This piece belongs to the unprdouced line of Double Pretenders, which might be the second series of small pretenders. These Pretenders would carry I believe two robots rather than one. It also could have ranged from one robot and a vehicle, or just a two robots. So far only 3 types of Double Pretenders have surfaced. A Human in Lion Armor, a 4-Armed Monster, and a Armored Gorilla.
This prototype is not made of resin, or plastic. It is the original sculpt made from foam and later handpainted. The piece is EXTREMELY Fragile and since Botcon 96' it has had quite a few repairs. The right fist has always been missing. It is probable that it was sculpted in Japan and sent over to Hasbro to show the new line product. I dunno.
It is still unknown when these guys were intended to be produced (88', 89', 90'?). Some evidence does support that they were supposed to be 88' or 89' based on one of them appears on the instruction artwork for a Pretender Groundbreaker. It is possible this piece was a original prototype for the second series pretenders.
This Autobot in Lion Armor is a Double Pretender from a unproduced Pretenders line. Now it is also possible that this figure was the original prototype idea for the 2nd Series pretenders. So odds are it's a unproduced double pretender that the idea was later taken and used for the regular 2nd series. We state that this figure was close to production because artwork of this unproduced Double Pretender(?) appears on the produced Pretender Grounbreaker's Instructions. But what really makes a mess is that fact there size is small, like the smaller pretenders. So far it's all speculation.
Now if you think about it, these two Transformers look extremely close. But Groundbreaker is larger and more bulkier, but the idea and the animal suit is still there. Then you can look at teh shoulders, knees, belt...it's the exact piece. When examining the artwork on the front of the Instructions, you can see it is the prototype Double Pretender (?).
We have no real idea of what happened. It is possible that the Double Pretender were supposed to be produced, but were scratched for a regular normal 2nd series of Pretenders. But the idea of the Animal Suited armor continued. So Groundbreaker in fact could be the Version 2 of this Double Pretender. No one knows for sure and only time will tell.
So far only one of these Autobot Double Pretender in Lion Armor has been found. Though every other Double Pretender has had two versions of itself surface, we are unsure if this guy has a Version 2.