Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Say Hello to...

To say this project has been a long time coming is an understatement.  Let me take you back to 2006 where this all began...or at least the idea.  I had purchased a junk lot of Transformers from a Yahoo! Japan auction for cheap.  I don't remember what all was in that particular lot, but one in particular caught my eye.

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Here is an old collection photo.  Can you see the TF that I'm eluding to that was in that junk lot?  Do you see one in particular that is missing it's stickers and incomplete?  To the left.  The one that looks like the Protectobot's Hot Spot.  You got it.  That's none other than Fire Chief from the sought after, very elusive Operation Combination TF-04 Guard City.

At the time I was psyched about having a piece of such a rare toy in my collection.  The Protectobots are my favorite combiner team from G1 so ever since I learned of Guard City's existence I've wanted that toy.  However there was one small problem.  If I could find the TF-04 set I most likely wouldn't be able to afford it.  So what does a father of two that barely can afford to keep up with collecting modern day Transformers do?  I get all crafty.  (This is where I suppose you cue Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" song)

I had always wanted to make my own Guard City after I acquired Fire Chief, but two of the four other figures were different enough that I wasn't sure how to tackle the project.  I eventually gave up the idea until a few weeks ago.  I'm not a customizer.  I do enjoy tinkering around w/ painting and such, but I'm not very skilled nor do I own the necessary equipment to knock out fantastic looking toys.  My only previous experience painting toys came many years ago when I "Cobra-ized" a G.I.Joe A.P.C. vehicle.  I thought the project turned out really well, especially since it was my first attempt.  I knew painting a toy with moving parts would be a tougher task, but now I was equipped with friends that had the experience and knowledge that I could sponge off of.  I reached out to my good buddy Arkvander and told him of my idea of the project.  I asked him if I was crazy to attempt this and if he thought it would be doable.  He gave me two thumbs up and his support.  I immediately asked if he would use his air brush skills he learned while painting Charticon's Aftershock last year to help convert Blades into Fly Up.  Thankfully he agreed to help.

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This is the fruit of my labor.  The team.  I'm super excited about how well these came out.  I love the original Protectobot colors, but there is just something about the red on Fire Chief and the blue on Fly Up that make this set so dang attractive.

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A lot of the stickers used for Guard City are different from the ones used for Defensor, however I did order a set of Reprolabels to freshen up the five toys.  I'd love to complete the look with other stickers, but that will have to wait for now.  But how long will I have to wait?  Hmmm.

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Did you know the round black hose on the side were removable?  Neither did I!

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Let me reiterate, this is a vintage Fire Chief toy.  This is one of the few from the set that I really didn't have to alter.  I did take a pair of black hoses from a junker Hot Spot body since Fire Chief's were missing and I freshened up his fireball stickers and his one lone Autobot sticker.

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So what's your favorite version of the mold?

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The only thing I may change on Fire Chief is the ladder.  Once I did the comparison shots I noticed that his ladder is a little yellowed.  I have a junker Hot Spot that I think I can easily swap out the part, but for now I'm happy with what I have.

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Fire Chief is really bland looking without his stickers, but have I mentioned how I love the red?  Now the neon orange chest plate is a different look, but in hand it's not as garish as my pictures may make it look.

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I will mention that Fire Chief doesn't have near as many stickers as Hot Spot does and I'm glad.  Less is more in this case.  The two figures are the same height by the way, I just forgot to fully extend Hot Spot's legs.

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Fly Up was the biggest challenge, but thankfully Arkvander came through for me.  I disassembled Blades as much as I could.  I purchased a shade of blue Testors brand paint I thought that would work and dropped it off in Arkvander's capable hands.  Turns out the color I bought was too dark and too thick, so he had to strip the toy and start over with a different shade of blue.

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Thankfully the second time was the charm.  I can't believe how great this came out.  A little paint came off with the painter's tape I had used to cover the front windows, but I could care less.  I added new stickers to the sides and a new Autobot symbol to the helicopter's nose to finish things off.

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I usually go with red over blue, but again the simple color swap goes a long way here and makes this mold look really good.  I'm just glad the wheels and rotor blades stayed the same!

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The other roadblock to speak of with Fly Up was the robot's chest piece.  Trying to match the neon orange used on Fire Chief wasn't easy, but I think I came close with this shade of Model Masters I found at Hobby Lobby.  Of course having the original stickers would go a long way here, especially since the stickers cover up the two screws on the chest.  Once I got him reassembled I noticed it looks as if he is wearing a life jacket.  I wonder if that was done on purpose or just a coincidence?

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In my opinion there is no contest here as to which version looks better in robot mode.  Which do you prefer?

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Up next is my favorite mold in the set, Safety.  As you can tell this is an altered version of First Aid.  In vehicle mode there really aren't many noticeable differences as Safety and First Aid share the exact same stickers.  I had to clean up the toy a bit to restore some of the white's brightness and I added new Reprolabels.

