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Transformers Classics
by yo go re

A lot of the G1 Transformers look nothing at all like their animation models. The worst offender in this regard may well have been Ironhide, who, other than being red, had almost zero connection between tv and toy. There have been several attempts to rectify that over the years, but none of them worked anywhere near as well as the new Classics version.

Ironhide was built at a time when armor was thick, and circuitry was simple. He is the oldest of the Autobots, tested in thousands of battles, over countless centuries. He has been injured many times, but never deactivated. For every scratch and scar that he bears he has a tale to tell, and most of the younger Autobots are all too eager to hear them. Gruff, and sometimes grumpy, he is also naturally protective of the other Autobots. He is tough, rough, and nearly impossible to damage.

The problem with Irondie's robot mode was that his toy was originally part of the Diaclone line - none of the robots in that line were meant to be autonomous robotic organisms, but were instead large piloted mecha, so Ironhide (and his mold-mate, Ratchet) didn't have a head: instead, he had a driver's seat under glass on his shoulders. That really screwed things up. Plus, half his vehicle mode wasn't even included in the robot, instead forming some kind of treaded battle sled. Seriously, if not for the name on the box, you never would have known who the toy was meant to be. Such was te burden we lived under as kids.

The original Ironhide was a Nissan Vanette, but for Classics 2.0, he's been updated into an unspecified SUV. That's SUV, not S.U.V. The car is nearly 5½" long, 2" wide and 2¼" tall, and decently detailed from the brush guard in front of the grill to the Oregon license plate on the back. So that part, at least, is well done.

Unfortunately, the vehicle mode is one of Ironhide's biggest weak points. To begin with, the blue paint Hasbro chose for the sunroof and rear side windows is much lighter than the translucent blue plastic used for the headlights, windshield and back window. It's not even close to matching. Additionally, the physical construction of the toy means that there are blatantly visible seams breaking up the entire side profile of the vehicle, making for a truly ugly toy. And that's to say nothing of the unpainted hubcaps, which were meant to be silver, not black.

Ironhide's conversion is very tough, as well, even when you're following the instructions. No matter which direction you're going, getting all the pieces to fit together properly is remarkably difficult. On top of that, there's just some plain old bad engineering, which means that the toy physically cannot function the way it was intended. It's (mostly) fixable, and we have some easy instructions you can follow if you want to. But this review assumes an unmodified figure, since that's what most people will have.

In robot mode, Ironhide stands 5¾" tall, counting the big panel behind his head. He's sizeable and bulky, as he should be, so he definitely looks strong. The SUV's rear window does a very nice job of recalling the van's windshield on Ironhide's chest, thanks in no small part to a clever gimmick in which a technological panel with the Autobot symbol in the center slides up into place. He's got a lot of kibble on his back, but at least it rides up high behind his shoulders, so it doesn't look too terrible.

This Ironhide actually gets the head the original always lacked. This version is a good approximation of the animated design, with a rounded "helmet" and a central crest. The face is painted the same light blue as the messed-up windows, although apparently it, like the hubcaps, was meant to be silver. Hasbro said a running change would correct the mistake, but don't hold your breath. Of course, due to the aforementioned engineering problems, the head doesn't rise high enough out of the chest, so Ironhide is always looking down.

Ironhide's only accessory is a big mechanical sleeve that contains both a Gatling gun and a translucent blue blade. One weapon pops out of each end, and the other can plug onto his wrist. If you really work at it, you can even get his hand inside the piece, rather than just folded out of the way.

So, final analysis? Ironhide's vehicle mode is lacking, changing him is a pain, and unless you're willing to do some extensive after-market modifications, his robot mode is hamstrung by careless design. Despite all that, I still really like him, and plan to get the inevitable Ratchet repaint. Why? I don't know. Ironhide isn't a bad toy - in fact, he's quite close to being very good - but it does take a lot of aftermarket mods to bring out his best.

-- 04/07/09

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