There is a very good reason why I’ve chosen this particular Combaticon to launch this new Collecting Stories blog and it’s not just because of his highly apt vehicle mode! Blast Off was not my first Transformers toy, but–just as importantly–he was the first one I ever bought with my own money.
In the summer of 1986, when I was just 8 years old, I learned of the exciting new sub-range of combining Transformers–the Special Teams! I had picked up a fold-out comic/poster that introduced all four of the new teams. I was instantly drawn to the Aerialbots due to my love of planes (especially the Concorde) and one of the Combaticons, Blast Off.
As a kid I was fascinated by space travel and the Space Shuttle itself. Prior to discovering Transformers in 1984 almost all of my toys were space-travel based: Lego Space and Playmobil’s “Playmo Space”. A schoolmate owned Astrotrain and would sometimes bring him in to show off in the playground. I desperately wanted a Space Shuttle Transformers toy of my own.
For my birthday and Christmas in 1986 I received the Aerialbot/Superion and Stunticon/Menasor gift sets, respectively. For some reason, the other two Special Teams–the Combaticons/Bruticus and the Protectobots/Defensor–weren’t released in the UK as gift sets. So as 1987 started, on my quest to acquire all four Special Teams, I set about collecting the Combaticons one by one with Blast Off being the first!
When I turned 9 in 1986 I was given a weekly pocket money allowance of 50p. 30p (and as of the start of 1987, 32p) of that went on the weekly Marvel UK Transformers comic and that left me with 18p per week. Blast Off was about £5.99 or thereabouts. You don’t need to be good at maths to realise how long it would have taken me to save up for that little Space Shuttle.
After the weeks stretched into months (time really did drag when you were 9 years old), and by about the early summer of 1987, I’d saved up enough (along with a pound or two from my grandparents for Easter) for my first Transformers toy. It was a big event. It was a taste of the freedom I desperately craved at that age. It was a wanton disregard for all the tough-love lessons about learning the value of money I’d had drummed into me.
We were visiting a friend in Newark, Nottinghamshire on Saturday afternoon and we popped into the town centre. I darted into WHSmiths and headed for their small toy section. Blast Off was there, along with the other Combaticons. I can still remember the distinct smell of newsprint and foot-worn carpets in that shop and the black/purple Transformers card with its dark green band at the bottom.
When I got home, I tore open Blast Off and released him from his packaging and before even applying the stickers he was strafing the Aerialbots with his X-ray lasers as I acted out the scene from the fold-out comic/poster that I’d treasured for the last 18 months.
My imagination ran wild. A “military” Space Shuttle? I was seeing in the news talk of the US government’s “Star Wars” programme and I thought of camouflaged Space Shuttles up in Earth’s orbit shooting down ballistic missiles that, in my over-active mind, were powering their way across the oceans down below.
As with the rest of my childhood Transformers, Blast Off didn’t survive. But in 2004, as I sought to replace all of my Combaticons, I happened upon a MISB Japanese Blast Off on eBay. In fact, I got all 5 Combaticons (Japanese versions, but plastic chest pieces) from the same seller in the same transaction.
It was actually my first quite-expensive vintage Transformers purchase on eBay, but to have some of my childhood favourites back in my collection again was completely worth it!
This particular Blast Off survived my collection cull in 2016. I couldn’t bear to part with him and he remains one of the very select few Transformers toys I’ve kept and who I will continue to cherish.
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross!