Could this be the most important toy in the history of Takara's Japanese Transformers? How is that even possible? Takara's rechargeable battery-operated "Turbo Magnum" is a small, old, vintage toy that requires the player to plug the main motorised unit into a recharging console, and then fire it off. The base unit comes with multiple interchangeable bodykits. This is actually a production sample bought from ex-Hasbro inventory, via a former employee. But what's that got to do with Transformers?
|Takara Turbo Magnum - production sample|
In the case of the Japanese Takara release you get a Honda City Turbo (the car that was Skids!) and a sporty Volkswagen Beetle (Bumblebee!). According to an interview carried out by TFArchive with ex-Hasbro Senior Vice President of Research & Development George Dunsay:
"You should also note that the Transformers were not the original major part of the deal. Takara had a mini rechargeable car that they were interested in licensing to a U.S. company. At the time they were working with Mattel as the Barbie licensee in Japan. Mattel did not treat Takara well so they took a chance and gave us the licence for the cars. We never made them as they were cost prohibitive. These were rechargeable motorized cars. They were briefly introduced in Japan but never in the US. Sorry, the name escapes me. We gave a large guarantee to Takara on these cars. As an exit package from that deal, we gave them the license to the Transformer name and use of our marketing and commercials in Japan"
|From Ceji Revell 1984 dealer catalogue|
Wow, so how do you like that? As an "exit package" from a deal upon which Hasbro made promises and then reneged, they allowed Takara the use of the Transformers licence, brand and promotional material. That is a seriously big deal!
What makes the Japanese Turbo Magnum in this post all the more important is that it was found in Hasbro possession, so it may have been the actual sample specimen responsible for leading to that decision - first to not produce the toy for US release at all, and then to give Transformers as brand to Takara. While not the toy directly responsible for Transformers in Japan genetically speaking, it has vast significance as a part of their history and inception as a Japanese brand.
|From 1985 Ceji Revell dealer catalogue - scan courtesy of Christophe Cassassus|
|Japanese and European versions|
Now, while Hasbro didn't decide to take up Takara's product, Ceji Joustra in Europe did! You can find images of the Japanese toy in the 1984 Ceji Revell catalogue, and you can see images of the proper European version of the product in the 1985 updated catalogue (the same one with all the sexy wave 2 Joustra Diaclones). The Ceji Joustra version was available in mainland Europe and even the UK. Instead of the Honda City Turbo bodykit, this version comes with the Renault 5 Turbo, much more Euro-centric. Ceji Joustra even did a TV commercial for it and released a much larger playset version with a lot of track for the cars to race on, visible in the above catalogue scans.
The Japanese toy, especially, has such an attractive little package and it really has been a struggle for me not to take the little buggers out, insert some batteries and mess about with them. I still have a couple of the Ceji Joustra ones sealed up from a case find, so there's no reason why I can't finally have a play. But as far as obscure and historical pieces of Transformers history go, the Turbo Magnum takes some beating, especially in the obscure category. The reason for Japanese Transformers. What a story, huh?
All the best