This post is done in conjunction with and posted at the same time with Maz's post on TF-1.com.
Remember my trip to Osaka / Tokyo at the end of June/ early July this year?
Remember my trip to Osaka / Tokyo at the end of June/ early July this year?
As with my previous trip there, I got something really special from this shop called Hero Gangu in Osaka on my final day there.
Hardcore collectors or even people in the general community would know that this is the same Hero Gangu known for case finds of unused Diaclones and MISB Transformers. I understand that they have in the past (either through Yahoo! Japan or through their own website) auctioned off such rare pieces as a diaclone campaign Jazz, MISB pre-rub G1 Prowl, MISB pre-rub G1 Bluestreak, case fresh Diaclone Ratchet, case fresh diaclone GiG Police Countach, G1 Sunstreaker MISB, G1 Artfire MISB, G1 japanese Swoop MISB, G1 Masterforce Minerva MISB amongst other things (all of which are in the hands of prominent TF or Diaclone collectors now). This was also the shop that had all 4 Japanese exclusive 'dino-cassettes' (before the KOs were released), which was what promoted me to make the trip there in the first place.
The "rare" stuff.
The last time, I was in the shop 30 minutes before I was due to depart for the airport, talked to the owner, and he sold me a case fresh diaclone CarRobot No.18: Marlboor Wheeljack MIB, unused. This is the same Marlboor Wheeljack that is now in a prominent TFW2005 member's collection from a deal we did in June last year.
But I digress.
In June/ July this year, I once again dropped by Hero Gangu, once again around 30 minutes before I'm due to depart for the airport. I bought a Menasor and Defensor decoy on that day and talked to the owner at the counter. I asked him whether he had anything 'special', special like the Marlboor Wheeljack he sold me last year.
The Marlboor from last year.
Once more he went behind the counter (where his inventory is) and came back with something in a Diaclone box. "Very nice. Tonight go on auction", he said as he handed it to me.
I looked at it and the first reaction in my mind was - "I've never seen a black LP500S Countach in a regular Countach box that is meant either for red or yellow Countach. It is either a PCDX black Countach or a reissue Deepcover in there, or it must either be a custom or a fake, perhaps?"
Powered Convoy DX giftset black Countach - this is the real thing, of course (photo courtesy of vf1).
"Can I take it out and see it?" I asked.
"Sure", he said.
Took it out and I immediately realised that it does not have any of the trappings of either the PCDX Countach (see photo above) or the reissue Deepcover, the only other 2 black Countachs that I know are in existence. For example, the gold door stickers (or tampographs) that should have been on PCDX Countach / Deepcover, are absent on this piece. Very curious. Like with Marlboor, the owner would not let me remove the toy from the insert to inspect it - I had to contend myself by looking at it and feeling it within its insert.
After more than 20 years of handling Transformers, I can safely say to myself that it looks like a Takara product, it feels like a Takara product and therefore it very probably is a Takara product. With 10 minutes to spare before I had to depart for the airport, I decided that I want to buy this piece - perhaps foolishly and/or unwisely.
"Sell to me?", I asked.
Like with Marlboor, he keyed his asking price into his pink calculator. 'Whoa, not cheap', I thought. 'But why not? I'm here, I'm about to go. It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it must quack like a duck, therefore it is a duck (or a genuine Takara product). I'll leave with a bang, I'll get it'.
"Ok", I said. Paid for it, grabbed it and ran.
The grabbed item in question
IS THIS THING FOR REAL?
It was only when I reached the airport, that I thought, 'Shit, what if it really is a fake or a custom? I've never heard of one before!'. It was then that I got into a small panic, found a free internet station and immediately shot off an email to my buddies and Diaclone veterans, Maz and vf1.
My only question - "Is there such a thing as black Sideswipe in Jap diaclone box?"
Then, I had to board my flight.
When I touched down and was having dinner with E, the answer that came back from the experts were to the effect of - "Nope, never heard of it. Might be a custom?"
