3/3 : I recall the Giftsets were supposed to have been sold in the UK - It looks like Argos may have been one of the places that sold them by that way they were sold in the ARGOS catalogue as a single unit.
I wouldn't be surprised if their Listing for "Runabout" was actually for both Runabout and Runamuck and they just got confused when writing the description - unless they had both in a previous catalogue and then just one in the later one.
I think that Evil Decepticon Strike plane code number may have included the "coneheads" as well as the original 3 (when they came out some months later) as I think Ramjet was sold in Argos even though he does not have a distinct listing - But I may be mistaken so don't quote me on that.
But Argos was an important source of toys - now it's mainly good for 25% sales and clearance sales and not for rare items more's the pity.
Toys were a lot easier to get in the UK before the European Union CE laws came in that pretty much killed off grey imports from America and Hong Kong overnight as anything that had not pased European safety tests was not allowed to be sold so bye bye all that Super Sentai & Chogokin and Robotech that was obtainable before then and M.A.S.K. & Thundercats was rendered difficult to find overnight also some stores that used to sell toys just stopped selling action lines very promptly overnight namely WH Smiths and Boots. They did dip a toe back in that market in more recent times but A lot of the sort of place someone can buy toys have now gone (Woolworths is much missed) and Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsburys are best described as patchy.
Nice to see they call them a "Special Team" as I do try to encourage that Hasbro term's use when so many like to use Takara's "Scramble City" term instead.
Argos was certainly an important supplier for 1980's toy buyers also Toymaster (and independent toystores and department stores toy departments many that are now gone) as ToysRUs had not opened in the UK in 1985 I would also think a lot of people who got Optimus prime would have got one from a Mail order catalogue like Littlewoods/Kays/Gratten's as Optimus was hard to find and that might have been a primary source for that toy or for any larger items. later in the 1980's bigger woolworths stores latched onto the brand and that became an important source and ToysRUs was open in the UK by the tail end of the original brand so that was a help too.
2/2.....there was was some line differences in the UK - no Swoop for example and the only Blasters in the UK were imported from Greece or elsewhere. and Fortress Maximas was only sold in tiny numbers mainly in Harrods... but that was handled by Hasbro UK and not imported directly.
I can't say I'd noticed anything specifically missing from Argos listings previously - but now you mention it the way they sell their toys now in 2013 on an idividual basis is a bit patchy too - they don't usually sell Bulkhead for example (except under the old generic code) that suggests they can order things by character as well as by case. - shame they didn't have the sense to sell Skyquake and I have never heard of them selling Dreadwing either.
1/2 It's possible that the items were offered in per character refresh cases after the original release in 2's and 3rs or they simply passed the order limit that allows them to order what you like - Walmart or Target can order individual characters by the case in America for the same reason if they wanted too. It's also possible that they bought them off a middleman and they split them up into by character cases. Argos at that time may have been part of a mail order catalogue group too who also may have wanted to order things as an individual listing.
If they had a listing for Autobot Headmasters ( I can't seem to find the page scan online so I don't recall if they did that or not) They would have likely had what ever they were given - if they had listings that excluded Hosehead or Siren They may have seen what was offered at Toyfair or in special meetings and offered them on an individual basis ; ....
Well they did "Technically" come out Hamleys in London got some but the rumour is that they may have been samples and Hasbro UK never had the stock for very long. Ultimately they ended up in places like Germany and Belgium.
Some people claim similar trouble with Actionmaster assortment 4 but they did come out in Toymaster stores and were a bit more common than the Elites which were bordering on the impossible to get in the UK.
I guess there must have been some about possible in other places as I cant imagine otherwise why they do from time to time show up in car boot sale finds as it's not like someone is very likely to have got them in Germany I'd think.
it's a pain trying to track down the more obscure things I still can't find a Mexican Demolishor McDonalds toy for example.
There is such a thing as Blind Pick orders so that is quite possible if it was Hasbro or a clearance importer who had them they could have arrived that way, I think you said you could find no record of those items being part of the 90's Chinese re-releases.
But as I said there's definitely cases of importers handling Transformers through the 90's in odd packaging I.e. Colossus or Spark being sold instead of Clench and Pyro. I also remember that American AquaSpeeders and Rollerforce were out here too.
I don't know where those Thundercats ended up - they appear in lots of adverts in Model mart etc magazines in the 1990's That said I used to have a big local Poundstretcher and they had that Thunder-claw vehicle so you could be right.
So I have no specific knowledge in that case though about that store.
I also remembered that around the time you mentioned a few MASK & Rocklords and even some DX Gobots (Machine Robo DX) toys showed up in clearance stores much later than the original release - perhaps the possible explanation is that they were as you say "End of Line" things if G1 was replaced by G2 or G2 had finished then people might have been clearancing and clearing out those what they would have seen as "Dead Brands".
Sometimes if a store closes or has a spring clean they find things that they forgot they had (this happens a lot in TRU I notice).
I can't say I've heard any specific references to 1986 toys showing up in the 90's but I do understand Ultra Magnus and Rodimus did hang around quite a number of years but I don't think it would have been 5 years.
Hasbro UK used to offer the older items as items you could still order sometimes 2 or 3 years after they 1st came out and even put them in the catalogues still but again I don't think it was that long.
The only Ultra Magnus related story I can think of is Boots (when they used to sell more toys) and a mostly dead store called Martains the newsagents used to sell that Ultra Magnus with the plastic wheels and unpainted face some months after the original version had left stock. so it's possible that Cheap American reissue versions of Rodimus and Ultra Magnus with plastic wheels might have shown up later. but I have no specific word of that. and the UK might not have even got many rubber wheeled Rodimus anyway.
Such things usually come from a few potential sources.
1. They are Warehouse finds from Hasbro themselves
2. They are dead stock from America or Canada or Australia re-imported to the UK by either Hasbro personally or by a gray importer like Kingsley Paige (also known as United Overseas) or MBC Ltd.
3. There are other ways things come in now that probably didn't happen in the 1980/1990's
As to the specifics I know of lots of G2 oddities in European packaging that came in post G2 lots of that was from places like Italy pretty much all of that came via grey imports as they all have import stickers on them. It's possible that as also happened with Thundercats some of that had been sitting in a middleman warehouse in Europe somewhere until someone found it. (someone found 12,000 Thundercats figures in a German Warehouse in the 90's).