Where does one start? All the parts changes, all the different releases...it's HUGE! But, being the anal-retentive individual that I am, here's the whole kit and kaboodle.
A brief note before we start: The 85 and 86 combiners (Aerialbots, Protectabots, Stunticons, Combaticons) were also released in 87. Instead of being stamped Japan, the copyrights were altered to read Macau. Other mold changes occurred, and are detailed in their respective sections. 87 Combiners (Technobots, Terrorcons) only came with Macau stampings, but *did* come either with, or without the rubsign indents.
This poor fellow needs to get a new agent. He is, by far, the combiner that went through the largest number of changes, in several series. We can start with the G1 versions. There were both metal-chested, and plastic-chested. But that gets further sub-divided, as there were in-fact, two versions of the plastic chest version: silver, and gray. This particular change is found on Onslaught (and thus, all the Bruticus accessories) which basically means, there are 3 G1 Bruticus units:
Type 1: Metal-chested units, silver accs (Japan).
Note: The metal-chested version comes with silver plastic accs. Also of note is the difference between the camoflage pattern on the grey and silver chested Onslaughts. The greys have camoflauge that's got sharper, crisper outlines than the silver ones. Silver chest versions' cammo is more blurry with less distinct outlines. Note that this change in the USA versions is consistant with the change in the Japanese versions.
Can't tell WHICH silver accs go with which unit? Not a problem! Silver-plastic-chested accs are stamped with 'L' or 'R' on BOTH sides of the accessory, while metal-chested units accs are only stamped on the outside. In addition, the chest plate comes as tabbed or untabbed. Easy as pie! And, lest you be confused by the generic "chested" labeling, in the case of Brawl, it wasn't his chest, but his treads that were either plastic, or metal. Speaking of Brawl: The difference between the Japan and Macau versions: Japan is green, Macau is olive. Note: Also the paint-changes on Blastoff between the Japan and Macau versions:
And another note on accessories: The weapons; there is a difference in color on the small weapons for Blastoff and Vortex between the different versions (G1). The plastic-chested ones are brighter in color, ie a "lighter" shade of color than the metal ones. Odd, considering that I personally expected the weapons-change to occur between the two plastic versions (Japan vs Macau), since other plastic-color changes occurred. I will continue to maintain this, actually. :-)
And of course, there is the G2 version of Bruticus, where they decided to get funky with the multi-colored camoflauge. Even here they couldn't leave well-enough alone, for poor G2 Brawl enters variations land sporting his standard purple, and his variant black (or if you prefer, "midnight-purple") variant camoflauge.
This was the only one we knew of for awhile. Turns out the others came with light vs dark camoflage, as well. I am not at all surprised. :-)
...and the fun continues. Onslaught, like some other G2 units, got to trade up weapon-wise when they equipped him with a nifty spring-loaded launcher with missles...missles that consistantly get confused with the G2 releases of Jazz, Sideswipe, Silverbolt, and the Jets. I don't know why. They're all different colors, lengths, etc. Ah well. :-) For the record, Onslaught's launcher is purple, not green or blue like the autobot cars. :-) It fits into the top of the large dual-cannon.
A final note on weapons: Between G1 and G2: The molds carried over for the most part, but in all cases, you can tell the difference between the generations by the color differences. Even with the black guns. Gen 1 had black, shiny, detailed guns, while Gen 2 went with dull black plastic (see Superion).
It has been theorized that the G2 Bruticus was molded from the UK (Classic) version of the toy (or the UK molds were recycled, if you prefer) because of the lack of rubsign indents on the G2 unit. UK units, for the most part, didn't have the rubsign indent:
Use the RMT guide to help you sort your Combaticons! Excellent way to tell whether you've got G1, G2, RID, or knockoff parts/accs.
Note: There is a RID version of Bruticus, called Ruination, an Armada version (called Ruination), and a Universe version (also called Ruination). Note that the specific variations on these toys, such as weapon and toy-mold changes are covered in detail in those sections. Note also the Battle Gaia version of this toy, covered in the list one section of the Japanese/Euro page of the site.
The wrap-up: American versions of this mold:
Type 1: G1, metal-chested units, silver accs (Japan).
