As my collecting habits have widened, I've come to realise there really were a lot of transforming robots knocking around twenty years ago. I thought it'd be a good idea if some expert would hammer out a guide to them all. Sadly, they all seem to be busy, so I've had a go instead.

The list only covers Western lines of the 1980s (that bit just wouldn't fit on the graphics; starting on Japanese lines would be really reaching beyond my knowledge), and is limited to those with transforming figures in them (obviously). Most of the entries are quite sketchy and open to correction/expansion, while there are probably some lines I've missed entirely. Feel free to contact me with any additional information or corrections.

Lines that have a full section on this site are only briefly covered, as more information can be found elsewhere on this site. At the moment, the lines are sorted in an alphabetical order; hopefully if/when more solid information can be found on some of the lines I can put it into a timeline order.

Thanks to Chris Olsen for helping with pictures and information =)


CONVERT-A-BOTS
Manufacturer: Village Toys
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

A selection of figures packaged and marketed by American company Village Toys, possibly imported to Europe as well. Included figures designed by Mark, Yonezawa and ToyCo - most of these were also licensed for other lines around the world, including Transformers and both the American and British versions of Convertors.

For more information, see the article here.

 
 

CONVERTORS (UK)
Manufacturer: Grandstand
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

No relation to the Select line of the same name. Produced by Grandstand (perhaps best known for their electronic board games), and seems to have been UK only (though many of the figures were licensed by other companies in various markets).

Figures were leased from Yonezawa (Betatron and Deltatron, issued in America as Trans-Bot-3 and Fight-R-Bot respectively as part of Village Toys' Convert-A-Bots, while another Yonezawa design came out as Sigmatron ), Toy Box (Omegatron, which kept the Japanese scheme - the same toy was recoloured in America as the Transformers figure Omega Supreme; the Grandstand release may have been the reason Omega didn't come out in the UK) and Takara (various Microman and Diaclone figures not picked up for Transformers - Alphatron was modelled on the Diaclone Gats Blocker , Siclonoid on the Diaclone Warudos , the Deltarian Shuttle was based on the Diaclone Dia Train and Deltarian Fighter was taken from the New Microman Cosmic Fighter ).

The toys were relatively expensive, and the largely unpromoted line was battered in the UK by Transformers and Robo Machine.


CONVERTORS
Manufacturer: Select
In Production: 1984-1985

Imported versions of various figures designed by Japanese company Mark, from various lines (Gokin Robo, Robo Car, Zectron, Galvion). Later joined by some exclusive designs, most likely again designed by Mark.

Figures only seem to have been licensed as Convertors in North America, though many of the moulds were licensed in other markets (Italian company GiG released Robo Car and Gokin Robo - the latter as Super Mechanic - in their own market) and frequently bootlegged (Casinorobots, possibly Convert-A-Bots, Transformables etc.).

For more information, see the full section here.

 
 

DASHBOTS
Manufacturer: UpRight Toy Co.
In Production: 1984

Plastic transforming cars with diecast parts and friction motors. The moulds have a slightly hazy origin - some of them are similar to those issued by Monogram as model kits using the Gobots brand, but there were at least six figures in Dashbots, as opposed to the three types issued by Monogram.

For more information, see the article here.

 
 

DIAKRON
Manufacturer: Takara
In Production: 1983

Unsuccessful import of selected Diaclone figures into America, much like Kronoform. Three Car Robot figures released as Robot/Cars (red Custom Countach, black Onebox Vanette, blue Toyota Hilux); three Dasher released (named as Aragon, Cromar and Zeta), plus Multi-Force 14 (based on Gats Blocker). A commercial failure, but the designs attracted the attention of Hasbro and led to Transformers not long afterwards.

   
   

GOBOTS
Manufacturer: Tonka
In Production: 1983-1987

Initially an import of Bandai's Machine Robo, adding characters and factions to the toys. The Machine Robo figures were later joined by some Tonka designs and some figures designed to order by Bandai. A cartoon, Challenge of the Gobots, was made by Hanna-Barbera, while Tonka licensed the brand for anything going. Tonka's agreement only covered North America - in the rest of the world Bandai retained the rights, and Gobots branding was only intermittently used.

To start with the line was a huge success, but poor commercial management and difficulty in selling larger toys led to cancellation.

For more information, see the full section here.

 
 

GODAIKIN
Manufacturer: Bandai America
In Production: 1983-1986

Unsuccessful import of selected Popy/Bandai Chogokin/Popinika figures. Japanese overstock shipped to America for repackaging led to high prices, while not disabling the spring-loaded features meant an Age 8 & Up policy, completely missing the target audience.