On 7 July 2012, I showed the below photo of acquisitions from that trip on my blog and online, but I did not show the black Countach until I could be sure that it was something worth showing.
FACT FINDING and MAZ's ARTICLE
Maz, vf1 and I with the help of others including Specimen-17 spent hours, days, weeks and by now a bit more than a month fact finding and piecing together facts and evidence about this heretofore, doubtful Diaclone piece.
Now, we can say we are certain without doubt that this black Countach is a genuine Diaclone piece, heretofore, never before seen by collectors. Maz did a wonderful job and wrote a very detailed article in the tradition that only he can on his TF-1 website, to highlight our findings on this wonderful piece of Diaclone history (mostly they were his findings!).
Maz's article can be found here: "DIACLONE BLACK NEW COUNTACH LP500S (SIDESWIPE) - 'PROJECT VANGUARD'"
Go read it. I will wait here. Go.
A FEW PHOTOS
Now, I can 're show' the photo further above, this time with the Diaclone black Countach MIB in the photo.
Here is a close up shot of the piece
Out of box
Shown with all its unused paperworks
Sleek black LP500S new Countach
In robot mode
Together with Red Alert (from Goodbye Convoy giftset) and G1 Sideswipe
WHAT IS PROJECT VANGUARD?
This is what we named the investigation we embarked on for this piece. It's shorter and easier to refer to than 'the black Countach Sideswipe investigation'.
It was also my attempt at 'humanising' this piece a little by giving it a name, a profile and some tech spec values.
Long time TF fans would quickly realise the inspiration of his name - Vanguard. I also wanted to call it something without a “black” prefix. There are way too many toys with ‘black’ describing its colour – for example: Black Zarak, Black Shadow, etc. I also wanted something shorter than ‘New Lamborghini Countach LP500S in black’.
Vanguard is the stealth agent partner of Sideswipe in the G1 continuity. He is a forward scout, a deep cover reconnaissance agent proficient at infiltrating hostile enemy territory. Vanguard penetrates enemy encampments and relays information back to Sideswipe for real time sit-reps and on-ground situational assessment. Whilst not as quiet or undetectable as the Decepticon master of stealth, Ravage, Vanguard has the ability to evade most conventional forms of surveillance. He carries a light dampening gun that disrupts optic sensors for up to 0.2 breems. Using technology modified from Tracks’ black beam gun, Vanguard’s black light launcher shoots missiles that casts black rays over a 50 feet radius to cover his tracks during extraction from enemy territory.
Vanguard's tech specs:
Strength - 3
Intelligence - 8
Speed - 6
Endurance - 6
Rank - 5
Courage - 9
Firepower - 2
Skill - 8
THANK YOU NOTE
Much love goes to my wife E, who was supportive throughout the process, listening to my fears and concerns and listening to facts and figures that Maz / vf1 comes back with. Thanks also for your assist with key pieces of photography.
A great big thank you to Diaclone veterans Maz and vf1, I would hug you if I could, my buddies. E says that "Maz is like Sherlock Holmes", and I think she is right.
I am very grateful for Specimen-17's timely assist with photos of G2 Sideswipe and eHobby Deepcover during our investigative phase - check out this man's Transformers online shop, it's impressive, I assure you.
I also appreciate Hyperoptic (aka G1-Junkie) and Arkvander (Mostly Transformers Redux), 2 veteran Transformers collectors, for giving me their quick 2 cents during the early stages of our fact finding exercise.
- Article by Maz on TF-1 entitled "DIACLONE BLACK NEW COUNTACH LP500S (SIDESWIPE) - 'PROJECT VANGUARD'"
- Diaclone CarRobots No.18: Marlboor (Marlboro) Wheeljack MIB unused
- Heroic's Hunt - Osaka / Tokyo toy hunt tally! (2012)
- Osaka acquisitions tally! (2011)
- Heroic's Osaka Transformers Toy Shopping Guide