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by yo go re

Man, we spend three months not reviewing Transformers (or more accurately, reviewing not-Transformers), and the way we dive back in to the real stuff is with a Transformer most people will never see? That hardly seems fair!

In mid-2007, stolen factory samples of this toy showed up on Asian toy sites. The instruction booklets were in English, and the logo on it matched the 2003-2006 Universe line. It was just polybagged, not carded or boxed, so the general assessment was that it was an exclusive of some kind - but nobody knew for what or where. There were rumors that it was meant to be a giveaway for buying a real-life Chevy Aveo, or that it was only available in China, but there was never any confirmation of that.

Then, on March 25, 2008, Chevy's website briefly listed the toy as a "speial featured item," albeit only available from Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. It was listed for €12.80 ($19.95 US), but according to TF Wiki, US fans who ordered it were hit with an additional $150 in shipping and handling fees. Yow! For two weeks in the summer of 2009, mall displays in Ontario, Canada, offered the toy as an incentive prize to get people to enter a raffle for a Camero, but the numbers were extremely limited.

The toy's altmode is a Chevy Aveo. A fully licensed, 100% legal Chevy Aveo. The Aveo is a subcompact car manufactured since 2002, and also sold as the Daewoo Gentra, the Pontiac G3 Wave, the Suzuki Swift+ and the Chevrolet Sonic - it's that last one that might be most familiar, as the car that can kickflip, skydive and bungee jump, and also from one of the super-gimmicky videos OK Go makes to keep people from noticing how thoroughly mediocre and forgettable their actual music is. This is the sedan version, meaning it has four doors and a trunk, rather than two doors and a hatchback. The Chevy bowtie is present on the front grill and the trunk.

The car measures 5⅜" long, 2⅛" wide and nearly 2" tall. The entire body is red, which does nothing to help the Autobot logo in the hood stand out clearly. The windows and headlights are translucent blue plastic, the hubcaps and grill are painted silver, and Chevy logos are gold. The taillights are just painted on, but that's better than leaving them the bare red plastic, right? Even the door handles get silver apps. All four wheels roll, but the doors don't open.

Naturally, since this is a barely-acknwledged-to-exist release, Hasbro doesn't have the instructions on its website. Lucky for us, it's easy to switch! Pull the back half of the car down; split it in half to form legs; rotate the trunk area 180°; fold the rear doors around and plug them into the sides of the legs, then raise the feet into position; pull the doors and roof-halves out to the sides; fold the hood down to reveal the robot's head; straighten the arms; rotate the roof sections 180°; turn the waist around and you're done.

This figure has no biographical information, but he is identified as Swerve - and since that's a name that's been used since Generation 1, we can guess what he's probably like: a genius metallurgist, but a terrible driver. His mind wanders, and consequently, so does he - all over the road (thus the name). This deficiency continues into robot mode, where he's an absolutely terrible shot, to the point where the other Autobots would rather not even give him a gun, for fear they'll be shot themselves.

Swerve's head is based on the Autobot symbol, but it's done in the weirdest way possible. Rather than just looking like the symbol (the way Prowl does), he's got flares sweeping back on his temples, a weirdly technological "chin bump" instead of a mouth, and since he has a lightpiped eyeslit, the Autobot logo's eyes are sculpted and painted on his cheeks. What the great buggering hell is that about?

Despite the fully licensed altmode, Swerve's design aesthetic is much more like Classics than the movie toys: he's a solid, blocky robot, not a wiry jumble of gears and shards. He doesn't have any accessories (probably to keep the costs down, but it fits with his personality), but he does have balljointed neck, shoulders and hips, hinged elbows, hips and ankles, and a swivel waist. There are rocker joints in the ankles as well, but they tip the ankles toward the outside, not the center. That's not helpful!

At Botcon 2008, Hasbro finally spilled the beans on Chevrolet Swerve. General Motors commissioned it and Hasbro produced it at cost, as a "thank you" for their successful partnership. It was indeed intended to be given away in European markets with the test drive of an Aveo (whether this ever actually happened or not is unknown). The toy can only be sold by GM itself - if Hasbro wanted to use the mold, they'd have to pay for the rights. Which would be silly, because while the design is decent, it's not so great that everyone needs to own one. Swerve is blocky and simple, with a design barely one step above one of those "Transmorphobots" you'd find for $5 at the drug store.

This isn't the rarest toy I own, nor is it the most expensive. It wasn't even the hardest to get. But it definitely has one of the weirdest backstories, making it an awesome conversation piece.

-- 08/20/13

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