Not all the figures are 'pure' transforming robots, but enough were (Daimos, Daitetsujin 17, Leopardon etc.) that it's worth a mention - these weren't added to the line until the second series of figures, in 1984. Various attempts at relaunching, such as introducing smaller, cheaper figures and later rebranding as Godaikin Forces failed to turn the fortunes around. Overstock was shipped to Europe and Australia among others, with Robo Machine/Machine Men stickers plastered over the Godaikin branding.

For more information, see the full section here.

 
 

KINSMAN
Manufacturer: Dah Yang
In Production: 1985

Original designs - car to robot type things seem to have been the bread and butter, but also included the Robot Conveyor.

For more information, see the article here.

   
   

KRONOFORM
Manufacturer: Takara
In Production: Somewhere between 1981 and 1983

Another of Takara's attempts to market Microman and Diaclone to America. Predated Diakron, and was slightly more successful. The only pure transforming robot included were the Watch Robots , based on Microchange figures. These weren't picked up for Transformers, but were licensed and bootlegged to numerous companies throughout the 1980s.

The line also included the ubiquitous Diaclone Gats Blocker (as Multi-Force this time) and some other vehicles from the lines. Another commercial failure for Takara, despite TV support .

   
   

MACHINE MEN
Manufacturer: Bandai America; Bandai Australia
In Production: 1983 (America); 1983-1987 (Australia)

Bandai-handled import of Machine Robo. Failed to take off, but led to Tonka leasing the Machine Robo moulds for Gobots. The Machine Men brand was, however, kept in Australia, where it enjoyed success and received a number of variant figures (and was also used to promote Godaikin overstock shipped to Australia).

Article on US line here, and on Australian line here.

   
   

MOTO-BOT
Manufacturer: Intex
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

I'm not even sure Moto-Bot is the original line - the same figures were sold, either licensed or unlicensed, under myriad names, including Motorized Robot, MotoRobot and Truck-Robots. Numerous all-plastic transforming vehicles, and following the same basic pattern - each had a friction motor that would be removed and reattached in robot mode to form a stand for the figure.

At least two sizes made - standard ones included a jeep (available in army colours, black with gold trim or racing colours and possibly more), a pickup (available in yellow, red and maybe more), a flatbed truck (available in at least blue and yellow), a grey USAF F-15, a black/red steam locomotive and a red ATC. Larger ones had a box-like trailer section which would be removed in robot mode to reveal the legs - these included a fire engine, a blue-cabbed articulated truck and a box truck.

Heavily bootlegged, and remained in production one way or another for most of the decade, I'd speculate. Now fetch prices of up to 50p on ebay.


PADLOCK ROBOT
Manufacturer: Bandai America
In Production: 1984

Actual working transforming locks, using a large amount of diecast. The toys were the first four figures from Bandai's Japanese Metal Joe line. Presumably not a great success, as the last two figures don't seem to have been issued in America.

 
 

PARASITES
Manufacturer: Matchbox
In Production: 1984-?

A little like Transformers Vehicle Pretenders. A normal sized Matchbox car (I think using modified existing Matchbox car moulds) that would hinge open to reveal a vaguely vehicular block that could then turn into a spindly, spiky robot. Matchbox' only real attempt to get in on the market with their own designs. Not a huge success.

   
   

POW-R-TRON (may be POW-R-TRONS)
Manufacturer: Ertl
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

Largish figures, all with the same transformation - the front of the car hand a spring-loaded button that would cause the toy to pop into robot mode. The bonnet split to form the arms, the head popped out from the spade made, and a little trolley popped out of the underside to stand the figure up.

Possibly only two moulds (a sportscar and a jeep) were produced, though these were recoloured in different schemes, including a (presumably licensed) Knight Rider version (Ertl also owned the rights to toys and models of KITT from the dodgy, student-friendly TV series). Originally released in Japan by Fujisho. The same moulds became the Bat-Robô in Estrela's Brazilian Transformers line.

 
 

POWERBOTS
Manufacturer: Mattel
In Production: ? (most likely 1985)

Possibly only contained two figures - the large Bandai Winch Robo figures (for Powerbots the helicopter was named Flybot and the Hilux named Towbot) which, for whatever reason, didn't come out as part of Gobots. Only released by Mattel in North America - in Europe they were part of Robo Machine. Both had motorised winches, could move along in vehicle modes and 'walk' in robot mode.


