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Transformers: Alternators
by yo go re

In order to maximize their profit on the Alternators line, Hasbro reuses the molds for different characters. Hell, two of the first ones they ever released were both based on the Subaru Impreza. At least now they spread it out a little more. Sometimes the re-used bodies make sense, and sometimes they just throw a new head on an old character and call it new. So which category does Wheeljack fall into? Decide for yourself.

As well as the Ark fashioned the Autobots, Wheeljack Wheeljack is always coming up with ways to improve them, particularly their weaponry. His knack for creating wild new gadgets has earned him a "mad scientist" reputation and their deadly effectiveness has earned him the respect of friends and enemies alike. He is also the Autobot most adept at driving while in his automobile mode and has pulled off tricks that Hollywood stunt drivers haven't even dreamed of yet. He fully enjoys showing off when the opportunity presents itself. Wheeljack is his own worst enemy. He frequently injures himself while experimenting with new weaponry.

Back in Generation 1, Wheeljack was a sleek racing car - the sleekest, in fact. Like most of the early Transformers, he was based on a specific vehicle; the fake thing this one was actually Lancia's race-tuned Stratos, which was sponsored by Alitalia and won the World Rally Championship of 1975 (among many other prestigious trophies). Designed primarily for racing situations, the Lancia was never really intended for daily driving, which is why the cabin was so cramped. As the point of the Alternators line really is "robots in disguise," Hasbro has licensed the car designs from the manufacturers, re-creating specific cars with uncanny detail.

Alternators Wheeljack may not be a race car, but he's still got some muscle. Just like Grimlock, the real thing the first Alternator to use this body, Wheeljack is a Ford Mustang - a street-tuned GT, to be specific. The Mustang's distinctive squarish profile is recreated perfectly when Wheeljack is in vehicle mode, and he's painted with the dual stripes made famous by racing legend Carroll Shelby. He's even in the classic colors: the white body with blue stripes first seen on the GT350 in 1965. he may not match the red and green of the original Wheeljack, but he still looks damn good.

Even the interior of the car is detailed. needs color The dashboard has all the readouts and gauges of a real vehicle, a glove compartment on the passenger side, a gearshift and crazy, angled parking brake, adjustable seats and a moving steering wheel. The hood, trunk and both doors open. This really is a terrific 1/24 scale model of the Mustang. But this is a Transformer, so we're not finished yet.

The figure's transformation bears no relation to the G1 version, G1 Wheeljack but that's what happens when you reuse the bodies. Despite that, you can find a few subtle visual nods that were probably entirely unintentional: the doors hanging off his shoulders look like Old Wheeljack's crazy wings, and the way the rear window becomes his legs looks vaguely similar to the way the old car's hood looked when it served the same function. The head is the real selling point, even though the ear flaps are smaller than you might expect. Getting the arms out of the engine has to be the most frustrating part of the process, because the doors just want to keep popping off. There's one major bit of kibble in robot form: the underbody of the car doesn't go anywhere, so Wheeljack is left with a giant buttplate. Once transformed, Wheeljack is 7 1/2" tall.

Though Wheeljack doesn't really look like he used to, one gun, one sword, two useless accessories he does have plenty of articulation. Ignoring all the joints that just exist to facilitate the transformation, he moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, waist, hips, knees and ankles. The Mustang's engine becomes Wheeljack's gun and, in a holdover from his prior existence as Grimlock, he's got a sword stored in place of the drive shaft. Neither weapon is too terribly impressive, but at least the sword can stay locked away - it doesn't make sense for the character, so you don't need to use it. The gun did bear at least a slight resemblence to G1 Grimlock's sidearm, but the old Wheeljack was armed only with rocket launchers on his shoulders.

The Alternators line was originally supposed to comprise only ten figures, released one per month. Fortunately, we're way beyond those parameters now, and as long as Hasbro and Takara keep coming up with good toys, I think fans can forgive a re-used body every now and then.

Do you approve of Hasbro doubling up on the car models? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.


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