Greetings everyone and welcome to a Toy Chest SPECIAL EVENT! This will be the first of what I hope will be an ongoing feature in the weeks to come where I chronicle my adventures attempting to pick up new vintage items for my various collections that I missed out on as a kid.
This week I’m going to take you inside a Thundercracker rebuild!
I’m not sure if “rebuild” is the right term, but it’s what I’m going to use.
What do I mean by “rebuild”? Well, I recently got my hands on a G1 Thundercracker fuselage and wings, far from a complete specimen, so I decided to search eBay listings for the missing pieces.
While that was relatively easy, there were a few missteps along the way and some important things I learned while trying to re-assemble him with pieces orphaned from random broken Thundercrackers.
So without further ado, let’s dive in!
First, some background.
Thundercracker was one of the 3 Decepticon jets based on real life US F-15 fighters. Along with Starscream and Skywarp, he completed the trio of jets that were the muscle of the original Decepticon lineup. In the original Takara toy line, these 3 jets were referred to as “Seeker Jets”. I have no clue what that was supposed to mean, but it sounds pretty damn cool.
Of the original 3 jets, I had Skywarp. My best friend at the time had both Starscream and Thundercracker so together we had the full assortment to terrorize our Autobots with.
While these jets are all basically identical, each has its on unique color scheme that somehow manages to make them seem like completely different toys.
For some reason, Thundercracker always appealed to me more than the other jets. I think it was the specific blue they used that I really dug. It always reminded me of the color of a baseball helmet.
The picture above is obviously NOT my Thundercracker, but it is cool to see one mint in box. Notice how it’s still completely bare with no stickers added yet (that’s right kids, back in the day ALL major toy lines expected you to put your own stickers on).
Honestly when I started this, I was just looking for a reasonably priced Thundercracker to buy outright, but unfortunately like most old toys, “complete” sets are usually much much more than ones with missing or broken pieces.
So, eventually I settled on a lot that was the main body, wings and tail uprights. It looked pretty good even though the decals on the wings were more than a little rough. It was missing several pieces (important ones too) but the price was right and I figured it would be a fun challenge to source all the missing pieces.
It also felt kind of spiritual in a weird way, to be taking these cast off pieces and putting them together to make a complete toy. It felt like I was helping these pieces of plastic achieve their full potential after being abandoned for decades.
This is the listing that I purchased. You can see right away that it is missing its tail fins, fists, and front landing gear, but otherwise it’s in pretty decent condition and looks like it fits naturally with the rest of my collection. (Yes it’s missing accessories too, but I plan to worry about that later)
Uh-oh. Wait a second. When I put those wings on the body something didn’t look quite right. Can you spot the problem?
WTF is up with that right wing? Why doesn’t it fit flush against the fuselage?
And here is where the trouble begins, and my fun little project gets way nerdier than I ever anticipated.
Turns out, Takara must not have been the most consistent when it came to stamping these babies out. Doing some research I learned that not only are there multiple different variations in the COLOR OF BLUE that these plastic parts were molded in, but also, there are 2 distinct types of wings. One kind with short pegs, and one kind with long pegs. Long peg wings only fit bodies that were made in the same run as the wings. So guess what?
One of my wings was now incompatible with this body style.
As you can see, one post is clearly longer than the other. What I needed now was a short post replacement.
Off to eBay I went again now looking for a wing with a shorter post. The problem with eBay nowadays is that toy sellers seem to only be interested in selling “complete” items. So anytime a spare point comes up they’re quickly snatched by someone essentially doing exactly what I’m doing only their intent is to sell the thing when they’re done.
Finding single bits and pieces proved more difficult than I thought, but eventually I did find a set of wings with shorter posts and had to settle for buying a pair instead of just one. The upside turned out to be that the stickers on both new wings were in way better condition than the ones I originally purchased with the lot.
With the wing situation sorted, it was time to find the tail fins. Here again, finding spares on eBay was a challenge. Unlike the wings, I did eventually find a listing for a pair of fins. Curiously, the description of these fins said “large tab”. I wonder what that could mean? Oh well they look perfect. Buy.
Aaaaaaand here’s problem number 2.
Apparently, in addition to different wing post sizes, there were also differences in the tail fin posts and the holes in the vertical black fins that the tails fins snap into. You guessed it, “large tab” and “small tab”.
Which size do you think my vertical fins were? If you guessed “small tab” because the universe always screws me, then you’d be correct.
My brand new tail fins didn’t fit. Looks like they would fit, but don’t let this picture fool you, they didn’t.
So, now the question became, which one do I change? The tail fins with the big tabs or the vertial fins with the small holes? Turns out eBay chose for me because I could not find small tab tail fins to save my life. I returned once again to the awesome eBay seller WheeljacksLab and they were able to hook me up with large hole vertical fins.
As you can see in this picture the difference in hole sizes is almost imperceptible.
But just like magic, the new tail fins fit the new black fins perfectly and once I had those swapped out on the fuselage it was time for the next piece of the puzzle.
Thankfully, the fists were pretty easy to find, although as usual noone had a listing for a set of BOTH hands together. Instead I had to get them from 2 different sellers and of course, pay double shipping. Thanks guys.
By this point I was running short on funds and patience so I decided to wait on the landing gear and accessories for a future date. For now my quest for parts was complete and I could finally re-assemble a mostly intact Thundercracker.
Notice how the new wings both fit flush against the body of the plane. You can also tell the slight difference in the aging of the stickers (and the placement now that I look at them, one Decepticon logo is much farther back on the wing than the other. Must…fight…OCD)
For now I consider this re-build to be complete. I wasted money. I learned some stuff. I wasted more money, and learned yet more stuff. He still needs missile pods, missiles and front landing gear, but there’s time for that later.
All things considered I think this turned out pretty well and despite a couple of snafus with replacement parts it was definitely a satisfying experience to cobble together a “new” toy from discarded and incomplete bits of discarded toys. I’ve always had a habit of anthropomorphizing my action figures and other toys, so I like to think that this Thundercracker is happy to have most of his parts back.
He looks damn good in my collection too, the wear and tear fits in perfectly with my original Transformers. You can see the comparison here with my original Skywarp.
I definitely plan on doing this again at some point, and next time hopefully I won’t get burned by incompatible parts. At least I’ll be aware of the possibility and double check before clicking that “Buy It Now” button.
Well, that’s it for this first ever Toy Chest Special Edition. Hope you enjoyed it and enjoyed learning from my mistakes. Until next time, happy hunting!
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