Hotspot, First Aid and Blades came in metal/plastic chest versions. However...Streetwise didn't switch his parts at all (just a stamp-change from Japan to Macau), and Groove changed only the color of his metal chest (2 silver, and 1 gold version). The metal-chested Hotspot had painted headlights, while the plastic-chested ones were left blank. There's also a color-change on the Defensor eyes between the Japan and Macau (the plastic) versions; dark vs light red:
We also have come into some 'ridged' Defensor fists, instead of the common smooth ones. I refer of course to the peg hole where the fireball cannons fit in. Some have raised edges. I am told that one should have come with the Giftset, and one carded, but both of those on mine are of the smooth type, so my theory is that this was changed between the Japan and Macau carded versions. There is also a 'transition' set of fists (not pictured) with a ridge only half as tall as the regular ridged. Apparently, the mold was starting to wear-out. :-)
A rumor abounds, one that I am unable to confirm, as to the existance of a yellow-eyed Hotspot. Greg lists it on his variations list, but doesn't say if it is Hotspot's eyes, or Defensors eyes that might be yellow, or if it is even an American variant. John Hartman hasn't heard of it, and my e-mails to Greg (M Sipher) on this subject have gone unanswered. So if anyone has any information on this, it would be greatly appreciated. As it stands...it's just non-existant. I've found a lot of things can be debunked this way. :-) And lastly...is your Hotspot running on tired rims?
So, to wrap-up:
Type 1: Metal-chested, gold Groove (Japan).
Note: Protectabots came with the 'transitional' manufacturer-stamping (from Japan to Macau). These units come in both types. Combiner units after them (ex. Terrorcons) are usually just 'Macau' in manufacture. More...
Devastator didn't fare much better in the color catagory than did his buddy Bruticus. We've seen the G1 green change into the G2 yellow, and G2 orange. Guess the guy couldn't decide what outfit went better with his eyes. What's extremely unfortunate is that you can have as many as 5 versions of the G1 green alone, if you go by the manufacturer-stampings...Mixmaster has 5 different versions on him, for example (several of which, like his buddies, still fall into the version 1 catagory)... More...
Changes in Devastator Accessories: G1 comes with either large, or small forearm connectors. Note also in that pic that the size of the pegs are actually reversed...large hole on the forearm connector has small holes where it attaches to the unit. Rather odd that the same accessory is small-holed but large-pegged, eh? :-) I wonder if there is a 'transition' unit...
They also made a change in the fists; however, instead of matching with the forearms, this seems to have shown up primarily in carded units (not just one with cards, and the other with giftset, this is a recurring theme, and why we have to have a transitional Devastator listing at the end). The large fists come in either narrow tapered thumbs, or wide thumbs:
An interesting problem with the forearm launchers: Turns out you could have a mix of small and large-pegged forearm weapons (traditionally two small or two large) on either toy. Meaning...some of these toys and accessories never fit together properly right out of the package. Ideally, if the forearms hold in-place as weapon pods in vehicle mode, then they will fit properly on the unit in gestault mode. That's the best test-fit there is. :-) The rest...will either fall off, or crack out. :-)
There were three changes in the G1 big gun molding.
Gun 1: Shallow rectangle indents on back of gun.
Please note that Constructicons with strictly Takara stampings are usually associated with the small forearm connector holes and pegs, while Hasbro units traditionally have the larger holes (although this appears not to be an absolute, just a generalization; walt at RMT says he can vouch for the concurrent Takara-large and Hasbro-small). This is a mold change not only on the accessories, but also on the units themselves. The forearms are not the only change; just the obvious one. Every unit between Takara-only and Hasbro stampings had changes to the moldings/accessories. The superwings are not interchangeable, and neither are the waist-connectors. Neither, for that matter, are the heads or headguns; all the moldings are different. So if you wondered why you have so many broken Devastator accessories, there's your answer. Stop trying to force together units that are NOT compatible!
Type 1: Takara-only (both simple and blurked), un-numbered toys, small forearms.
The thing to remember: what we think of as the first version, second version, etc here in America for Devastator is not the complete picture. It's just easier for people to remember. :-) There was a concurrent-release of two to three different mold versions of Devastator based on manufacturer-stampings (See: Constructor Robo). What I casually mention as 'multi-transitional', could make the list a bit more complicated. :-) Especially considering that several different molds were modified at different times. Sometimes, a unit's molding stayed the same otherwise, but the manufacturer-stamping was changed/moved.
