Bumblebee’s mold was originally part of Takara’s 1983 Microman: Microchange line as MC04 Mini CAR Robo 03: VW Beetle, available in yellow, red, or blue. Unlike Diaclone, the Mini CAR Robo were actually meant to resemble toy vehicles rather than real vehicles, specifically Takara’s popular non-transforming Choro-Q/Penny Racers toy cars, including Bumblebee’s head plate being intended to represent the slot that would hold a “penny” or other coin as a counterweight.
Bumblebee has chrome wheels shod in Dunlop-branded rubber tires, which he shares with wave-mates and fellow former Mini CAR Robos Cliffjumper and “Bumper”, as well as the actual Takara Penny Racers (sold in the US as Tonka Turbo Tricksters). He shares his simple transformation scheme with them as well. His arms pull out to the sides, allowing his hood and front fenders to be pulled down to form his feet, and lastly folding open his head from the rear of the vehicle. Due to the similarity, Cliffjumper and Bumper are sometimes thought to be retooled from Bumblebee, but in reality, they only share a few internal pieces. Bumblebee’s body is cast in only two colors, using black for the windows, all internal pieces, and the arms. A small die-cast plate on the bottom of the car adds weight to the figure and holds all the other parts in place.
Date stamp location: under hood of vehicle (bottom of robot feet)
Rubsign location: None (1984), or center of roof (1985-)
The most common, but minior, issue with Bumblebee is that pulling down too hard on his feet during transformation can cause the guide pins between the upper and lower halves of his feet/hood to become dislodged, and then bent, which causes a gap or angle to open up near the ankle. This is easily resolved by loosening the toe screw, realigning the pin (sometimes bending it back into shape), and re-tightening the screw. His head hinge can wear easily, causing his head to droop back or fall forward back into the car. In extreme cases, the hooks that hold the head panel can break, causing the head to fall off and get lost. This led to the hooks being widened in later variants of the figure (see Variants, below) The internal pins connecting his arms commonly become loose, or sometimes totally disjointed, which can either cause his arms to hang down in robot mode, or leave him both armless and without wheels. Lastly, as the thin vinyl-rubber tires continue age, they are more likely to become dry and either hardened, warped, or cracked, especially the diminutive front tires. Despite these flaws, many Bumblebees survived intact, compared to some of the more fragile Diaclone designs.
Bumblebee was released in two primary variations, perhaps the most noticeable in Transformers history: with an entirely red body, or entirely yellow. Both colors were available earlier as Microchange releases, but an interview with former Hasbro executive George Dunsay states the variation was released deliberately to plump up the early Transformers variety in stores. The only type not released in both colors is Type 5, for a whopping total of 13 variants released in the US!
Bumblebee has two clear mold lineages. The first mold (from the Microchange era) shot the Type 1, and was revised as the Type 2a and 3a, with the 2a revision probably coming after the second mold started its production as Type 2b. The 2a and 3a have a telltale ring beneath the Takara Co. Ltd. stamps. The first mold was retired before the shift to Hasbro stamping in late 1985. The second mold was revised from 2b to 3b, 4, and 5, though it never gained the textured ankles of the 2a and 3a. Type 5 was never available in red, nor was the Japanese release of Bumble.
Type 1 Pre-rubsign, "Takara Japan" stamp (in circle), tapered head hinges, smooth ankles, narrow exhaust, thin head
Type 2a Pre-rubsign, "創作・著作物 ©Takara Co. Ltd. 1980-1984 Japan" stamp, tapered head hinges, textured ankles, narrow exhaust, thin head
Type 2b Pre-rubsign, "創作・著作物 ©Takara Co. Ltd. 1974-1983 Japan" stamp, tapered head hinges, smooth ankles, wide exhaust, thick head
Type 3a With rubsign, "創作・著作物 ©Takara Co. Ltd. 1980-1984 Japan" stamp, tapered head hinges, textured ankles, narrow exhaust, thin head
Type 3b With rubsign, "創作・著作物 ©Takara Co. Ltd. 1974-1983 Japan" stamp, tapered head hinges, smooth ankles, wide exhaust, thick head
Type 4 With rubsign, "創作・著作物 ©Takara Co. Ltd. 1974-1983 Japan ©Hasbro 1980-1984" stamp, tapered head hinges, smooth ankles, wide exhaust, thick head
Type 5 With rubsign, "創作・著作物 ©Takara Co. Ltd. [BLOCK]-1983 Japan 1985 ©Hasbro [BLOCK]1983-1985" stamp, square head hinges, smooth ankles, wide exhaust, thick head, yellow only
In keeping with 1984 Mini Vehicles, many international versions of Bumblebee exist in a rainbow of color variations, primarily in Central and South American markets. Bumblebee was reissued in China sometime between 1989 and 1991, in packaging very similar to the original US release.
Type 3MX Pre-rubsign, "創作・著作物 ©Takara Co. Ltd. 1980-1984 [BLOCK] ©Hasbro 1980-1984", tapered head hinges, textured ankles, narrow exhaust, thin head, lighter yellow (also available in red, blue, silver, and white). This type was presumably produced from a direct copy of the type 3a mold, if not the original a-mold itself.
Type 5CN With rubsign, "[BLOCK] ©Hasbro [BLOCK]1983-1985", square head hinges, smooth ankles, wide exhaust, thick head, lighter yellow
Bumblebee was available in the US and UK as part of the first wave of G1 in 1984. He was available again in 1985, having traded the Autobot logo on his roof for a rubsign in the same location. This version was also released as Bumble in Japan’s G1 - Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers. Also, like the other 1984 Minibots, some 1985 releases included a Mini-Spy. Unlike his contemporaries, Bumblebee continued to be released in 1986. Some 1986 releases were available with a randomly packed iron-on patch.
Case Assortments (Item#/Asst#): 1984: Mini Vehicles Assortment 1 (E5701/5700), 4 per 24; 1985: Mini Vehicles with Mini-Spy (E5701/5709), 4 per 24; Mini Vehicles Assortment 2 (E5701/5710), 1 per 24; 1986: Mini Vehicles Assortment 3 (5701/5711), 1 per 24; Mini Vehicles with Patch (5701/5711.05)
Packaging: Blister card with instructions and Tech Spec on back, displayed in vehicle mode (1984), or robot mode (1985-)
Robot Points: 1/2 Autobot
Paperwork included: none (1984-1985), iron-on patch with “Prizes in Disguise” entry form (early 1986), “Look Inside for a Special Offer!” (late 1986)
Redecos & Retools
Bumblebee was recolored by Estrela in Brazil and Antex in Argentina to produce Volks in several variations. He was redecoed in 1993 as part of the first wave of Generation 2 wearing a new vacuum-metalized gold “chrome”. A new set of tooling was created in 2001 by Fun4All as a keychain, featuring a loop on the rear bumper to attach a metal key ring. This version was released in Japan in 2003 blind-packed in either his traditional yellow, or a black “chase” version.The keychain was recolored for BotCon Europe 2002 Glyph. The Bumblebee keychain was reissued by Basic Fun as part of the Heroes of Cybertron line in 2006. The original mold was retooled once more in a 2004 Japanese Minibot Team Set as part of Takara’s The Transformers Collection. This version featured a new face mold more closely resembling his in-fiction head. This version was released again in Japan’s Transformers Encore in the set Bumble & Minibots. The Encore version uses the retooled head, but also includes additional paint details, such as head- and taillights. The Transformers Collection Bumblebee was redecoed as e-HOBBY exclusive Bug Bite in the same year’s G1 Gobots set.
“The least likely can be the most dangerous.”