As Generation 1 came into its second year in 1985, Hasbro licensed any transforming robot toys they could into the burgeoning toyline. One such robot was Jetfire, one of the most iconic, enigmatic, and sought after toys of the line… and the most legally controversial. Jetfire transforms into a 1/55th scale VF-1S “Super” Valkyrie with a FAST pack decorated in white and red.
Jetfire was penned in 1982 by Shoji Kawamori for Takatoku Toys’ Macross toyline. The design was far more intricate than any other transforming toys that had been attempted to day, going so far as to be dubbed “Kanzen Henkei” (perfect transforming). This version was issued with a variety of different robot modes and accessories to represent the different models of Valkyrie used by different characters in Macross. After Takatoku’s bankruptcy in 1984 (in the midst of producing Armored Battalion Beetras and Dorvack, the sources of the Deluxe Insecticons and Deluxe Vehicles), Bandai acquired the remains of the company. At the time, despite an intense rivalry with Hasbro’s partner Takara, Bandai had very few U.S. market interests. The VF-1 designs used by Takatoku varied in description, but Hasbro notably blunted the tip of the nosecone from the original mold, and omitted the small missiles included with all the original Takatoku issues.
Since that time, however, the company Harmony Gold has purchased the rights to distribute any Robotech (including Macross) products in the U.S. Despite currently only acting as a real estate company, Harmony Gold has jealously guarded their perceived intellectual property, going so far as to file a lawsuit against Hasbro for producing a G.I. Joe Skystriker in Jetfire’s color… even though the color scheme was invented for Transformers. The suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that Hasbro is again free to homage Jetfire, even though his original toy will never be reissued.
Jetfire transforms into a red and white VF-1S Valkyrie. The VF-1S bears more than a passing resemblance to a real-life Grumman F-14 Tomcat, for which Jetfire is occasionally mistaken. Jetfire may be uparmored with a number of included accessories that attach to the fuselage of the jet, including two huge booster rockets that attack like a backpack to the jet. Jetfire can be transformed into an “Alternate Transformation” which is clearly based on his Macross “Gerwalk” mode, by extending his arms and legs from below the jet. Like all his other modes, the “Alternate Transformation” can be formed with or without the additional armor. In jet mode, Jetfire features die-cast metal landing gear, which are extended by springs at the push of a button. The rear wheels even feature pop-open covers to completely conceal them when retracted. The jet’s main wings can be extended out to the sides or swept back. In this mode, his robot head functions as a quad-barreled turret mounted to the bottom of the fuselage.
Jetfire’s transformation is quite complex for its time, requiring steps to be completed in exact order, more so than any of his contemporaries. The entire length of the fuselage is used for the legs, with the arms being produced from in between the legs on the lower fuselage. The entire jet is then folded in half (after sliding an armor plate down over part of the cockpit), and the tail, if unarmored, is folded up as a backpack. His robot mode has an unprecedented amount of articulation, including two axes of rotation each at the shoulder and elbow, and ratcheting joints at the hips and knees, as well as a swiveling head. His robot mode is tall and svelte, towering over all but a couple Transformers at the time. The armor for his forearms, lower legs, and rocket booster backpack bulk up his otherwise slender appearance, and his simple head design with only a plain eye band give him a stoic appearance. In this mode, he wields a large rifle. The rifle was designed to fire small projectiles by pressing down on the scope, but in a strange (and perhaps fortunate) twist the projectiles were omitted completely. If he is not wearing his forearm armor, an included “Mounting Pod” can be clipped to the bottom of the forearm, and can hold the rifle alongside the arm. The pod is also intended to carry the rifle below the fuselage in jet mode (as shown in Macross), however the arms can’t fit at the right angle to do so. The instructions make no mention of the Mounting Pod’s use.
Jetfire’s intricate design gives him a number of weaknesses. The die-cast plates that connect his shoulders together frequently chip the surrounding plastic and slip out. Similarly, the tail section hinge can crack or break off. His front landing gear mechanism can get worn out, and refuse to lock in the closed position. The various pins and hooks that connect his armor are made of a brittle plastic and can easily chip or break off, especially the tiny hooks that hold the “front” of his forearm armor. Due to the arcane nature of his Mounting Pod, it is almost always missing – probably the most commonly missing part in G1 (in competition with some of Roadbuster’s accessories). His red paint is also prone to scratching and wear during normal use, especially on the nosecone and around the wing hinges. To make matters worse, Jetfire is one of the toys most prone to dreaded yellowing- it is very difficult to find a vintage sample without some degree of discoloration, even if he was stored out of the sun.
Jetfire has a number of minor molding and stamping variations, but his most notable production change was the deletion of a Macross U.N. Spacy logo from his wing. The circular logo was painted in a gap in the red wing stripe on early versions, and later was a factory applied sticker. However, most Units sold have a solid painted stripe. The Macross-logo wings generally correspond to a “Matsuhiro” manufacturer stamping, whereas the plain stripe corresponds to the later Bandai-stamped releases.
Jetfire was available in the U.S. in 1985. He continued to be available in 1986Due to the mold’s licensing terms, Jetfire was never available in Japan or Europe, and will never be reissued.