Apparently having two concurrent Transformers toylines wasn't enough for Hasbro - in addition to Generations and the nameless movie line, they also have the gimmick-driven Power Core Combiners.
Stolen by Decepticon spies, Power Core Combination gives the evil robots a powerful edge. Those who have the power of combination are a dangerous threat to the Autobots and Earth!
The PCC two-packs pair a Scout Class TF with a Mini-Con partner. The larger "Commander" figure can also be used as the torso for a super-robot. The Autobots have a different marketing blurb, all about how they somehow rediscovered the lost technology here on Earth.
Crankcase didn't start off as a bully. He started off bitter, mean and small-minded, and the strength granted by the Power Core process made him capable of taking his misery out on others. His few moments of happiness all occur when he uses his incredible might against someone unable to fight back. Then he's right back to being miserable.
Crankcase is sold in one of the large five-packs, but it turns out he's just a repaint from one of the two-packs. He used to be Huffer, demonstrating how easily the Commanders switch from interacting with one Mini-Con to interacting with four.
The robot's design is actually pretty nice, giving us a decent figure even divorced from his gimmicks and Huffer's G1-homaging colorscheme. His upper arms are tubular, but the forearms and hands are detailed more like the movie figures, with individual fingers and distinct (sculpted) joints. He has some kibble on his shoulders, and visible tires on his chest and legs, but the distribution is pleasing. His design is slightly angular, but not to the point that he looks sharp - it just keeps him from looking like a cube.
Crankcase is done in Scourge/Nemesis Prime colors - black and gray, with some blue highlights. His visor is the only spot of red to be seen. He has 15 points of articulation: hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, balljointed/hinge elbows, balljointed shoulders and balljointed head. There's a Powerlinx Port on his right arm, and another folds out of his chest.
Converting Crankcase is as
easy as you'd expect, given his small size. In fact, the only thing that even comes close to "not simple" is making sure you get the lower arms turned around the proper direction before folding them away.
His altmode is a semi truck, 4" long, 1¾" wide and 1¾" tall. Again, it's black and gray, with metallic blue windows and patterns on the hood and back end. No red in this mode, though.
The truck has a very intimidating design. The front grill seems to have reinforced bars around it, there are ladders leading to the doors, and the lights sculpted on the roof end up looking like horns. "Devil" horns, not "honking" horns. The rear of the truck is smoother, with rounded fenders and a big blocky thing that might be a tool box, if you want to pretend it so. The Powerlinx port ends up back here, as well.
Unlike Huffer, Crankcase is part of a Power Core Combiners five-pack, so instead of a transforming Mini-Con with a name and a personality, he comes five five drones. His crew are called
the Destrons (which is what the Decepticons have always been known as in Japan), and like their boss, they comprise repaints: two from the Aerialbots, two from the Combaticons.
The Destrons aren't really Transformers: oh, they have the name, but they don't turn into anything. When you plug them onto Crankcase (or any other PCC Commander, but we're trying to stay on-topic, here) they automorph into an arm or leg. And yes, it's always only an arm or a leg: though they can be swapped left-to-right, an arm will always be an arm, and a leg will always be a leg. It's just a consequence of the design.
Crankcase's Destrons include a mobile missile launcher (right arm), a spy plane (left arm), an attack helicopter (right leg) and a jeep (left leg). They've been painted in complementary colors, to help make the big guy look coherant when they're attached. The missile launcher and jeep look best, since they're the darkest, while the powder blue plane is the weak link of the bunch.
There isn't a huge change between Crankcase's robot mode and his torso mode - it's mostly just a question of spreading the legs and rolling up the arms. He gets a new, larger head, with a silver face and blue light-piped eyes. Red may have worked better: not only would it tie back in with the smaller head, it would have helped him not look like a dead body (remember, Transformers go grayscale after death).
Power Core Combiners don't officially tie into any specific continuity - not even their own, since there's no comic or cartoon to go along with them. The five-packs retail for about $20 (and since it's currently Giftsmastime, are on sale everywhere for $15), but on Black Friday, you could get them at Target for $10.
At $20, this would be a terrible toy. At $15, it's... okay. But for $10, he's not bad. If you want any PCC five-packs, get them now before the price goes back up, because the fact of the matter is, Power Core Combiners cost too much and offer too little. A Scout Class figure isn't worth $10, and four half-assed drones definitely don't cause that value to double. At the sale price, I don't regret giving these a try, but I doubt I'll be getting any more.