Type 1: Takara-Japan (simple), un-numbered toys, small forearms.
Below are some of the changes in the individual combiner units:
Bonecrusher: It is interesting to note the difference in peg-size on the little tabs on the legs. Numbered sets have thin pegs, while the un-numbered sets have...you guessed it...thick. Note also the thickness of the raised tread indents on the numbered unit, versus the tapered treads on the un-numbered, thick leg-peg unit (the peg-thickness will also give you a really good idea as to which forearm launcher is supposed to go with him). :-)
Long Haul: went from an open, airy front grill, to one that was filled in. I suppose, since the peg on the superwing never fit in there right anyways, it wasn't really needed.
Hook: We have a plain version, and a version with the number '3' (we've got 2 as well) stamped on both his waist, and on the metal prong that connects an arm in gestault mode. Note that in addition to a small change in the stampings, there is also a gun-change (the new version was carried over into the giftset, and G2 versions). There are also persistant rumors of Hooks with a changed, 'hook'. No word as to whether this was an American-change, as all G1 and G2 'Hooks' look the same. Hook also went from a flat-peg on the rear bumper to a rounded-peg (where the superwing attaches to in gestault mode).
Scavanger: A rumor persists about a Scavanger with a connector peg that still has a hook on it. While this may be possible, I have not personally seen it. It would have to have been a pretty early release. In addition, it implies that another Pre-TF molding (a Hook with no peg on the bumper) is also possible, and frankly...I've never seen that, either. Not on TF versions of the mold. Only on Pre-TF (and fake Pre-TF).
G2 Devastator: Color wasn't the only change we saw between the Generations...in G2, they hacked out the spring launchers in Devastator's forearms, (and Mixmaster's head) replacing them with an empty hole. They changed the size of the pegs on the fists and the missles to accomodate.
A note on weapons/accessories between G1 and G2 Constructicons: On the handguns, it is fairly easy to tell. Green handguns are G1, yellow and orange are G2, etc. However, you can also tell with the black handguns, as well. G1 had black, shiny, detailed guns, while G2 went with dull black plastic, usually with less detail than G1 (see Superion). Telling G1 giftset guns from G1 carded guns is another interesting matter, mostly involving the number stampings. :-) The easy one is Hook's gun. The change on the clip came between the G1 carded and Giftset versions. The Giftset version was carried over to G2. (G1 Carded On Top, G1 Giftset On Bottom) The rest...well, squint carefully. :-)
To tie it all together:
The current working collector theory is that there are three actual complete sets of Devastator, number-wise, that you would want to own. Of course, this is wrong. :-) Hasbro/Takara stampings run higher than that (note the five manufacturer stampings on Mixmaster alone), so if you're a psychotic completist, you'll need to own at least 11 Devastators. ;-) But let's conveniently ignore that for the moment. :-) Just call it one un-numbered set, and a pair of sets numbered 2 and 3...and a pair for G2. Yea, right...like that will fly...
And again, when I say numbered, I refer to the little numbers (2, or 3) that are molded into the accessories and the individual units themselves, usually into the back of the robot's head. Had Hasbro/Takara not done such a lousy job of parts-changes and mix-ups, we'd have a nice, even transition. Unfortunately, as you can tell from reading this section, we've got a mess instead. :-) So pick your list:
To wrap things up (5 versions):
Type 1: Takara-only, un-numbered toys, small forearms, carded.
To wrap things up (7 versions):
Type 1: Takara-Japan, un-numbered toys, small forearms.
If you want to know the breakdown even further than that...well, then you're a sick, sick individual. :-) But I'll do it, if anyone ever asks. The only changes not specifically listed above are in where the manufacturer-stamping is the same, only it is relocated to a different part of the body on the individual figure (I can see it now: version 15, Hook stamping on right side, Longhaul stamping on left foot, medium forearms, etc).
And for those of you that need help telling your guns apart...well, here you go! Complete with a link to Rework's PIA!
Suprisingly, they didn't do too-much to Superion, or any of his component Aerialbots, other than the recolored release for Generation 2 (oh, who are we kidding, there are mold changes here, too, just fewer comapred to all the other combiners).
