Over the years, I've somehow managed to accumulate quite the impressive army of Optimus Primes. It wasn't a conscious effort - I didn't set out to get the Optimus Prime from every new Transformers property, it just kind of... happened. But there's one version I definitely didn't have in my collection, and that was the original G1 daddy of them all. Still don't have him, in fact, but I do have the next best thing: some kind of crazy knockoff.
Optimus Prime is the largest, strongest and wisest of all Autobots. Feels his role is the protection of all life, including Earth-life. Fights unceasingly to defeat the Decepticons. Splits into three autonomous modules: 1) Optimus Prime... the brain center known as the Commander; 2) Roller, the Autobot scout car... a spy who operates up to 1200 miles away; and 3) Autobot Headquarters... the combat deck equipped with a versatile mechanic/artillery robot. Injury to one module is felt by the other two.
In 2000, Takara released an exclusive all-black version of Convoy (Optimus Prime) at JAFcon 9, Toyfest and Osaka Toyland. But this? Isn't that. That came in Japanese packaging, while this one's in regular US packaging, right down to the 1984 Hasbro copyright and the orignal UPC. The thing even has authentic tech specs and Robot Points!
Remember Robot Points? I have four of them, thanks to this box. Man, even the tape looks old! It's like someone found a MOC G1 Optimus Prime, pulled it out of its box and put this one in instead. Weird!
Prime (he's in English packaging, so he gets called by his English name) is packaged in vehicle mode in a thick styrofoam tray. Remember when toys came in styrofoam? Hell, remember when McDonald's came in styrofoam? I'm kind of off-topic, here, sorry. Anyway, the tray has one big space for Prime, and two smaller ones for accessories. The instruction booklet and stickers are behind the tray in the box.
The leader of the Autbots famously had a tractor trailer for his Earth disguise, and a nice tractor trailer it is. Optimus Prime is a Freightliner COE, and the sculpt is absolutely fabulous. Considering that this mold is nearly 25 years old at this point,
the level of sculpted detail is astounding - it even puts some of the new movie toys to shame. The horns and lights on the roof, the windshield wipers, the ventilation holes on the smokestacks, the foothold to help people get into the cab... it's all great. And it's not just the cab, either: the trailer looks like large panels of sheet metal that have been bolted together, and the rear door is sculpted to suggest a handle and latches. The truck's windows are translucent (yellow on this model) and there are 10 real rubber tires. If all you wanted was a good model of a truck, Optimus Prime would deliver.
Anyone familiar with Optimus Prime's robot mode could probably guess how he transforms, and they wouldn't be wrong. It's a very straightforward switch, but that's why it's a classic.In robot mode, Prime is just over 6" tall and is one of the most articulated toys from G1, period. Of course, that doesn't really mean much: he moves at the ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows and shoulders. The elbows are balljointed, surprisingly.
Shame his head can't turn. Prime's hands are separate, and have to be plugged into the truck's headlights.
The trailer splits open to reveal Prime's other two components: Roller and the Combat Deck. Yes, just like the Holy Trinity (or Reflector), Optimus Prime is actually three beings in one. Roller is a six-wheeled buggy designed to seat four Diaclone figures (the line from which Transformers was repurposed). It has plastic wheels, which still manage to roll freely, and a port on top that can accommodate several of the included accessories, such as Prime's laser blaster.
The combat deck is exactly what it sounds like: a mobile command center. There are more seats in here for Diaclone figures, and stickers providing all sorts of battlefield data, like troop positions, energy levels and more. A spring-loaded piece in the middle of the deck will launch Roller (or any other car you put up against it). An observation/defense pod raises above the deck on an articulated arm, and can fire the included missiles. Fires them pretty far on this version, though other versions are just designed to hold the missiles in place.
Stand the Combat Deck on-end, and it becomes a repair bay. Optimus Prime (or any other figure) stands in the center, and the observation pod can make repairs using its surprisingly articulated grasping arm. There's a fuel hose with a nozzle so you can pretend to gas up your Transformers. The stickers are all printed with a black background, which blends into the trailer here, though it would have really stood out on the original's gray plastic.
I'd been eyeballing this black version for about a year before I got a really good deal on it on eBay, and I'm glad I snapped it up. For a knockoff, the quality is extremely high, with absolutely nothing giving away that this isn't an official release -
other than the choice to put it in English packaging. The top joint on the missile launcher/repair pod is a bit loose, so it tends to fall over, but that wasn't unheard of on the original toy. I still don't have a "real" G1 Optimus Prime, but thanks to this black Convoy, I don't need to worry about it. This guy (well, his JAFcon equivalent) and Robots in Disguise's Scourge both came out in 2000, starting a trend of black repaints that continues today, and I for one dig it - that's why I'm glad to add this figure to my Prime army.