Generation 1 Optimus Prime is probably one of the most iconic toys of our generation, even outside the relatively narrow scope of Transformers. The fascination with Optimus runs deep in many of us, years or decades after our childhoods. This week, I’d like to talk a bit about the myriad releases of the “original” Optimus Prime… original being a very subjective term.
Optimus Prime began life as Diaclone Battle Convoy, the 17th entry in the Car Robot set. This version already bore the distinct and familiar red, silver and blue deco, though with “DIACLONE” in huge red letters down the side of the trailer, followed by “Battle Convoy” inset in silver on the top blue stripe. It also had a sticker on the trailer’s bumper reading “BC KEEPS DIACLONE TRUCKIN’ ”. Battle Convoy’s similarity was skin deep, though, as he came with high-powered missile launcher springs in the Combat Deck, as well as a thinner-looking vehicle launcher that could travel the entire length of the black track in the trailer, powering even a die-cast Car Robot off the ramp at high speed. This version also included three Type II Diaclone Force drivers, in all-red, all-blue, and all-yellow. The drivers could be seated in Battle Convoy’s cab, or numerous battle stations. Furthermore, the drivers’ magnetic feet could cling to the metal panels inside the trailer.
As Battle Convoy was adapted to Transformers in 1984, he retained a few of these traits, such as the metal panels in place of foil stickers inside the Combat Deck, as well the “bloated” fists and weapons of the Diaclone release. However, Roller was now molded in silver plastic, though he would briefly return to his Diaclone blue. Before long, though, Optimus was revised for a massive scale-up in production for 1985.
This is the most common version of our favorite Autobot, bearing the slender rifle and smaller, rounder fists, stickered trailer, and rubsign. Transformerland has the privilege of caring for one of these preserved in perfect condition. This sample was put in a closet as a gift, still in the Sears bag with a receipt, and left for nearly 30 years. According to the receipt, it was purchased on June 9, 1985 for $23.99.
The same year, PepsiCo released a variant of Optimus Prime through a mail-in offer directly to PepsiCo. The premium was a standard Optimus toy in his usual box, but with a special sticker sheet affixed to the upper-right corner of the box flap with glue. The sheet opened up to reveal two rectangular Pepsi logo stickers, and instructions to affix them to the sides of Optimus’ trailer in the middle of the stripe. A similar toy was offered in Canada as a contest prize, but with Pepsi stickers that covered the entire sides of the trailer. Transformerland’s American Pepsi Optimus was acquired from an adult collector who mailed in for the toy and left it sealed on his shelf!
[Continued in Part 2]