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

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Milton Bradley G1 "Sunswipe"



Since Mijo of 20th Century Toy Collector confirmed the existence of the mainland European Generation 1 1985 Milton Bradley "Sunswipe" - a Sunstreaker in Sideswipe packaging - there's been a lot written about it by both himself as the remover of the veil of ignorance, and myself as the first owner of probably the best specimen ever found. I have since passed this diamond of a Euro variant onto Mijo, where it belongs to be fair, but here is the first dedicated write-up I've personally done on this variant.

~ Part 1 ~


Milton Bradley G1 "Sunswipe"

Ceji Joustra Diaclone "Countach" in MB TF Sideswipe box

Cutting straight to the chase and dispensing with the dramatics I usually employ in these situations, what you see before you is a G1 pre-rub mould Sunstreaker plus accessories in Diaclone Sunstreaker styrofoam, placed inside a European multilingual Milton Bradley (MB) badged Sideswipe box, with Sideswipe paperwork and stickers. Quite a few jarring details there, I'm sure you'll agree.

Multilingual packaging, MB 1985 - so no English

Starting with the picture of the box back, there's the multilingual techspec with just the motto translated due to space constraints, and of course it's all Sideswipe's. We have Sideswipe's instruction booklet and a Euro G1 catalogue depicting Jetfire as Autobot leader. All of these oddities can be traced back to French company Ceji Joustra's licence with Takara to release a number of Diaclone and Micro Change Series moulds under their amalgam "Diaclone" toy line in mainland Europe during 1984 and early 1985. 

Diaclone styrofoam supported inside larger TF box by cardboard insert

The toys that Ceji Joustra had under exclusive Takara licence for many mainland European countries, or at least the ones we're interested in for this piece, were Optimus Prime (hence Jetfire as temporary TF leader), Mirage, Jazz, Trailbreaker, Ratchet, Laserbeak, Ravage, Gears, Windcharger, Huffer, Brawn, Starscream (and possibly Thundercracker), Wheeljack, Tracks, Grapple, Inferno, Smokescreen, Hound, Prowl and Sunstreaker. Ceji Joustra, marketing the toys as "Diaclone" released the Diaclone/Autobot car moulds in Takara styrofoam - shipped direct from Japan in that configuration. When Milton Bradley and Hasbro took over that licence and stock in mid-1985 as Ceji started to fade, a lot of those toys were directly repackaged into the kind of MB-badged packaging you see above, so the styrofoam had to be suspended within the Transformers packaging using cardboard supports.   

Multilingual Sideswipe paperwork, Ceji Joustra Diaclone Sunstreaker

This account of events explains how Milton Bradley ended up with a G1 Red Tracks in their TF boxes amongst other things, it was a repackaged Ceji Joustra Corvette, in Diaclone red. The Sunstreaker originates from Ceji Joustra Diaclone as well, the 1985 wave 2 "Countach", advertised as a red Diaclone Countach Super Tuning, but in actual fact a yellow version because by then Takara were only putting out yellow Sunstreakers and shipping them to GiG in Italy as Auto Robot Trasformers, to Hasbro in North America etc as Transformers and to Ceji Joustra in France and Germany as "Diaclone".

Milton Bradley Sideswipe, apparently.

From this angle it's still Joustra Countach

Ceji and Hasbro Bradley added a rubsign to the Diaclone Countach toy, and the childhood owner of the toy applied the only stickersheet labels that made any sense at all, the Autobot logos. The rest of them, being Sideswipe labels, would not have computed. You do find Sunstreakers covered imaginatively in Sideswipe stickers in Europe now and then, so if you've got one such specimen, by the end of this piece hopefully you'll be able to positively identify its origin.

Sideswipe's Autobot sticker on the roof

Stunning, in any incarnation

The reason for Milton Bradley and Hasbro Europe's choice of Sideswipe packaging is also subject to theory, one that dates back to the original licensing of the Japanese Takara Diaclone Car Robots by Hasbro for release as The Transformers. You may ask why MB didn't just use a Ceji Joustra Diaclone Sideswipe instead of a Sunstreaker, well there was never a Ceji Joustra Diaclone Sideswipe, Ceji Joustra did not license that mould from Takara. You may also ask why MB didn't use a Sunstreaker box template instead of Sideswipe, and for that we need some ancient documentation.