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Other than the small bit of orange that you can see from underneath, these two are nearly identical.  Of note however is the lack of the rub symbol.  None of Guard City's members have rub symbols.

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As with Fly Up, Safety's chest piece is the same shade of orange.  This was an easy fix as I could knock out painting both chest pieces at the same time.  He too looks a little naked without his stickers, but again I hope to address that sometime soon.

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I always loved the First Aid character.  I wonder if Safety shared First Aid's pacifist nature?

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Sparkride is probably the dullest of the group.  Sparkride and his U.S. counterpart, Groove, are basically the same.  Minus the rub symbol on the windshield and the stickers on the side of the gas tank, Sparkride and Groove are the same.

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I remember getting Groove as a birthday gift from my parents when I was growing up and how excited I was.  Then I opened up the toy.  This mold still fails to excite me, even with a few different looking stickers.

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Not much to be said here.  Sparkride's only differences in robot mode are the stickers...which obviously I lack.

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During this particular shot I noticed just how bad my Groove's chrome is.  That is completely unacceptable and will have to be upgraded in the near future!

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While Fly Up traded Blades' red for blue, Streetstar is a stark white as opposed to Streetwise's off white.  This is the other toy that made me initially walk away from attempting this project.  Thanks to a fellow collector I met on Facebook, I was sent a loose Streetwise to test my painting skills.  Before the thought even crossed my mind to check out Hobby Lobby, I bought a simple can of Valspar white spray paint from Lowe's.  I paid a little extra and bought the paint that was meant for plastic and I'm glad I did as the final outcome looked good.  Masking off his windows, light bar, spoiler and wheels was a task, but necessary if I wanted this to look good.

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Like many of Streetstar's teammates, he too has different stickers.  If you have a keen eye then you may have noticed that Streetstar normally has a different sticker where the rub symbol resides on Streetwise.  I had to put a regular Autobot sticker there just to give the vehicle mode a little more color.  After I had reassembled the toy, I started to look at the color of the light bar against photos of Streetstar.  I wasn't happy with the leaving the light bar as is, so I used some red paint to touch up the bar to match the original.

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The only thing I'd still like to do with Streetstar is paint the eyes blue.  A little too much over spray got onto the face and slightly covered his blue eyes.  I knew my free hand painting skills left a lot to be desired so I left it as is...for now.

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The white really is a drastic change over Streetwise's off white.  I much prefer the white, even though it gives me more problems trying to photograph.  It was around this point that I also noticed the red robot bits were a darker shade of red, just like the light bar.  So I unassembled the toy again as I had to have this as close to the original as possible.

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It's a small change granted, but I felt I was being too lazy had I not painted these plastic bits.  As you can see, it's not a drastic change, but one that was needed.  Streetstar is one the left in case you couldn't tell.

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And finally we have the money shot...Guard City!  This is what I was striving for all this time.  It's crazy to look back and think it took me nearly 8 years to accomplish my goal, but man does it feel good.  I'd still like to get a hold of Guard City's stickers to finish off the overall look, but I really can't express how satisfied I am.

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You be the judge.  Which version do you prefer?  Personally I can't decide as I think both look incredibly awesome.  Guard City's red, orange and blue works well once integrated, but so does Hot Spot's powder blue and red for Defensor.

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I have to give a huge thanks to Arkvander for his help with Fly Up and his overall confidence in me to get the job done.  Thanks also goes to Maz as his Guard City article on TF-1, especially his photographs were of great help.

I know some collector's may look down on me making my own toy, but I don't care.  I didn't make this guy to sell.  Not everyone has the ability to purchase every TF you want and frankly even if I could afford this guy, I'm not sure I could justify spending what the toy commands these days on the open market.  Collecting should be fun, not stressful.  While this project was a lot of work, it reminded me 1) how badly I need to upgrade the stickers on my Protectobots and 2) the joy that Transformers brings me.

So now the situation begs the question...should I attempt to make Guard City's nemesis, Battle Gaia?!


  1. I'm trying on the stickers! jeez lol. Very nice work on him, I have debated going the same route since, like Artfire, I have a hard time justifying what they are worth for a repaint of defensor (and Bruticus for that matter) Will look excellent on your shelf

    1. Love the look of the set, but $1K love it? Nah. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

  2. Very Nice !!! Lucky find on fire chief . He'd be the hardest one to do custom. One day Im going to customize something :)

    1. I don't think I would have attempted this had I not already had Fire Chief.

  3. You gotta give credits to these Classic Transformers Combiners- they're the pioneers that gave rise to the much coveted TFC Hercules. Oh by the way, I like the blue helicopter better than the red/orange one.

    1. The modern combiners don't hold a candle to these Scramble City combiners in my book. And I agree, the blue on the helicopter is so much better.

  4. I for one do not look down on you and I kinda wonder why collector should as you actually spend 8 years to finish what you set up to do. How many can do that unless it is driven by Passion. Well done bro.

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