they removed all the sponsorship branding from the Diaclone figure - stuff like "Nissan", "Datsun" and "RR", the latter being a change that Takara made to the original sponsor anyway. Hasbro also removed the Diaclone-specific "Real & Robo" text off the windscreen sticker, and then for the reissues, vehicle model-specific stuff like "ZX" was removed from the stickers too. So, I just took it all one step further and made it as fully faithful to the G1 concept of Smokescreen shown in the box art, stock photos and catalogues as I could, given that it was a reissue.

I will never own that utterly wonderful Diaclone/Hasbro sample again, but I have paid some fine tribute to it here. I also think he deserves to be displayed with chrome weapons, as opposed to the softer black plastic variety that Hasbro gave the Commemorative release. With all that in mind, here is my finished article, in more ways than one:

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All the best


  1. Always had a soft spot for smokescreen. Fantastic read as always Maz.

    1. Cheers dude! He's a lifelong favourite of mine, too, despite having no idea who he was when I got the toy!

      All the best