RACETRON
Manufacturer: ?
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

Six-part combining team, metal and diecast transforming cars with a combined robot mode. Lack of clear manufacturer attribution is likely due to dubious nature of moulds; Porschebot is a considerable retool of the Gobots Street Heat figure, Cadilbot does the same trick with Tux. Combined robot mode features what looks like an insane amount of cheating with fake chest parts (which aren't mentioned in the cardback instructions...). Anyone out there who actually completed this monstrosity? Pontibot previously misidentified as a Zybot on the last version of this list, which says it all. Right on the cusp of being a knock-off (and thus ineligible for the list), but the other four figures seem to be original work, so I think that the two Gobots clones are plagiarism (cf. the Zybots bulldozer) rather than piracy.


RO-BOTS
Manufacturer: Lanard
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

Simple, all-plastic transforming cars with friction motors. Possibly only one mould (a deformed Corvette Stingray) in several colours. Origin unknown - possibly self-designed.

Probably the worst name of any of these lines, no mean feat when you're up against Pow-R-Tron.

 
 

ROAD BOTS
Manufacturer: Marchon Inc.
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

I wasn't sure whether to include these... while they do have clear vehicle and robot modes, I'm not so sure whether they really transform, as the process seems to involve taking the thing to bits, and then putting them back together in a different order. So it's in with reservations for now.

No relation to the more recent Roadbot line from Happywell.

 
 

ROBO MACHINE
Manufacturer: Bandai Europe
In Production: 1983-1988

Began as a European import of Bandai's Machine Robo series. Later morphed into a European version of Gobots, but also used as a coverall brand name for anything robotic Bandai were marketing in Europe, including Godaikin overstock. The line received a small number of exclusive variants, and included a few figures not included in Machine Robo or Gobots.

Moderately successful for most of its' life, despite muddy branding (notably a failed attempt to tie the line into the Challenge of the Gobots cartoon). Only really stopped due to a lack of suitable figures coming out in Japan. A short-lived revival, Robo Machines, briefly hit the shelves in 1993.

For more information, see the article here.

 
 

ROBOT RACERS
Manufacturer: Someone on behalf of Esso
In Production: ? (most likely 1985)

All-plastic figures with friction motors. In Europe at least, these were distributed as part of a promotion at Esso petrol stations. They were taken from a Japanese line named Change Robo. Eight figures were made, though four of these used the same basic mould.

For more information, see the article here.

 
 

ROBOTECH
Manufacturer: Harmony Gold
In Production: 1984-1986

Robotech was Harmony Gold's groundbreaking import of three Anime series - Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeda. The rights to make toys bearing the Robotech brand were then leased to Matchbox (who would perform the same work for Voltron).

Matchbox mainly concentrated on 3 3/4" action figures based on the human characters and playsets scaled to these, but some transforming figures did come out - deformed Veritech Fighters (based on different, more complex moulds than those that featured in Convertors), the 9 1/2" Alpha Fighter (produced in three colour schemes), the 15" tall SDF-1 and the 8" transforming Cyclone armour.

A notable omission was a transforming, regular proportion Veritech Fighter - possibly Transformers' use of Takatoku's seminal 1/55 Macross VF-1 Valkyrie as Jetfire blocked this, though imports and bootlegs of the figure in various Macross/Robotech schemes were rife. The line was a big success, and has remained a steady cult favourite since. Harmony Gold have intermittently revived the range in conjunction with other manufacturers (e.g. Playmates in 1992).

For more information, see the Super Toy Archive Robotech section .


ROBOTRON
Manufacturer: Buddy L
In Production: 1985-1986

Various figures from minor Japanese lines, marketed in America. Ranges included the small, friction motor powered original RoboTron, the self-explanatory DinoTron and the Bug Bots .

For more information, see the article here.


ROCK LORDS
Manufacturer: Tonka
In Production: 1986-1987

An attempt to spin a second line out of Machine Robo, in this case the 1986 Rock Robo figures. Initially outsold Gobots, but quickly dropped off. Despite co-starring with the Gobots in the animated film Battle of the Rock Lords the toyline was marketed separately. Most of the figures came out in 1986, and the line wasn't popular enough for Tonka to commission any new designs from Bandai.

For more information, see the definitive Rock Lords Collectors Archive .


SHOGUN WARRIORS
Manufacturer: Mattel
In Production: 1979-1980

Import of Popy's Chogokin/Jumbo Machinder/Popinika toys. Contained only a handful of actual transforming figures in the Two-in-Ones assortment - Raydeen, Gaiking, Dangard and Voltus V - but deserves a mention for being there at the start.

Promotion included a Marvel comic that ran for 20 issues, but mediocre toy sales and controversy about spring-loaded weapons caused cancellation.

For more information, see the definitive Wildtoy's Shogun Warriors Page .

 
 

SUPER ALTERNATORS/COMMANDO GAMMA
Manufacturer: Tomy
In Production: 1985-1986

Four simple designs, all using friction motors (the mark of a cheap 1980s transforming robot line) and the same white/red/blue schemes - an F-15, a Porsche 956, a space jet and a flying saucer. Everyone had at least one of these. All very bad toys. Tomy generally stuck to electronic toys, and these things show why.