For starters, the G1 units came in both Japan (initial-release) and Macau. Differences in copyright stamping apparently mirror slight mold-changes, mostly in the quality of the mold, as well as the MIPS (mold injection points). More...
Silverbolt/Superion, G1 vs G2: They did modify Silverbolt's wings to hold a set of G2 launchers, similar in style to the G2 Screamer and Ramjet. Gun accs were changed as well. G1 had glossy black guns. G2 had dull black guns. (This also applies to all the small combiners who had black weapons that carried over, including the other Aerialbots, swindle, and the constructicons.) Note also the difference in the molding on the main gun; the indents in the side wings, specifically:
Then of course, there is the issue of Superion's head and other accs. You'd think we could just leave it at a recolor on the eyes and antenna, but oh-no. :-) There were mold changes between the heads, specifically on the MIPS (mold-injection-points) on his head. Pegged vs indented, for example. There's also a 'transitional' head between the two. G1 head, but G2 MIPS, and of course his own color-scheme (presume that the G1 head with G2 MIPS would be the Macau version). Another subtle change is in the manufacture of the gestault fists: note the size of the pegs changed from small (fell out) to larger (fit fine). To tell which ones you have (without a test-fit), observe the lettering-change on the outside of the fists:
To wrap things up:
Type 1: Japan-stamped.
Note: Aerialbots came with the 'transitional' manufacturer-stamping (from Japan to Macau). These units come in both types. Combiner units after them (ex. Terrorcons) are usually just 'Macau' in manufacture.
Hey, you try to keep coming up with catchy things to say after awhile. :-) Menasor came out as one of the more-nearly unscathed combiner units. There were no mold changes (excepting the apparent alteration of copyright stamping from Japan to Macau), and the only re-release they did pertaining to him was one component, the 94 Botcon Exclusive Breakdown.
Of course, the prototype G2 Menasor was manufactured, and is currently secured in the secret vaults of John Hartman, but since it didn't make it into actual production, I don't know if we should count it. :-) Hehe...
Menasor's other claims to variant fame include his head, which came with either his red painted eyes, or plain, unpainted ones. Maybe he was sleeping when this photo was taken? There were also a few Menasor swords that for some reason came unchromed. We don't know why; we just point it out. It's probably the difference between the Japan and Macau versions, but our parts have been mixed up for long enough that we can't recall at the moment...(Insert Reagan joke here):
And yes, variant hunters...get out your parts. Here's another good reason to own more than one set of Stunticons. The accessories came as purple, or blue (or if you prefer, dark purple vs light-purple). That means fists, guns, and feet. If it trips your trigger to do so, consider one of them the giftset version. I promise not to tell. :-)
The wrap things up:
Type 1: Japan, dark-purple.
Ah, Predaking...the biggest combiner of them all. And also the heaviest. Especially in his metal-version. There were two versions of the Predacons: one set cam with all-plastic parts, while another had various parts made of metal.
The simple breakdown is as follows: Tantrum had metal 'side-pods', Headstrong had a metal 'back', and Rampage, Razorclaw, and Divebomb had metal 'waists'. Molding between the two versions (metal, plastic) were identical (simply a substitution of material). It is interesting to note that on Headstrong, there was a mold-change between the versions; while the metal version had a plastic insert 'hole' (to accomodate the placement of the Predaking footpad in beastmode) the plastic-back version was molded as a solid piece.
In addition, we have an acc variant! In the words of Colin: "You'll notice that all the Predacons swords have a small node somewhere along the blade, in the middle. Notice also how some have the demarcation around that node indented, and some have a completely convex node instead. I believe that the ones with the indents are to the Metal Predacons." (Editor's note: we've looked at a number of sets for swords...the presumption is that they must have come from a very early set, if they were released with the Metal Predacons. All of our examples of both kinds turned up identical 'soft' or convex, versus sharp 'indented' swords.)
"The Tantrum swords I had are unlike the rest. Whereas the other swords have indented & convex nodes, both of these are convex. However, there IS a difference. On one sword, the small round indents that are common on most action figure accessories are on one side, and on the other version they are on the other side. Also, the number (in this case 5) is on the opposite side from the round indents in both cases, making it on the opposite side for each sword."
