“Quick action equals quick victory!”, that’s Windcharger’s motto. Windcharger was part of the very first series of Transformers minobots to be released and although most of his first series minibot brethren got plenty of air time in the original Transformers cartoon, Windcharger’s appearances on the animated series were very few and far between. Still, Windcharger was probably a very popular Transformer back in the day, because of the entry level price point and the fact that he turned in to a red race car! Today’s post is about the very rare mainland European version of Windcharger by Milton Bradley (MB).
Transformers – Windcharger (MB) Europe 1985
In the US Windcharger was released by Hasbro in mid-1984 together with 5 other minibots, classics each and every one of them. Here’s a photo from the US 1984 Transformers pack-in catalog showing Windcharger together with Bumblebee, Huffer, Brawn, Gears and Cliffjumper.
Transformers – pack-in catalog (Hasbro) US 1984
Just like the rest of the minibots Windcharger was originally a toy that was released by Japanese toy maker Takara as part of their Micro Change series, which was in turn part of their 1983 New Microman line. The Micro Change series was a series of robots that transformed into everyday items that you would find around the house and many other early Transformers were actually descendants of this line, like Soundwave (a cassette player), Reflector (a photo camera) and Megatron (a gun… a household item in some countries). The minibots were supposed to represent toy cars, hence their deformed look. Windcharger is loosely based on a 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am.
MicroChange – Car 06 (Takara) Japan 1983
In Europe Windcharger was available from 1984 in the UK and from late 1985 in continental Europe. Hasbro Industries (UK) Ltd were responsible for the UK market and simply imported Windchargers in American packaging. On most of mainland (western) Europe it was Hasbro’s newly acquired subsidiary MB who were responsible for the introduction of the Transformers toy line. For a very short while Transformers were available in Europe with an MB logo on the packaging. This changed in early 1986 when Transformers started to come with a Hasbro logo on the packaging.
MB branding and distribution
Transformers toys in mainland Europe came in quad-lingual packaging in 1985 and 1986. Windcharger was a 1985 release and came with German, French, Dutch and Spanish on the packaging. Transformers toys were distributed by ‘Milton Bradley GmbH’ in West-Germany, ‘MB France SA’ in France, ‘MB International BV’ in the Netherlands, ‘MB Belgium NV/SA’ in Belgium, ‘MB España SA’ in Spain and ‘MB (Switzerland) AG’ in Switzerland. Some MB Transformers also ended up in several Nordic countries through ‘BRIO/Scanditoy AB’ and all the way down in beautiful New Zealand through ‘Milton Bradley (NZ) Ltd’.
MB in Europe used a different product numbering scheme than Hasbro, so the SKU/catalog numbers on the European toys were different from those on the American packaging. Windcharger was part of the second “mini-vehicle” assortment number 9125. This particular assortment consisted of four Autobots, the other three being Brawn, Gears and Huffer. Here’s a photo from that assortment from a 1985 Transformers Milton Bradley dealer catalog supplement that was available in France and the Benelux (maybe also in West-Germany and Switzerland):
9125 “mini-vehicles” assortment (MB) Europe 1985
Note the incorrect suffix in the catalog page above. Windcharger’s number is not ’9125 20′ as it states in the catalog, but ’9125 22′. Here’s a close up of the catalog number on the MB Windcharger packaging:
Windcharger SKU/catalog number (MB) 9125 22
Let’s examine the rest of the blister packaging. As with all European cards, the text “Transforms from minicar to robot and back” has been removed. If you look closely you can see where the original text was located by spotting the two rows of squares on the top left that look out of place (they don’t fade nicely with the rest of the grid). The beautiful artwork on the card is the same as on the American card.
The American minibot cars came packaged in vehicle mode in 1984 and were re-released in 1985, but now packaged in robot mode. This European Windcharger is packaged in robot mode, just like the American 1985 Windcharger release.
Windcharger (MB) – packaged in robot mode
On the top left of the card we find the age notice in German, French, Dutch and Spanish.
Windcharger (MB) – Age notice (quad-lingual)
Contrary to MB’s wave 1 mini vehicles, all four wave 2 mini vehicles also have the original English age notice on the top right of the card. It looks like they forgot to remove this original text which is also present on the American Windcharger cards:
Windcharger (MB) – Age notice (English)
“Front to Back”
Let’s flip the card around and see what we can find on the back of the packaging. As you can see the portion of the back of the card that is taken up by the tech specs is significantly larger than what the American tech specs need. This is of course because of the need to display information in four languages. This also means that there is only room for the motto and no room is left for the bio that is found on the American releases.
Windcharger (MB) – back of the card
The rest of the card shows the transformation instructions and has information on how to decode the tech specs with the red decoder strip which can be found inside the packaging of boxed Transformers. Also included is the cut out point (well, half a cut out point), which kids could save for special mail away offers. The actual mail away offers varied from country to country. Around the time of Windcharger’s release there was a Transformers Time Warrior watch mail away promotion which ran until December 31, 1985. In Europe it is confirmed this offer was available in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium. Here’s a blog post on that particular mail away promotion I wrote last year.
