The the main heroes in the first series of Generation 1 in 1984 were the Autobot Cars, such as Ratchet, a white ambulance based on a C120 Nissan Cherry Vanette, sold outside Japan as the Datsun C20. The roofline vaulted above windshield level and the square headlights indicate it as a Cherry Vanette SGL Coach, the top-end model.

US Patent for G1 Ratchet


Ratchet, like so many of his wave mates, was originally designed by Koujin Ohno for Takara’s Diaclone series, and sold as Car Robot No. 4 Onebox Ambulance Type. This version included a small plastic and die-cast driver that could sit in the driver’s seat of the cab, or in one of three positions in Onebox Ambulance Type’s combat deck. Also, this version did not include the face sticker discussed below – it was added for the Transformers release. The US Patent, titled Reconfigurable toy (aka Transformers G1 Ratchet) was filed on August 12, 1983 (U.S. Patent No. US4530670 A).


Ratchet’s alternate mode is highly detailed and has a good sense of realism. He has plain, vacuum-metalized “chrome” wheels shod in ridged rubber tires, all of which he shares with is predecessor, Sunstreaker, and another less-exotic entry in the Diaclone lineup, Skids. He sports a red and chrome light bar, as well as clear plastic side windows and windshield, which reveal his detailed chrome dashboard. His sides feature broad red stripes, and roof may be decorated with a red Swiss cross (see Variants, below). Chrome headlights and bumpers finalize the sense of detail in the ambulance mode. His transformation is quite unusual, even among his highly varied peers. The entire ambulance divides in two distinct units: the windshield and chassis, and the box van body. The chassis and cab follows a simple transformation to become the Ratchet robot, while the roof of the ambulance splits down the middle and opens like clam, revealing the combat deck portion. The combat deck is supported by three chrome treads extending below, and features a non-firing chrome missile launcher and associated missiles, mounted on a long black arm at the rear, and a chrome cannon mounting on a peg at the front of the deck (formerly the rear of the ambulance). In an unusual twist, the chrome cannon and its post may be stored in the center of the ambulance’s chassis in alternate mode, but the cannon usually protrudes too far to allow all four wheels to touch the ground. The robot mode is somewhat unusual on its own, while die-cast feet, chrome and stickers make a robust set of legs, they are only topped by the windshield and part of the front bumper, with the driver’s seat having a black face stickered on it, showing through the windshield. What’s more, the face is not particularly robotic, but silver lines depicting a wide-nostril nose, smile lines, and curly eyebrows, along with nondescript line-like eyes and mouth, possibly evoking the look of a Japanese Kabuki mask. His somewhat thin arms pivot from die-cast rods. The robot can operate the combat deck by clipping his feet around the base of the missile launcher stand, and balancing the whole unit to prevent it from toppling over backward.
Date stamp location: Underside of cab
Rubsign location: None (1984), or left front of roof (1985-)

Collector Notes

Ratchet, like his mold-mate Ironhide, is rather sturdy overall, and not particularly prone to any specific breakage, unlike many off his contemporaries. However, his light bars are simply pegged in to the roof of his ambulance mode and may become detached and lost.


Like all the former Diaclone toys, Ratchet has several production variances over the period of his release. Most of these variations seem to be part of one revision, however. Minor modifications were made to the detail and fitment of his dashboard, thumbs, chrome waist piece, bumpers and arms. More visibly, the versions are distinguished by the presence or absence of a large red Swiss cross sticker on his roof indentation. Quite unusually, the artwork and toy photos on his box were even modified to reflect the eventual omission of the cross. Other minor variations may exist with international releases of Ratchet.


Ratchet was released in the United States and UK in 1984. He was available again in the US and UK, and introduced in continental Europe in 1985 with a rubsign placed on the front left part of his roof. He also saw limited release through a mail away offer in Japan. 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. His availability in Europe continued through 1986. In the US, Ratchet was available by mail-order from Hasbro Direct: in 1985’s “Have the Decepticons defeated us once and for all?”, in 1986’s “Can one boy, alone, hold back the evil Decepticons?” and “You Have Been Chosen”, 1987’s “Rodimus Prime remembers the Transformers greatest battle on Earth”s, and 1988’s “The Autobots Are Under Attack!&rdquo Ratchet was one of the Autobot Cars selected to be reissued as part of Europe’s 1990 Classic Heroes line. Ratchet was available by mass retail in Japan for the first time from e-HOBBY in 2001, virtually unchanged from the original release. He was reissued once more in Japan as part of Transformers Encore in 2007. This version included a cardboard head-and-chest cutout that could be inserted into Ratchet’s robot chest to cover the sticker face and give him a cartoon-accurate head protruding above the windshield as well as a molded set of clips to keep the robot more securely mounted to the combat deck.
Case Assortments (Item#/Asst#): 1984: Autobot Cars Asst. 1 (E5759/5750), 1 per 12; 1985: Autobot Cars Asst. 2 (E5754/5765), 1 per 12
MSRP: $9.99
Mail-Order Price: $8 and 2 Robot Points (1985-1988) or $9.50 and 0 Robot Points (1986 “Can one boy...” only)
Packaging: Window box with top flap, inner plastic bubble sealed to cardboard insert, Tech Spec on back
Packaging (Hasbro Direct): plain brown mailer box including black-and-white Tech Spec sheet minus the graph section
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, 1984 Catalog, “Reinforcements from Cybertron”

Redecos & Retools

Ratchet’s mold was originally used to create Diaclone Car Robot Onebox Cherry Vanette in 1982, and again the same year to create Car Robot Onebox Ambulance Type. The Onebox Cherry Vanette was briefly available in the U.S. as Diakron DK-2. It was recolored in red for 1984 Transformers Ironhide. The mold came full-circle in 2008, when it was used to create e-HOBBY Protect Black Ironhide for the Japanese market. The mold was also used the same year to produce e-HOBBY Ratchet Emergency Green, whose deco is an homage to the contemporary Movie character of the same name.