To wrap it up:
Type 1: Metal parts, sharp-indented swords.
Note: There is a further Japanese release of this set, both individual and Giftset format, as well as a reissue Giftset. More...
So, what's the deal with the Technobots? Well, as many other TFs, they either came with, or without the rubsign. What's unique here is that we see them begin to adjust the molds after the fact, phasing out the rubsigns by filling in the indent. It's not the only change, of course. :-) They also tinkered with the color of the gestault accessories, as well as the paint scheme:
So, to wrap-up Computron:
Type 1: Rub-indents, ***-colored pieces.
Note: Technobots and Terrorcons, being that they are late-manufacture (87) gestaults, come only with the Macau stamping (vs Japan, as on most of the other gestaults, from 85/86 and carried over to 87).
With the Terrorcons, we see the process taken one step farther. Not only do they eliminate the rubsign, but instead of just filling in the indent, they obliterate it completely! It's as though it was never there...I've always been tempted to argue that the no-rub was created first, but released second. After all, it's easier to put a square indent in a mold than it is to fill it in (and hide it so well). :-) Ah well... In any event, on Hun-Gurr specifically, we see a transitional-indented piece, where the rub-indent is partially removed, but the ridges remain (whether by accident or on-purpose, I could not say.) They had plenty of molds to play around with, so who can say for sure what was changed when. :-)
...if that wasn't enough, we have to list a color change on the little bots and their weapons. :-) Look, it's light-turquoise, and dark-turquoise Cutthroat. :-) Actually, on the ones I have here, the color-change matches up with the legs on the units, as well as the weapons. Presumably a change between concurrant-mold lines, or between the first and second-releases of him. Yee-hah. The same change occurs quite obviously with Rippersnapper as well.
So, to wrap-up Abominus:
Type 1: Rub-indents, dark-colored pieces.
Note: Technobots and Terrorcons, being that they are late-manufacture (87) gestaults, come only with the Macau stamping (vs Japan, as on most of the other gestaults, from 85/86 and carried over to 87).
American Giftsets, that is. :-) For Japanese and Pre-TF giftsets, go here.
Giftsets are the backbone of many a collection. Where once you could only buy the individuals seperately, duing the 80's christmas-time rush, you could get the entire team in one shot, in a giftset form. They seem to be some of the most sought-after ways to package the teams; while there are mold changes discussed in each section above, a discussion about the Giftsets themselves, as well as a listing of what was *really* available, can be found here. More...
An odd-listing here, but since they're called combiners, and this is called the combiners page... :-) The three Decepticons that made up the Combiner Constructor Squad were re-used for the three Micro-transports. Oddly enough, two of the three transports were autobots. :-) I bet they made great spies for the other team. Just slap on a coat of paint, and sneak into the enemy camp. Oh well...
Micro combiners are an interesting problem. So far, the line consists of the Kaybee-exclusive Universe micro six-combiners Defensor (Sixturbo) and Devastator (Sixbuild). Originally, they were released in Japan as late G1 toys specifically for their market. Then, 14 years later, they were reissued. *Now*, these same molds are reissued in the usa. While not posessing documented variations within the usa line itself at the moment, they do come pre-loaded with history, and as such, deserve a brief mention here. For specific details, and how they differ from their Japanese counterparts, please visit the micros section of the Japanese/European page, specifically the page dealing with the micro six-combiners.
What can we say that the pictures can't say better...have a look at photos of the unreleased G2 Menasaur, and G2 Defensor. If only the G2 line would have gone on a bit longer...sigh.
It's certainly been a wonderful couple of decades in the original run o' gestault TFs. :-) But, even as some molds have lasted the ages (Brutius to Ruination) others are no longer with us. The technology has changed; Where once you would have 6 Construction vehicles that formed a gestault, now you have 3 beasts in the 90's. Or better: in the new millenium, we have new combiners. ;-) The variations, and listings of various combiners in the new age are listed in their various variant sections (example; Build King and Rail Racer are in the RiD section, while Magnaboss is in the Beast Wars section). So shall the new combiners be; Superion Maximus will be in the Energon section, along with the rest. :-) We welcome the new combiners. But we also remember where they came from.