I do have to admit a passing confusion when I bought my first ever G1 Astrotrain toy in 2005. I never had his toy as a kid, but I had seen him a number of times in the cartoon and in the 1986 movie. The Astrotrain I was used to was the cartoon triple changer; a grey and purple robot capable of transforming into a steam train or space shuttle.
At the time that I got the 2005 Hasbro Toy Shop exclusive reissue of Astrotrain, I was unaware that Astrotrain’s original G1 toy was not cartoon accurate in coloration. To compound things, the Hasbro Toy Shop exclusive wasn’t actually a reissue of Astrotrain’s original G1 toy’s colour scheme! The Hasbro Toy Shop exclusive is actually a reissue of the original Japanese release.
Astrotrain was released in the America with a primarily white and purple colouring. Japan got G1 Astrotrain’s toy a year afterwards and Takara choose to release it with colours that more closely represented its real-world alt-modes. Black, for the steam locomotive.
White, for the N.A.S.A. Space Shuttle. Ironically, while taking the effort to colour it more like the actual Space Shuttle, they then replaced the “NASA” sticker with one that reads “ASTR”, though they left the “United States” sticker as is.
This leads to a very black and white robot, thankfully the stickers on his chestplate and arms spice it up a little with some colour.
Though he has no leg articulation to speak of, he does have some arm movement, which is unfortunately stunted by… well, his unfortunately stunted arms. He has been infected with a little bit of T-Rex arm syndrome, but not too horribly distracting. Hmmm, maybe his short, stubby arms are what his gigantic gun is compensating for? Well, that and the fact that one of his three modes is a steam locomotive; possibly one of the most nonsensical alt-modes for a super-advanced robot ever.
Which is where 2006’s Classics Astrotrain comes into the picture.
Blurring the lines between the original toy’s American and Japanese colour schemes, the first thing I thought was,
“Heck yeah, that’s how you do an update.”
followed very quickly by,
“Oh yeah, he’s still got a train for an alt-mode.”
Granted a new, super-advanced bullet train… but still reliant on rails.
Oh. Ok. Fine, not reliant on rails, but my point still stands; there are better ground-based alt-modes to perform the function of “Military Transport”.
That’s more like it. A Space Shuttle is a super cool alt-mode for a Decepticon warrior, even one that doubles as transportation for the other Decepticon warriors. Though impressive Space Shuttle alt-modes on both the G1 and Classics sides, for colour schemes neither can hold a candle to Timelines Astrotrain.
Originally intended as a straight repaint of Armada Jetfire named Spacewarp, the design was procurred by the Transformers Collectors Club folks when no retail stores chose to carry him as an exclusive. Still intending to release him as-is, Hasbro was unable to procure the trademark necessary, so “Spacewarp” was out. I am ever so glad that this was the case, because someone instead came up with the idea of giving him an all-new G1-esque headsculpt and releasing him as Timelines Astrotrain. Due to the fact that minus the minicon paired with it, this mold has no front landing gear, Timelines Astrotrain is served by the minicon¹ Starcatcher, possibly one of my favourite names for a Transformer in the entire history of the line.
So technically, though this version of Astrotrain has lost his Triple Changer status, his minicon is a triple changer that does the Astrotrain legacy proud. He’s a robot, a lunar rover, and a landing gear. Surely having a landing gear alt-mode is worse than a steam locomotive?
¹Timelines Astrotrain also comes with repaints of the Giant Planet Minicon Team, but Hook, Line, and Sinker belong in a post for another day.