As my brother and I grew up during that golden era of toys, the 1980s, we managed to build a fairly sizable collection of TRANSFORMERS between us. We cherished our TF’s, watched the cartoon weekly, knew the characters inside and out and together shared what was the closest thing we’ve ever had to a religious experience together: saw TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE in 1986 and had our minds blown.
There was an unspoken rule when it came to our collecting of Transformers: we never owned the same ‘bot. For example, if Dan owned a Galvatron then I had to have Ultra Magnus. If I wanted a Wheeljack, Dan got a Jazz. It may seem weird, but that’s how we rolled as kids. This way, we maximised the number of characters we had between us and each if us could take more ownership of the individual characters. We were happy in this arrangement and rarely was blood shed over an argument as to who should get what ‘bot.
Over the years and into adulthood, my brother and I have managed to hang onto most of our old Transformers. I sold off about half my G1 collection a few years ago, opting to hang onto only the ones I really loved and keep them as minty as possible. Dan too, has retained most of his and displays them in his home office. But over the course of the last couple of decades, with house moves, etc, the odd ‘bot has vanished from the face of the Earth, warped back to Cybertron or slipped into that parallel dimension in which most of my left socks reside (and half my kids’ Hot Wheels).
One of the TF’s my bro managed to lose touch with over the journey was, in my view, one of the coolest in his collection: the Autobot Ground Assault Commander ROADBUSTER.
Roadbuster was a great looking Transformer. Loaded with accessories and sporting a fantastic ‘bot mode, he became a favorite for many fans. But he was an oddity. The vast majority of G1 Transformers were made by Japanese toy company, Takara Tomy and then licensed to Hasbro in the US and sold as Transformers. But it seems Takara were not producing new characters fast enough for Hasbro, so additional toy licenses were acquired from other manufacturers to keep the stream of new TF’s flowing. Roadbuster was actually manufactured by Bandai, as was his wave-mate, Whirl. As a result, Roadbuster’s engineering was somewhat different to other Transformers, his scaling was a bit weird and his character non-existent in the cartoon. He always stood out as being somewhat unique. As kids we didn’t understand why, but it was a good unique and it provided Roadbuster with an air of mystery and silent cool.
I’d always felt bad that my bro had lost his Roadbuster. I knew it was one of his faves. Maybe one day it would show up in the bottom of a box somewhere… but the odds were against it.
Earlier this year I was thumbing through my eBay feed when a near-complete Roadbuster showed up for sale. It was missing a few bits and the paint looked dodgey but overall it looked pretty solid. My bro’s birthday was coming up so I thought I’d put in a bid and take the risk on it. If it was decent maybe I could do a simple resto on it. It’s always a gamble buying a 30 year old toy sight unseen, you never know what you’re going to get. One person’s idea of ‘good condition’ can be another’s idea of ‘bin it!’.
A week passed and my conservative maiden bid on Roadbuster still stood. Eventually I was able to win him unchallenged. There was a bit of a nervous wait until the package arrived. As a glass half empty type of person I’d convinced myself I’d stupidly bought a shitheap. After all, nobody else bid on it. What could they see that I couldn’t? Thankfully, my doubts were soon squashed as the Roadbuster that landed in my mail turned out to be great. Sure, he was a little beat up, sticker-less and missing some bits, but nothing was wrong that couldn’t be put right.
It was time to start restoring Roadbuster to his 1980s glory. The most obvious thing that needed addressing, apart from giving him a good clean, was fixing those horribly chipped die-cast legs.
Roadbuster’s lower legs comprise two halves: the outer lower leg is plastic, the inner part is die-cast metal. Getting the lower legs off the ‘bot is just a case of unscrewing the two halves.
Before I tackled the chipped die-cast paint, I wanted to fix another issue while I had the legs apart: fixing the loose feet. The feet weren’t super loose, Roadbuster stood fine, but it was too easy to have him rock back and forth. To correct this I used the old method of applying a thin coat of superglue to the post that holds the foot in place, waiting for it to completely dry and then re-attaching the foot. The glue essentially fattens out the post and provides better friction against the foot giving you a stronger, more stable stance.
Stripping the paint off the die-cast leg parts was very simple: just a wire brush and some acetone to clean up was all that was needed. The paint was so old that it came off very easily. Some standard paint stripper would also work but I didn’t have any handy at the time.
With the paint off, it was just a case of giving the die-cast parts a quick sand with 800 grit paper and a wipe with some mineral turps to prep for paint.
Following a couple of light coats of etch primer, it was time to paint. I had taken the pre-stripped parts to my local hardware shop and managed to match the colour by eye. I went with a colour called ‘Terrain’ by White Knight. Its a pretty damn good match. A couple of light coats later and the parts were looking brand new.
A quick reassembly of the legs revealed a pretty tight paint match. Roadbuster was looking pretty new now from the waist down.
Another little issue that was bugging me about this Roadbuster was the sloppy paint application around his eyes. If there’s one thing that really ticks me off about toys its poor paint apps.
This was an easy fix. Roadbuster’s head is held together with just one screw. Undo that and the head will slide off the shoulders.
A gentle scrap with a Stanley knife and the offending paint was gone.
The Roadbuster I’d bought was missing a number of parts, the main one being his missile launcher and one of his wheels was missing a green hubcap. He was also without the small antenna that attaches to his backpack. But as the antenna alone can demand upwards of AU$70 on eBay, I decided that part could stay missing. It’s such an inconsequential part and not that important. I have since seen resin reproduction antennae sell for much less. So maybe that’s an option for later. But thanks to an Australian Transformers online forum I was able to secure a second donor Roadbuster for only twenty bucks which included a missile launcher and the all important missing hubcap.
So with all the repairs done and Roadbuster looking nice and clean it was time for some fresh stickers. As usual I looked to Reprolabels to provide. It’s a wonderful age we live in in which an online company can exist whose sole purpose is to create and sell stickers for Transformers toys. Clearly the demand is there. So why not tap into it? Awesome.
So with the stickers applied, Roadbuster’s looking pretty damn sweet. Maybe not entirely minty, but close enough. I’m really pleased with the way he turned out and thankful that the Roadbuster I’d bought provided me with a great basis to build upon. Gotta love those ’80s toys, they hold up pretty well.
I’ll be giving Roadbuster to my bro this weekend for his forti..’cough, cough!!’..nd birthday. He has no idea he’s getting it. Hopefully he enjoys and appreciates it as much as I have enjoyed working on it. G1 Transformers toys are very special to a certain generation of kids and they deserve to be given the odd tidy up, just to keep them hanging around for a few more years yet.