These curious finds entered my sphere of attention about five years ago, when a junker lot from a car-boot sale yielded an interesting result; amoung the usual detritus of broken Bayformers was a small Nissan Cherry Vannette, in pre-Transformers Diaclone black, but smaller, and with no robot mode. Immediately I checked the copyright stamp to see Takara, and a tatty remaining sticker on the front bumper informed me this was indeed Diaclone.
Somehow they had escaped my attention to that point (probably because my focus up until that point had been on completing my US / European G1 collection), but once they were in my field of vision, and with a little research informing me that this was quite a small sub-set known as Diaclone Change Attackers or Attacars, I set out to find the other two to complete the set. They were also distributed as part of the Ceji Diaclone Joustra line and as part of Gig’s Trasformers line.
I managed to score the red Turbo 2000 (a Mitsubishi Stallion) from Maziar himself a couple of years back, and have been on the look out for the final piece – Cheetah – for a few years, making him an absolute priority at this years Botcon. Although I did find one at Botcon, he was top dollar, and I continued my search hoping to find a loose one at a more reasonable price so I could finally finish the set and write this article.
A few missed eBay auctions, including one where I set the alarm for 4:30am only for the eBay app to freeze whilst loading an advert in the final 7 seconds of the auction, and my frustration eventually led me to pay more than I wanted to for a MIB example.
Lets take a look at them.
As always, these toys have different names for the Japanese and European markets, I’m not particularly fussy about which versions I have as I collect molds first and foremost, the packaging (whilst beautiful) is always secondary to my collection concerns. Its the only way I can keep my collection slightly manageable. From left to right we have the boxy looking Lamborghini Cheetah in yellow (simply Destroy Car Cheetah for the Italian market), Nissan Oneboxcar Vannette (Destroy Car Van in Italy) in black, and Mitsubishi Stallion (Destroy Car Turbo 2000) in red.
The Japanese versions of these came with Diaclone Drivers, and they’re a really fun part of the set, especially with Turbo 2000, as the Driver is more visible in the disguised mode than in the Attack mode. It’s a shame as this wasn’t carried over for the other releases of these toys, because without the drivers you do lose half the fun of the attack modes. Owning a few Diaclone Drivers now, I feel much the same way about the first two years of Transformers now, especially as Hasbro could have surely made cheap little Spike’s and Sparkplugs very cheaply, and I remember my brother and I insisting at the time the toys had been designed with pilots in mind, with no concept of pre-Transformers in our young brains – the way information was exchanged made the world a much bigger place back then.
These are fairly small toys, smaller than G1 Ironhide and Ratchet as I said earlier, slightly bigger than a Matchbox car, but a similar size with fixed axles on the rear to help the “pull-back and go action feature”. This feature means they can “transform” from terrestrial vehicle to an Attack Car mode automatically, similar to the quick release feature on the Jumpstarters and Battle Chargers.
As you can see, the attack modes are fun enough, and the addition of chrome pieces make them feel like very classy toys, which is odd as they were clearly marketed at the lower end of the price-range spectrum. Back then, even cheap toys seemed well manufactured.
But as I mentioned earlier, it’s with the Drivers that these come alive. For some reason making them piloted makes then hugely more fun! Especially with that tiny head poking out at the top of Turbo 2000’s Drill tank mode.
With drivers, these make a great companion set to the Power Dashers.
So yeah, I paid way too much for a MIB Gig version of Cheetah, absolutely Mint with an unused sticker-sheet. I keep saying I’m not a box collector, but evidence to the contrary keeps piling up all around me. I’m also really tempted to apply the stickers!
One of the worst things about getting a figure from a smaller subset in a condition as nice as this, is it really makes you want to go and get the other two in equally nice condition. However, as with a lot of my collection, I like the stories behind them and how I acquired them, as that fits into the greater story of how and where I’ve collected toys over the years, and in the past when I’ve replaced old favourites for a MIB specimen, I have often regretted it later.
Of course, in an ideal world I’d compile a complete set of Joustra. If only for that fantastic Brizzi Bros. boxart!
So, why were these never considered for the Transformers line? I think the answer lies quite simply in the fact that they don’t transform into robots and drones were not considered for the line, after all, even the cassette minions were fully sentient. Of course, we seem to have come full circle over the years with the DOTM-era Stealth Force subline coming very close to this concept, almost more MASK toys than Transformers.
However, given that IDW are making moves towards their aligned continuity with MASK and Transformers coming under the same canonical roof for the first time, maybe there will be a place for these awesome little designs yet, even if only in the background of a panel, or as failed attempts at reverse engineering the technology. It would be nice to see these guys take a bit more credit, as they are part of the grand tapestry of Takara’s design history.