I know what you’re thinking: “Tonk, these toys are 33 years old! Why the flip are you only getting around to reviewing them now?” Well the fact is I only just got them. So they’re new to me! It should be apparent to anyone who has read any of the drek I’ve written on this blog that I have a very special affection for G1 Transformers. I particularly like the Autobot Minibots who were some of the first Transformers ever released and some of the most accessible to the kids of 1984/5. The Minibots were the gateway drug that set many of us on a life-long course of Transformers (aka Robotic Crack) addiction.
Recently I’ve managed to acquire a handful of G1 Transformers that I never had as a kid. As I enter middle age my craving for things that take me back to the uncomplicated years of my youth increases. If my pursuit of vintage toys is my version of a mid-life crisis then I suppose I’m not doing too bad; at least I’m not lusting after a Lotus Elise, undertaking an extra-marital affair or gambling my kids’ inheritance away! Whilst a 40-something year old man buying up toys is not normal per se, I suppose on balance it could be worse? C’mon, gimme something… I’m clutching at straws here…
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, those G1 Minibots were great: a disparate collection of simple, transforming robots that overflowed with character. Sure, when compared to the standards of today’s Legends Class Transformers, the early Minibots were a bit shit. They had very limited articulation and highly compromised ‘bot modes. But in 1984, those little fuckers were ground-breaking. The Go-Bots, or ‘Machine Men‘ as they were called in Australia, had been around for a year or so prior and they were ‘okay’, but the Minibots, and all Transformers for that matter, brought something new to the transforming robot scene: Tech Specs.
The Tech Specs were small bio’s on the back of the Transformers packaging that told you about the character of the Transformer you just convinced your mum to buy you and how powerful, intelligent or courageous they were. The Tech Specs were essential in allowing the new Transformers fan to apply a personality to the toy they’d just scored. The Tech Specs helped shape a narrative about who the Transformers were, what their motivations were, who the bad-asses were and who were the cowardly pussies. This was all before the animated Transformers series hit the TV screens. The Tech Specs informed you of who your Transformer was and where he fit within the broader Transformers mythology. It was a master stroke by Hasbro to create the Tech Specs for each individual Transformer. It really was what set these toys apart and as kids we probably didn’t even realise it. I am sure that injection of personality into those little plastic ‘bots went a long way toward hooking those very first Transformers fans. We weren’t just buying or receiving a toy robot, we were getting a Transformer and that bought with it a character, a story and a touchstone upon which we could build our own narrative. It was cool shit.
So why am I banging on about Tech Specs? Honestly, I don’t eff-ing know, I’ve just veered off into an unplanned stream of consciousness… but I guess what I’m getting at is that the arrival of the first wave of Transformers back in ’84 coupled with their fantastic Tech Spec bios pulled us kids into the whirling vortex maelstrom of Transformers collecting. There would be no looking back. These little guys oozed character and we just had to have ’em.
Which brings me to SEASPRAY and BEACHCOMBER. As mentioned, I never owned these guys as a kid. But I always liked them anyway. When the opportunity to grab them for a great price presented itself I had to sieze it. After all, these guys don’t show up too often especially in condition this good.
SEASPRAY is a compact little hovercraft with spinning fans and small wheels on his undercarriage to carry him across land. I’ve never known of an actual hovercraft that has wheels and even Seaspray’s Tech Specs make mention of them, but they’re there anyway and they allow you to roll this little ‘bot across your desktop.
One of the things I really like about Seaspray are his vibrant colours. That blue and yellow really pop with the white body helping to break it up. He’s a punchy little dude and that paint scheme really makes him stand out on the shelf despite his tiny stature.
Seaspray’s ‘bot mode is very simple with a transformation pattern very similar to that of WARPATH. Seriously, there’s about three steps required to transform this guy; two seconds and your done. Also, like Warpath (and COSMOS), Seaspray suffers from that crippling G1 disability known as ‘mono-foot syndrome’, in that the part that is supposed to be his ‘feet’ is just one large lump of plastic. It kinda frustrates me that Takara couldn’t provide a cut in his mono-foot and give Seaspray two feet, his box art clearly shows him as being bi-pedal and he does have two legs, but perhaps the end result would have produced a less robust toy. Who knows?
Seapray’s robot articulation is essentially limited to his arms which rotate 360 degrees. He can tilt back and forth on his huge foot but that’s actually part of his transformation and technically not part of his articulation.
BEACHCOMBER is a chunky little dune buggy decked out in deep blue and grey. He’s quite wide in vehicle mode and solidly built with real rubber tyres and nice detailing thoughout the rear-mounted engine. Like Seaspray he holds together really nicely in his vehicle mode. I was pleasantly surprised at how well his arms snap into his body; some nice engineering going on there. His rollbar is stronger than it looks and seems to have held it’s shape well over the last three decades. Beachcomber’s vehicle mode is visually very strong and robust to hold; he puts some of his larger G1 Autobot pals to shame in that department.
As with Seaspray, Beachcomber’s transformation is super simple with a transformation similar to that of WINDCHARGER or TAILGATE. Three steps and your done. Honestly, a shaved chimpanzee could figure out this transformation in one attempt and I mean no disrespect to any shaved chimps out there who may be reading this.
Beachcomber’s ‘bot mode for his size and vintage is fantastic. No mono-foot to be found here! His proportions are great and his articulation not bad at all for a G1 ‘Former. His arms rotate 360 degrees and he can bend at the knee. More importantly, he has two feet which makes his ‘bot mode far easier on the eye than that of his fellow ocean-phile, Seaspray.
My only gripe with Beachcomber is the fact that his eyes slope downward giving him a kinda sad look. Maybe this is in keeping with his hippie outlook, I’m not sure, I just would have preferred a sterner looking Beachcomber ready to eff up some Decepticon scum.
So that’s my thoughts on these two icons of Generation One Transformers. Sure, Seaspray and Beachcomber are somewhat dated but that’s part of the charm. These guys will certainly appeal to the older Transformers collector looking to fill that hole in their collection or reconnect with a long lost childhood relic. I’m really pleased to have these guys on my shelf to join some of their Minibot buds.
G1 Transformers are becoming harder to find in good condition. So when you get the chance to snap one up you have to take it. Do yourself a favor and track down the odd Minibot if you can and remind youself how much fun these little guys can be.