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Wheeljack

Transformers Generations
by yo go re

We all have rules when it comes to our collections; for instance, "don't double-dip on Transformers molds." But I already broke that rule once for Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, and broke it again for Punch/Counterpunch, so apparently my standards are pretty loose. And now here we go one more time.

Wheeljack is a brilliant risk taker, both in his lab and on the road. His inventions are both the cause of and solution to many problems as he pushes the boundaries of science and engineering in his quest for the next big thing. Due to the daring nature of his experiments, his lab needs to remain isolated - mostly because it blows up on a regular basis.

Wheeljack is a retooling of Tracks, so he turns into a very sleek car, but also a very imaginary car. Tracks' made-up vehicle mode was closer to the G1 Corvette Stingray than Wheeljack's made-up mode is to the Lancia Stratos. Still, the new pieces he gets - a small spoiler in the back, and a large scoop under the front end - help him look more like a racecar than something you'd see on the street.

What makes this unmistakably Wheeljack is the paint scheme. The body of the car is white, with green and red stripes over the hood, roof and doors. The windshield and side windows are translucent plastic, but the rear window is only painted - unusually, they managed to match the colors pretty well, so it doesn't look out of place (the way such mixing of paint and plastic often does). Nice work!

Wheeljack's conversion is basically the same as Tracks' but it's not identical. That causes a bit of a problem, because the designers only changed the instrustions so much. The line drawings no longer have Tracks' head, but they do show the legs extending farther than they do on the toy. Whatever you do, don't try to pull the legs out as far as the instructions make it look like you should: they're not intended to go that far, and you might end up with a broken Wheeljack.

The original Wheeljack toy was a bit stumpy himself, so the short legs actually work out okay. He's got a lot more car kibble than robot parts in this mode, but that's true to the old figure as well. He has a new head, with the familiar earflaps, and rather than a simple flat mouthplate, he has a layered, banded look.

But that's not the only change: the fold-out tips of his wings are a different design from Tracks', as well; while those were obviously meant to evoke wings (for the flying car mode), Wheeljack's are squared off and mechanical. The "body" of the wings are painted silver, as well, to further set them apart from the previous figure. The car's exhaust pipes (which on Tracks were clearly sculpted as missiles) become handheld wrenches - befitting Wheeljack's status as the Autobots' inventor - and he gets a missile mounted on his right shoulder.

When word came out that Hasbro was reworking Tracks into Wheeljack, we were skeptical - other than sharing wings and having the roof of the car on their chests, they're really not that similar. But through clever design work, Hasbro found a way to make Wheeljack work. It probably helps that behind the scenes, this body was designed for Wheeljack and was planned to be repainted into Tracks - they just happened to be released in the opposite order. I was perfectly happy using Downshift as my "Classics" Wheeljack, but this one is awesome, too.

-- 11/15/11


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