Also sold by Tomy as Commando Gamma. No idea at the moment which version came first, or whether they belonged to separate markets. Sorry =(

 
 

SWITCH BOTS (maybe SWITCH FORCE)
Manufacturer: Tomy
In Production: 1984-?

Simple figures with, you guessed it, friction motors. Possibly designed for the purpose by LJN.

   
   

TRANSFORMERS
Manufacturer: Hasbro
In Production: 1984-1990

Still the most famous, and in terms of sustained appeal, the most successful. Began when Hasbro execs saw Diaclone and Microman figures at a toy fair, and decided to apply the marketing strategy they'd utilised for G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero to the figures. A new mythos was devised by Marvel Comics (who also produced a comic series and co-operated with Sunbow on a cartoon).

It's easy to forget how groundbreaking the marketing side was at the time - having seen the popularity of G. I. Joe File Cards with children, Hasbro and Marvel patiently devised unique personalities for each character, also sorting them into two factions - the Autobots and Deceptions. This and the tie-in marketing allowed the larger, more expensive figures to have a greater appeal to children.

Beaten to the shelves by Gobots, but Hasbro's careful approach paid dividends as Transformers hit phenomenon levels in 1985, despite a growing bevy of competitors. A cinematic film followed in 1986, but the line had arguably reached its' commercial zenith by then. Despite a declining profile for the remainder of the decade, easily outlasted its' competitors until the original line ran out of steam in America in 1990. It carried on oblivious in Europe and Japan (where it had ousted Diaclone and Microman as Takara's main robot line in 1985), and was back on American shelves in 1993 as Transformers - Generation 2. Since then, a long list of sequels have kept it in near-constant production.

 
 

VOLTRON
Manufacturer: World Events Productions
In Production: 1984-1987

Much like Harmony Gold with Robotech, World Events Productions decided to fit a trio of unrelated Japanese anime series (Golion, Dairugger XV and Albegas - WEP famously requested Daltanias from Japanese studio Toei, but were sent tapes of Golion instead and liked it so much they kept it) into a shared universe and market the result to American children.

Toy production was initially assigned to Matchbox, and used Popy/Bandai moulds issued in the Chogokin series. The three Voltron robots were numbered in the line - Voltron I (Vehicle Voltron, or Voltron of the Near Universe, based on Dairugger XV); Voltron II (Gladiator Voltron, or Voltron of the Middle Universe) and Voltron III (Lion Voltron, or Voltron of the Far Universe). Miniature versions (using the Chogokin ST figures) and Deluxe versions (using the Chogokin DX figures for Gladiator Voltron and Lion Voltron, but the even larger Dairugger XV DX Set, which I am in love with, for Vehicle Voltron) of each were issued.

WEP shuffled the order of the cartoon series, deciding to show the Lion Voltron episodes first instead of third. The show was a smash hit, and the Deluxe Lion Voltron figure, a flop when issued a couple of years earlier as the Godaikin Golion, was a big seller. However, the second season change to Vehicle Voltron turned off a lot of viewers, unable to deal with the cartoon changing in all but name. The plan for a third season to feature Gladiator Voltron was hurriedly shelved (Albegas wasn't even dubbed), and WEP instead commissioned Toei to create new Lion Force episodes.

After a brief dalliance with LJN (who produced computerised versions of the Lion and Vehicle Voltrons), WEP gave the toy licence to Panosh Place, who devised a series of 3 3/4" action figures of the human characters (again, like Robotech). They did also make a 16" Lion Voltron set that could hold these.

The line never quite recovered from the Vehicle Voltron failure, however, and had petered out by 1987. Since then, WEP have carefully cultivated the property through trainers and the like, as well as a couple of moderately successful revival series, supported by toys commissioned from Toynami, all revolving around the Lion Force Voltron.

   
   

ZYBOTS
Manufacturer: Remco
In Production: ? (most likely 1984/1985)

Garish, ugly, self-designed toys. Around 20 all-plastic designs, including Wrecker (4x4, recoloured as Pickup), Mach 1 (F-16), Chopper (blue helicopter), Hot Stuff (fire engine, later retooled - in classic toyline style - as a crane truck) and numerous other vehicles - including a Toyota Hilux, a dumper truck, an articulated lorry, a quad bike, a bulldozer (heavily modelled on the Machine Robo Dozer Robo figure), a Porsche 924 (available in two colour schemes), a motorcycle and a snow plough.

Six figures were packed in a giftset with extra parts that could make a combined robot named Multiforce.