The Dinobots were added to the Autobot ranks in the 1985 assortment of The Transformers toyline, and have remained some of the most enduringly popular characters in the range, particularly their leader, Grimlock. The original Grimlock toy accounts for a huge part of that popularity. After all, who can resist a robotic T-rex?
This version of Grimlock, truth be told, is a knock-off. Quite a few vintage G1 figures – their original molds lost, stolen, or destroyed – are now available as high-quality knock-offs via the “grey market,” produced in Chinese factories and sold by dubious eBay merchants.
Purchasing these knock-offs is always a roll of the dice. The quality isn’t assured, some of them arrive broken, and sometimes the sellers themselves aren’t legitimate. And of course there are legal and ethical issues that the buyer must wrestle with. Ultimately, I’ve decided to risk buying a few of these knock-offs when reissues of the originals aren’t available.
At any rate, the packaging is a close approximation of the 1980s original, with only small differences that bely its unofficial nature. I adore Grimlock’s original package art. Early G1 box art ranges in quality, and often the best artwork derives from the Diaclone or Microchange lines – Grimlock’s is an example of great Diaclone artwork (and features a silver sword, which was present on the Diaclone version of the toy).
The box features the lovely 1985 mural which I gushed about over in Blaster’s review. It’s nearly identical to the 80s original, down to the clip ‘n save “robot points” and the tech specs. Often, knock-off packaging contains telltale typos or text spacing mistakes – in this case it mentions an “ene go sword.”
Be aware of these types of details if you’re on the market for a legitimate packaged Grimlock.
Grimlock’s alternate mode is a tyrannosaurus rex. The popular concept of this monstrous extinct animal has changed since the 1980s – back then, T-rexes were thought to stand upright and drag their tails along the ground, which is how Grimlock appears. What hasn’t changed is its designation as “king of the dinosaurs,” and Grimlock lives up to that moniker.
The toy is molded mostly in gray plastic, but a variety of foil stickers, gold and silver chrome, and translucent parts breaks up the deco. The red eyes and sharp teeth add a menacing look to the head.
This Grimlock came with its left forearm sheared off at the wrist, as if a machine had sliced it apart in the factory. I was able to easily glue it back together, and it’s quite sturdy now, but that’s the type of risk you run when you buy a knock-off.
More colorful stickers decorate Grimlock’s spine and tail. The two hinges that open up his flanks for transformation resemble booster jets, and they’re even shown to be emitting flames on the 1985 box-back artwork. The translucent panel on the back hides a vestigial feature which we’ll get to later.
Grimlock features a rubsign like most Transformers toys from 1985 and onward (ironically introduced as a way to identify authentic Transformers versus knock-offs). This one’s adhesive is a little bit weak, so it’s starting to peel up.
For a robot toy from the 80s, Grimlock features a surprising amount of articulation. The dino head can look up and down, the forearms can rotate, the jaw can open/close, and the legs move at the hips, knees, and toes.
With: Transformers 1986 Trypticon; Beast Wars ultra-class Megatron (2021 reissue)
Grimlock is about six inches long from head to tail, and bulkier than most other Autobots of the era.
Here’s the knock-off (left) with a genuine original. As you can see, not much difference. The opacity of the translucent plastic is quite different, but as I understand, that varies even between genuine Grimlocks.
The striped red stickers are also applied in different places. I really feel like the stickers belong in the square indentation at the tops of the legs (as the one on the right shows), but the instructions say to put them on the middle of the legs, and this detail is also shown like this in the box art and even as painted details on some other versions of Grimlock.
With: Hasbro Masterpiece Grimlock; Studio Series 86-06 Grimlock; Takara SCF Series Grimlock; Dollar Tree Grimlock
Some newer iterations of Grimlock update him to reflect modern understandings of dinosaurs, but older fans tend to be nostalgic for the tail-dragging look.
Grimlock, as well as the other four Dinobots, originate from the Diaclone line, where they were known as “Dinosaur Robo.” To interact with Dianauts, Grimlock has a small hatch on his back that opens to admit one pilot. This hatch isn’t mentioned in his instructions, but many kids of the 80s found it through trial and error.
One pilot can comfortably sit in the seat when it’s open. You might be able to close the hatch and let the pilot lie loosely inside Grimlock’s torso, but I’m a bit reluctant to try that.