Windcharger (MB) – tech spec instructions and cut out points
“The French Connection”
MB introduced the Transformers toy line in Europe in 1985 and released two waves of our loveable transforming robots. The first wave consisted mainly of 1985 characters and lots of iconic robots were missing from that line up, like Optimus Prime, almost all Autobot cars and characters like Starscream, Ravage and Laserbeak. All this was due to licensing issues, because a French company called Ceji already held the rights to those characters for most of Europe, licensed directly from Takara. This caused all sorts of confusion and even resulted in Jetfire being billed as the leader of the Autobots, because Optimus Prime was not available due to these licensing issues.
At a certain point in time in 1985 MB/Hasbro worked out a deal with Ceji, which allowed MB to release these popular characters in Europe after all. Those Transformers are part of what we can now identify as wave 2. Windcharger was part of this second wave. These wave 2 releases are my favourites of the whole MB line, because they were originally released as Diaclones in Europe by Ceji under their Joustra brand/subsidiary. Here’s a photo of both the 1985 MB release of Windcharger and the 1984 Ceji Joustra Trans-Am. They look pretty similiar, don’t they? :-)
Windcharger (MB) 1985 – Trans-Am (Ceji Joustra) 1984
What I find even more fascinating about this wave 2 minibot assortment, or mini vehicles as they are officially called in the MB line, is that the Ceji Joustra releases already carried an Autobot logo! Look at the close up photo below:
Autobot logo on both Windcharger and Trans-Am
1986 saw a change of strategy in the way that MB and Hasbro would market Transformers in continental Europe. It was decided that Transformers would not come in MB branded packaging anymore, but would carry Hasbro logos as they already did in the US, Canada and the UK. A large portion of all the 1985 MB branded Transformers were re-released in 1986, but now with a Hasbro logo on the packaging. An exception to this were all four minibots of MB’s 9125 assortment. Here’s a photo from the 1986 minibot line-up from the Spanish 1986 Hasbro dealer catalog:
Mini-vehicles assortment (Hasbro) 1986 dealer catalog – MB España
Twelve mini vehicles are shown here. Five of those had been available previously in 1985 in Europe under the 9100 assortment of wave 1 mini-vehicles (Cosmos, Beachcomber, Powerglide, Seaspray and Warpath). The 9125 assortment of Windcharger, Gears, Brawn and Huffer has not been re-released in 1986 in Europe. So why is that? Well, I believe the answer lies in the fact that all four of those have been replaced with new mini vehicles that are known to be re-painted and slightly altered versions of those four. Windcharger was replaced by Tailgate, Gears was replaced by Swerve, Brawn was replaced by Outback and Huffer was replaced by Pipes! I suspect that MB felt there was little point in finding a production line for Windcharger, Gears, Brawn and Huffer for a 1986 re-release, when Takara was already pumping out four similiar mini vehicles that could take their place in 1986.
This, in my opinion, also explains why continental Europe never saw an official Cliffjumper release. If you look back at the original 1984 minibot assortment that was released in the US you can see that four of those saw a 1985 release in Europe as the 9125 assortment, because MB acquired those when they took over Ceji’s remaining stock of Diaclones. Bumblebee is the fifth minibot from that assortment and did see a European release in 1986, probably because it was such a popular character (and was shown very often in the Transformers cartoon). Cliffjumper was probably left out because he was not part of the original Ceji Diaclone stock and was not deemed popular enough (as Bumblebee was) to go through the effort of sourcing a new production line for the benefit of creating new Cliffjumpers for a 1986 release in Europe.
“Gone with the Wind”
Taking all the above into account it becomes clear that this European release of Windcharger (and the other three mini-vehicles of the 9125 assortment) are very hard to find in European packaging. They were only available as part of MB’s wave 2 release in late 1985, which were left over Ceji Diaclone stock, and they never saw a 1986 re-release in Europe in Hasbro packaging like most of the other bots did. I acquired this MB Windcharger together with an MB Huffer and Gears from a Dutch collector back in 2009. According to the seller these were all from a case of unsold stock that was found in a German toy store that went belly up. There have been very few MOSC (mint on sealed card) sightings of this assortment anywhere else. The only other source I have seen so far is an ex-Hasbro UK employee, who had a production sample of an MB Brawn, which is now in the possession of a good collector friend of mine, also here in the Netherlands.
“We are family”
If you ever come across an MB Windcharger, Gears or Huffer don’t hesitate and snap it up, because they are rare and have a special history. If you ever come across an MB Brawn in its original packaging, do not hesitate to contact me, because that one is still missing from my collection. Good money paid. ;-)
Thanks to Martin Lund for the photo of the MicroChange Trans-Am!