In 1985, Takara released the first 2 series of the Transformers in Japan with their own numbering system, and in that system the Autobot warrior "Tracks" was 44. Tracks is one of the more tricky Takara Cybertron cars to find boxed and in nice condition, up there with 07 Ligier (Mirage), 25 Trailbreaker, 03 Wheeljack and 08 Streak. Although, the difficulty of each Autobot car in Japanese packaging does depend on who you talk to, many have differing experiences. One thing everyone will agree on, though, is that this particular 44 Tracks specimen is a show stopper.
|1985 Takara box back artwork|
There are many differences between the Japanese Tracks package and the template used in the rest of the world. Apart from the altered box back artwork, now featuring Swoop, Devastator and Blitzwing instead of non-Takara toys Jetfire and Shockwave (but still Red Tracks!), other obvious differences are the much smaller Japanese packaging, based entirely around the Diaclone-style styrofoam insert.
|44 Tracks contents|
The styrofoam insert, there's another difference, no carded bubbles here but altered Diaclone styro tray with the Diaclone driver space filled in (would have been top left corner). The Japanese text and logo across the box is another immediately obvious change. Of some interest is the Takara logo in the bottom right hand corner of the box front. Tracks's is the only box to have black Takara text inside a solid white oval. Virtually every other Japanese G1 Transformers package from 01 to 49 (before the C-xx/D-xx system) has white Takara text in a white oval outline, but the red or purple grid pattern shows through. Only Tracks, Skywarp and Starscream show a difference, with Skywarp and Starscream's "TAKARA" ovals having a red outline and red text.
It was a real surprise to me when I opened the box for photography, I had no idea how tightly the many pieces of paperwork accompanying 44 Tracks were jammed into the box. It's actually a really careful procedure to get it all back in without damaging the already-bulging package. There's the product catalogue, mail away promotion, customer satisfaction card, Japanese instruction sheet and Tracks's stickersheet.
|Diaclone style styro, no space for the driver though|
Surely this is the only way to display your vintage G1 toys after you're done playing with them. The styro inserts of Takara G1 are one of the features that appeal to collectors the most. Collectors naturally like to preserve, so this works better than bubble inserts glued to cards, susceptible to the wear of time and use. The Japanese Tracks has firing launchers, their safety legislation not requiring the neutering of projectile-firing toy accessories.
For Transformers, Tracks's handgun had its stock piece shortened so that the toy could hold its gun facing fully forwards (box artwork was also amended from Diaclone to reflect this new-found ability). You can see the extra styro space on the right end of the gun as a result.
|Mega rare Takara "Screw With Future Collectors" campaign prize 44 Black Tracks|
|Hyper rare Takara "I Have A Case Of These Under The Counter For Japanese Speaking Collectors Only" store exclusive red 44 Tracks|
Japanese boxed Transformers are very popular and the Cybertron cars even moreso. They're like a beautiful hybrid of the Transformers packaging burned deep into our psyche and the ancient but classy Diaclone packaging, so dripping with prestige.
So, what would you think of me if I told you that I bought this utterly jaw-dropping Japanese Tracks unused for 220 Euros shipped from Italy, only to trade it directly for an empty Diaclone/MB Tracks styrofoam tray? EMPTY STYROFOAM. Well, when the result was this...
...I hope it makes a little more sense.
Was there a moment where I considered keeping the 44 Tracks and passing on the styro? You bet your ass.
|Ode to Tracks|
All the best