Grimlock’s transformation involves flipping over his tail to become legs, opening his flanks/dino head, lowering the torso, and collapsing the dino legs to reveal the robot fists.
Grimlock has die-cast metal in his red waist part and in the strut that holds on his torso. The figure has excellent proportions in robot mode and certainly looks like the powerful warrior he’s supposed to be.
The stickers on his hips tend to get rubbed off by the red waist piece.
If there’s one flaw with Grimlock’s robot mode, it’s the size and position of his head. It’s too small and it’s too far back on the torso.
Grimlock’s head is molded entirely in black with just one paint application for his red visor. Unlike many Autobots shown in the cartoon’s first season, Grimlock did not have his animation model head redesigned to add a mouth – it instead was modeled pretty closely after the toy’s.
I feel like the severe visor/mask look is very appropriate for a tough guy like Grimlock. Unfortunately the paint application on this knock-off is a bit spotty and irregular.
Grimlock comes with a black double-barreled “stunner” laser rifle, a red “energo sword,” a black “galaxial rocket launcher,” and three chrome rockets.
Any of the three accessories can fit into Grimlock’s fists by 5mm pegs, and he holds them well.
Grimlock has articulation at the shoulders and knees, as well as some extremely shallow hip joints that always puzzled me. They barely allow for movement, so I’m not sure why they were added at all. Regardless, Grimlock’s articulation allows him to point his gun or swing his sword, which is all he needs. He can also kick his legs out laterally thanks to the transformation.
The rocket launcher wasn’t incorporated into Grimlock’s animation model, so he was rarely – if ever – seen with it in fiction. My first Grimlock was the Generation 2 version, which didn’t include the launcher. I didn’t even realize he came with this accessory until much later. Actually, the Transformers Universe bio describes the double-barreled gun as if it were the rocket launcher, so occasionally in artwork the barrels themselves have been seen to launch off the gun like rockets.
Anyway, the launcher is spring-loaded and like most early G1 accessories with gimmicks like this, the springs were weakened or removed for the domestic release. The knock-offs actually have functioning springs, but the launcher on this copy is still quite weak.
Also, I’ve always wondered what a “galaxial” rocket is. Or maybe it’s the launcher that’s galaxial. Who knows.
Grimlock stands a little shorter than Optimus, but taller than most other Autobots from the 1984-1985 range, which feels about right even if his fictional appearances tended to show him as taller than most of his other comrades. We grade G1 scale on a curve, so I’m giving old Grimbo a pass here.
You can see in this pic, if you squint, how much nicer the visor paint is on the genuine Grimlock on the right. The gold chrome on the genuine one also looks a bit more saturated.
With: Hasbro Masterpiece Grimlock; Super 7 ReAction Figures Grimlock; Studio Series 86-06 Grimlock; Robot Heroes Grimlock
Later versions of G1 Grimlock that adhere to the toy/animation model tend to largely replicate the G1 transformation, but fix the issues with the head proportion. This pic also illustrates how the multicolored stickers on Grimlock’s legs were abstracted into blue, red, and green rectangles for the animation model. The Masterpiece and Studio Series have sculpted details on these rectangles to evoke the mechanical detail of the G1 stickers.
The first episode of the Transformers cartoon I saw was a rented VHS copy of “S.O.S. Dinobots,” and I watched tapes of “War of the Dinobots” and “Heavy Metal War” very soon after, as well as The Transformers: The Movie, all of which heavily feature Grimlock. He also featured into Marvel’s The Transformers issues #19 and #77, which were the two first issues of the comic I read. I didn’t own the G1 toy, but I borrowed one from a family friend for a while, and later owned the G2 version.
Suffice it to say, Grimlock has always been a favorite of mine. It helps that writer Simon Furman treated him as a bit of a Wolverine, casting him as an Autobot maverick in many of the more memorable Marvel storylines. He’s a vital G1 character and one of the best toys to be found in the original line.
Unlike many G1 toys, even a Grimlock without his accessories and in poor shape is still a great toy. He’s a must-buy for anyone building a G1 collection. Unfortunately the toy has never had an official reissue after G2, and of course buying a knock-off is always a risk. But if you have some way to experience this figure, I recommend it.