The staple class of figures in the first wave of Generation 1 in 1984 were the Autobot Cars. Prowlwas one of the original members of this category, transforming into a realistic 1982 Nissan Fairlady Z Turbo (S130). The Fairlady Z was Nissan’s flagship line of sports coupe, sold in the US as the Datsun 280ZX.
Prowl, like his fellow Autobot Cars until 1986, was originally designed by Koujin Ohno and released in Takara’s Diaclone as Car Robot Police Car Fairlady Z. This version included a small plastic and die-cast driver who could sit in the cavity in the center of the car’s cockpit. This version also included different city name stickers that could be applied to customize Police Fairlady to the Japanese locale of your choice. Prowl’s US Patent, titled Reconfigurable toy assembly (aka Transformers G1 Prowl) was filed on October 12, 1982 (U.S. Patent No. US4680018 A).
Prowl’s black-and-white alternate mode closely resembles a real Datsun 280ZX, with the exception of his light bar: although Nissan Fairlady cars were used as metropolitan police units in Japan, Prowl’s light bar awkwardly overlaps his two painted-over t-top roof panels. He shares his body with wave-mate Bluestreak and 1985’s Smokescreen. He features four-spoke (a mark of the real-life turbo model) vacuum-metalized “chrome” wheels shod in rubber tires. Clear windows front and back, and a Japanese metropolitan police paint job – including a sticker of the “Asahikage”, logo of Japan’s NPA – complete the look of realism. His doors open, though the Diaclone driver would have originally boarded by opening the roof. His robot mode shares many of the hallmarks of Diaclone design: the hood and front fascia become the large chest of the robot, his doors become “wings” behind his shoulders, and he has two non-firing shoulder-mounted missile launchers to compliment his armament of a chrome rifle. Further attention is paid to detail by a wide variety of buyer-applied stickers, decorating his alternate mode with lights, and his robot mode with details like police badges on the shoulders, including stickers that appear behind the rear car windows on his shins. Prowl’s transformation is more complex than Hasbro’s smaller offerings, including more advanced tricks like using his waistplate to lock his hips in robot or car mode, and folding his arms up in an interesting opposed position seen in several other Diaclone designs.
Date stamp location: Bottom of car, near rear wheels
Rubsign location: None (1984), or right front corner of hood (1985)
Despite Prowl’s design making heavy use of die-cast parts such as the hood and rear quarters, he is very prone to major breakage. His roof and windshield are attached to the panel on the back of his head by a thin piece of clear plastic, which breaks with incredible ease. Added to the fact that his roof is supported in the rear only by two small tabs, this has left a large proportion of original toys roofless. His rear windows are similarly fragile, although better supported and protected by the die-cast pieces they are mounted to. When storing or transforming Prowl, never apply force to the roof in either direction, move the robot’s head section directly.
Some of these issues were addressed in Prowl’s major casting variations. Partway through 1984, The die-cast rear end of the car had small protrusions added to the “b-pillars” to better support the roof. The area where the roof attaches to Prowl’s head/face was similarly reinforced. Mold injection points on his plastic parts were moved or hidden. Alongside other minor molding and date stamp variants, his rifle also had noticeable variation in the number of horizontal bars on the rear of the gun- 0 or 3. Interestingly, there is no 2-bar variant of the gun for Prowl (molded in silver base plastic), meaning 2-bar guns are necessarily Bluestreak’s. Other variants of Prowl include a Mexican release in a highly distinct deco, with all-black rear fenders, black front fenders, and a black head. Some versions of this Mexican release lack any black paint on the hood piece, such as the curved peak above his bumper.
Prowl was released in the United States in 1984. Prowl was available again in the US in 1985, and debuted in Japan, the UK, and contintental Europe with a rubsign applied to the front of his hood, on the right side of the car. This version received a revised instruction sheet (or tiny addendum slip), as well as a revised tech spec with the “scrambled” red lines replacing the straighter lines of the 1984 box. He was reissued in Europe in 1991 as part of the gold-packaged “Classic Heroes” line, with “Diaclone” mysteriously present on his badge stickers, and no rubsign. He was available in Japan in 2002 as part of Takara’s The Transformers Collection with slightly changed sticker sheet. He was reissued in the US through Toys “R” Us’s Commemorative Series in 2003. This version is virtually indistinguishable from the original, but his vacuum-metalized weapons are issued in unadorned black plastic, and his launchers are molded to hold the missiles without the button-activated catch present in earlier releases.
Case Assortments (Item#/Asst#): 1984: Autobot Cars Asst. 1 (E5756/5750), 1 per 12; 1985: Autobot Cars Asst. 3 (E5756/5766), 1 per 12
Packaging: Window box with top flap, inner plastic bubble sealed to cardboard insert, Tech Spec on back
Packaging (Milton Bradley): Window box with top flap (with MB logo), inner styrofoam tray supported by cardboard insert, Tech Spec on back
Packaging (Classic Heroes): Gold window box with top flap, inner plastic bubble sealed to cardboard insert, Tech Spec on back
Robot Points: 2 Autobot
Paperwork included (1984): Instruction booklet without rubsign on last panel, sticker sheet, Tech Spec Decoder, 1984 Catalog; (late 1984) “Reinforcements from Cybertron!”, rubsign instructions addendum.
Paperwork included (1985): Instruction booklet with rubsign on last panel, sticker sheet, Tech Spec Decoder, 1985 Catalog, “Reinforcements from Cybertron”
Redecos & Retools
Prowl shared much of his mold with 1982 Diaclone Car Robot Fairlady Z, later 1984 Bluestreak, and 1983 Diaclone Car Robot Fairlady Z Racing Type, later 1985 Smokescreen. All three Datsuns received many reissues and variations, discussed in their individual articles.