Legal documents from Hasbro

To quote from my own "Who Is Tigertrack?" article where this back-story is covered in full detail:

"The above excerpt shows that the original arrangement for the 1984 series 1 Transformers Autobot cars involved using an un-altered Diaclone Car Robot No.1 (meaning a red version of Sunstreaker) and – more importantly – a “No.15 New Countach (yellow)”, meaning a yellow Sideswipe! This doesn’t necessarily mean that “Sideswipe” should have been yellow, that name could well have ended up with the red Super Tuning version, but it does show that the New Countach mould that would eventually come to be known as “Sideswipe” was originally meant to be yellow for Transformers.

"One situation that has been known about for years, though, is the suspected mix-up between Autobot Sunstreaker and Sideswipe’s tech specs. Sunstreaker’s tech spec mentions “Ground to air rockets” and Sideswipe’s tech spec talks about “powerful pile drivers” and a “rocket backpack”. These descriptions would appear to be referencing the other toy’s accessories, namely Sunstreaker’s spec mentioning Sideswipe’s shoulder-mounted rocket launcher and Sideswipe’s spec possibly describing Sunstreaker’s shoulder attachments that can be inserted into his arms and the big engine (or “rocket backpack”) that could easily correspond to Sunstreaker’s chrome engine/intakes".

Best Car Robot mould ever?

Best colour ever?

So Ceji Joustra's Sunstreaker-only stock and the seemingly prevalent mix-up between Sunstreaker and Sideswipe within Hasbro itself could quite easily be enough evidence to explain the origin of the "Sunswipe" packaging variant. What drew me to originally buy this item in the first place, ahead of people like Mijo and JB Martin who are predominantly Milton Bradley TF collectors, was that I knew the toy itself was a Ceji Joustra Countach and this item has been top of my wants list since 2011. There are anecdotes of 'Joustra Sunstreakers' from childhood sightings and ownership, but no photographs exist that I know of and no one has ever seen one who can prove it, but Sunswipe is evidence enough that it did actually exist, so I know it's out there, and this Sunswipe I owned was once nestled inside a Ceji Joustra Countach box.

If only he could talk

Facelift

As far as variants go, the Sunstreaker toy itself is not a significant variant - although its precise moulding details are not easy to find - and the box itself is still only going to appeal to Euro-centric and niche variant collectors. It will never attract the awe of the community the way that Red Tracks has. Try getting someone to spend hundreds of dollars based on "history", "significance" and "gravitas". All the better if you ask me, who needs more competition anyway? I wouldn't have asked my friends to let me bid had I already found a Ceji Joustra Countach, and much of my desire for this toy came from the fact that Sunstreaker is one of my favourite moulds from Generation 1, and the yellow scheme is the one I prefer on this sculpt.

Although I sold this toy on at cost, which was a real bargain for what it was, I expect an unused or sealed one to be worth an astronomical amount, as it would place the authenticity of the variation beyond even the most cynical collector's doubt. Be warned though, a used "Sunswipe" covered in Sideswipe stickers is not always a pretty sight! Probably not even 10 specimens have been found that we know about, less than half of those boxed, so it's up there with the rarest of the rare. What helps it score high on the importance-meter is that its history and nature stem from Japanese Diaclone, European Diaclone, European Transformers and even the story behind the creation of the US Transformers brand and characters. A lot of things came together to make this variant what it was, and the final product does not disappoint. It's one of the most spellbinding items I've ever owned.

I do so desperately want a Ceji Joustra Diaclone Sunstreaker though.

Now, for those of you with a casual or passing interest in variants, that's probably a good place to jump off (if you even made it this far), because "here comes the science bit"...


~ Part 2 ~

Pre-rub era copyright

How can you tell, without the packaging, if the Sunstreaker you have in your hands came from a Milton Bradley Sideswipe box? Or better yet, a Ceji Joustra Diaclone box? The following pictures are a study I carried out of the moulding features of the MB "Sunswipe" next to another early rubsign era Transformers Sunstreaker that JB Martin was hoping could also be verified as a "Sunswipe". The details are annotated in the photographs, and the Sunswipe is clearly identified in each set of comparison pictures.










Hopefully there's enough there to be able to help someone at least verify the moulding of a potential "Sunswipe". Takara would not have created a specifically-moulded batch of Countaches just for Ceji Joustra Diaclone, so it's completely possible that similarly-moulded Sunstreakers exist in US packaging as Transformers. We looked at a few GiG Trasformer Diaclone Countaches from Italy but they were slightly different, but I won't rule out batch-mates being found in GiG boxes. So, please, by all means check your Sunstreakers and let me know what you find! Often the Sideswipe stickers give the game away before you even have to turn the toy over in your hands to look at the copyright.

For those of you who braved the nerdtastic comparison above, here are some pretty pics to close with.



More on Sunswipe HERE (TFSource Blog) and HERE (20th Century Toy Collector).

All the best
Maz







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