The first Unicron Trilogy Optimus Prime toy transforms into a longnose truck cab of made-up model. His clear-plastic smokestacks can detach and form a double-barrelled pistol that he can hold in robot mode, and a button on top of his head causes his mouthplate to jiggle up and down as if he were talking (the irony being that while this was a familiar trait of G1 cartoon Optimus Prime, in the Armada animated series, this Prime's mouthplate remained static when he talked). He can also hold a large cannon that is stored within his trailer, and his chest flips down to reveal a (non-removable) Matrix of Leadership. He is packaged with his Mini-Con partner Sparkplug.
The first generation Optimus Prime transforms into a Freightliner FL86 cab over semi truck. Within his chest is a mystic talisman, known as the Autobot Matrix of Leadership or the "Creation Matrix", carried by all Autobot leaders. When Optimus transforms, his tractor cab disconnects to become a sentient robot, and his trailer opens to reveal an ion blaster, forming a combat deck. The combat deck supports a mobile battle-station and command headquarters armed with assorted artillery and beam weapons that fire automatically. The combat deck can also serve as a radio antenna for battlefield communications between the autobots. The combat deck also included "Roller", a mobile scout buggy meant to scout behind enemy lines. When Roller is deployed, Optimus can see and hear what Roller sees and hears. Injury to one component is felt by each of the others. If the combat deck or Roller were to be destroyed, Prime could survive. However, despite the slight degree of autonomy they possess, the combat deck and Roller would not be able to survive without Optimus.
Optimus Prime appears as leader of the Autobot forces in the Transformers: Timelines story "Shattered Glass" by Fun Publications. When Cliffjumper, the Generation 1 character from a parallel universe, is seemingly discovered alive, Optimus welcomes his old friend back to the Autobot fold. After learning that Clffjumper is not the evil Autobot he remembers, he shoots Cliffjumper and leaves him to fend for himself in the Rad Zone. Optimus plans to launch his new warship, the Ark, to conquer Earth, but Cliffjumper aids Megatron's heroic Decepticon forces in a successful attack on the Ark's launch platform.
Originally, Optimus Prime was created as the leader of the Autobots, though it is unknown how he was created or his origins. In a possible future, Megatron was threatened by the existence of the Aerialbots and had Shockwave build a time machine to send them back in time to get rid of them. However, he only ended up changing history for the better. In the revised timeline, Optimus Prime began his life as a robot named Orion Pax, a mostly defenseless dock worker during the Golden Age of Cybertron nine million years ago, with a girlfriend named Ariel and a best friend named Dion. During this time, a new breed of robot with new flight capabilities appeared on the planet that Orion idolized. When Megatron, the leader of the new group of robots, approached him with inquiries about using one of the dock warehouses, Orion was swayed by Megatron. Both Orion and Ariel were severely wounded when Megatron and his forces attacked in order to claim the energy stored there. Searching for someone to help them, the time-displaced Aerialbots took Orion and Ariel to the ancient Autobot, Alpha Trion, who used them as the first subjects for the new reconstruction process he had developed involving rebuilding the frail Autobot frames into more battle-hardy configurations.