Monday, 15 February 2016

Retro Toy Chest Day 1: Transformers and Gobots

The Transformers cartoon and toy line debuted in 1984 and it was an immediate hit. If you were a boy growing up in the ‘80s, you knew the names Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Megatron. Today, The Tranformers is a billion dollar multimedia brand that is still a hit with boys of all ages. The battle between the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons has lasted for over 30 years and continues to go strong. For this project, we went back to the originals with a few characters that are not as well known.

Beachcomber by Dusty79

I had a lot of Transformers as a kid.  While bigger bots like Optimus, Rodimus, and Ultra Magnus got all the glory, there were a few smaller guys that I cherished just as much and used heavily in my daily battles.  Beachcomber is one of those small heroes.  I vividly remember using him as one of my favorites and he was often found inside Optimus' trailer with Bumblebee.  This custom brings back some great memories.  The bird was added as a little extra touch of nostalgia and as a nod to the episode titled "The Golden Lagoon", which is Oreobuilder's favorite.  While the original Beachcomber was a bit of a pacifist and did not have a gun mounted on top, I decided to arm him with the idea of this being a GI Joe crossover version of the AWE Striker.

World Peacekeeper Military Buggy
Grill from an original Awe Striker
Engine and seats from a Dodge Viper die cast
Steering wheel from Retaliation Ninja Combat Cruiser

Crankcase by Dusty79
With Beachcomber being a nod to the AWE Striker, who better to drive it than the original AWE Striker driver Crankcase.  This version of Crankcase was color coordinated with Beachcomber and he was given an Autobot emblem to complete the ensemble.  As a kid, the AWE Striker was a favorite vehicle, but I'm pretty sure I gave other figures the wheel of it over Crankcase on a regular basis, most often Dusty I'm sure.  This is a way to give back a little to a character I ignored as a kid.

50th Dusty-torso, head, arms, hands, helmet, goggles
Retaliation Ultimate Firefly-legs
Web gear is a cast

Reflector by Oreobuilder
One of the fun things about Transformers is that some of them transformed regular household items like cassettes, tape decks, microscopes and yes, photo cameras.  I had an Animal Planet camera lying around and planned to repaint it into Reflector – the Decepticon spy/reconnaissance specialist – for several months. This project gave me an excuse to dust it off and get it done.

All: Animal Planet camera

Swindle By Oreobuilder
Like many 80’s kids, I grew up on a steady regiment of GI Joe and Transformers. To this day, I collect Transformers, as do so many fans. Including Transformers crossovers into this project was a no-brainer. To do so, I looked at one of my favorite sub-teams – The Combaticons.  A few years ago, I built a Brawl-inspired MoBAT (

To build on this, I turned to my second favorite member of the Combaticons – Swindle. The build was easy as the PTE jeep is already very similar to Swindle’s G1 cartoon vehicle mode (His toy was actually a completely different vehicle). The hardest part was finding the proper yellow color. It took me a few weeks of searching hobby shops and craft stores. I finally found Krylon Fusion gold that is almost a perfect match.

Jeep: PTE
Cannon: PoC Cobra Viper with added fodder for the barrel

Scrap-Iron by Oreobuilder
Scrap-Iron was one of my favorite Cobra figures growing up. I still remember standing in front of the GI Joe section at ‘’Ames’’ during one of my families road trips to the US. I could choose one figure to buy and take with me on the trip. I remember grabbing Scrap-Iron because he came with the missile launcher. I loved that accessory, it saw a lot of action during backyard battles. When I was looking for a driver for Swindle, Scrap-Iron popped into my head, probably because on their respective Sunbow series, the two characters were portrayed in similar ways. Anyway, I decided to give Scrap-Iron a complete overhaul from his 25th anniversary version.

Head, vest: 25th Scrap Iron
Torso: 25th Shipwreck
Arms, legs: PoC Cobra Trooper

Although they are mostly remembered as knock-offs of the more famous Transformers, the Gobots actually came first. Released in North America in 1983 by Tonka, they were created in Japan a few years before by Bandai. Despite being very similar toys, they never reached the popularity of the Transformers. The storyline revolved around the war between the heroic Guardians led by Leader-1 and the evil Renegades led by Cy-Kill.

Cy-Kill by Oreobuilder

As a tribute, I decided to integrate Cy-Kill into my Joe-verse by making him Zartan's motorcycle. At first, I wanted to make the more iconic red, white and blue version of the Renegades leader. I went back and forth on the color distribution but could not figure out how to make it work. Part of the problem is that the color scheme is too patriotic to fit with a bad guy. Plus, I don’t see Zartan riding a Star Spangled banner colored chopper.

Tonka released a lesser known gray/black/green version of Cy-Kill in series 2. It never made it into the TV show so it is not as well known. However, the colors fit much better for an evil tyrant no? The color scheme is also more Dreadnok-y in my opinion.

All: Captain America motorcycle

Zartan by Oreobuilder
As makeovers go, Zartan got a major one in the early 1990s. He went from a hooded color changing, crop top wearing Cobra master of disguise in 1984 to full-on Dreadnok ninja biker in 1993.
Ninja Force Zartan was not really on my customs radar before this project. I always thought it was weird figure. I grew up with the original, so when I found out about this one in the early 2000s, I pretty much ignored it.

When I decided to make Cy-Kill as homage to the Gobots, Zartan just happened. The fact that the colors for the two characters fit well together is what sealed the deal.

Head: PoC Zartan
Torso: RoC Snake Eyes
Arms: 30th Spirit
Legs: 25th Buzzer

Next: Bucky exclaims ‘’Power On!’’ Also… ‘’Goodbye Cuffs, Goodbye Monster’’...


  1. These are great! I've never been a big Transformers fan but the way you've integrated these in as G.I. JOe sized vehicles completely works. Great thinking on repainting the camera as well. I love your attention to detail on stuff like that!

    1. Thanks Barbecue17. This whole project was a labor of love on our part. I'm glad it shows :)