Despite the inclusion of increasing variety for Generation 1 in 1985 the core good-guy characters were still the Autobot Cars. Smokescreen was one of the new members of this category, transforming into a realistic Nissan Fairlady Z Turbo IMSA car. The color scheme was based on the Electramotive racing car driven by Don Devendorf (using both #38 and, more commonly, #83). The Fairlady Z was Nissan’s flagship line of sports coupe, sold in the US as the Datsun 280ZX Turbo.
Smokescreen, like his fellow Autobot Cars thus far, was originally designed bu Koujin Ohno and released in Takara’s Diaclone as Car Robot No. 11 Fairlady Z Racing Type. 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 more accurate stickers, branding the car clearly with Datsun, Nissan, and other markings omitted from the Transformers release. However, it also included a blue emblem on the hood bearing two interlaced Rs, standing for “Real & Robo”. The US Patent, titled Reconfigurable toy assembly (aka Transformers G1 Smokescreen) was filed on October 12, 1982 (U.S. Patent No. US4680018 A).
Smokescreen’s red, white, and blue alternate mode closely resembles the real Electramotive Datsun 280ZX Turbo IMSA car, with the exception of his four-spoke vacuum-metalized “chrome” wheels shod in rubber tires, and his lack of the IMSA-standard wide rear fenders. The four-spoke wheels were accurate to the commercial version of the turbo Datsun, but the Electramotive car sported gold lace-spoked wheels most of the time. Clear windows front and back 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 is shoulders, and he has two 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 rally 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. Smokescreen differs from the other Datsun Autobots by his smooth roof (as racing cars do not have removable t-tops), and the addition of a realistic spoiler in the rear and air dam in the front. He also features a rubsign in the center of his roof, by now a standard mark of authenticity on all 1985 Transformers. Smokescreen’s transformation is the same as Prowl and Bluestreak from the previous year, despite the larger differences in casting.
Despite Smokescreen’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. The small tabs at the upper corners of the rear windows can also shear off, causing them to fall down into the trunk area. When storing or transforming Smokescreen, never apply direct pressure to his roof, always move the head portion directly.
Many of the design issues were addressed between 1984 and 1985, using lessons learned from the 1984 Autobots, which greatly reduced the variations in Smokescreen’s issues. However, some variants of Smokescreen exist, such as an extended screw sleeve under the neck area, allowing a longer screw to hold the windshield to the head. International variants include a Mexican Plasticos IGA release in a similar deco, but without the Smokescreen-specific castings, leaving him spoilerless and without the large front bumper. A number of pre-Transformers releases exist such as Takara and Joustra Diaclone, and Italy’s GiG Diaclone / Trasformers [sic].
Smokescreen was available in the US, Great Britain, and Japan in 1985. He was made available in France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain in 1986, and he continued to be available in the UK. He is conspicuous from his absence in Italy’s GiG Trasformers, despite being present in GiG’s Diaclone/Trasformer. Smokescreen was available in Japan as part of Takara’s The Transformers Collection in 2002 with slightly changed sticker deco, and better shade matching between his painted and molded parts. He was reissued in the US through Toys “Я” Us’ Commemorative Series in 2003. This version is virtually indistinguishable from the Takara reissue, 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.
Redecos & Retools
Smokescreen shared much of his mold with 1982 Diaclone Car Robot No. 13 Police Car Fairlady Z, later 1984 Prowl, and 1982 Diaclone Car Robot No. 7 Fairlady Z, later 1984 Bluestreak. All three Datsuns received many reissues and variations, discussed in their individual articles.