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Transformers: Energon
by yo go re

In Generation 1, the character Wheeljack was a white Autobot race car who had a distinctively different head. And that was the only way the name was ever used, for nearly two decades. In 2003, a "Wheeljack" was introduced to the Energon line, and since that show was so fond of G1 homages, you can probably guess what he looked like. Yep, that's right, a black and yellow supercar with Sideswipe's head. Wait, what?

Downshift is a fast and courageous young Autobot. Downshift He relies on speed rather than strength to get him out of tight spots when battling the Decepticons. Although he is considered a good soldier by Optimus Prime and Hot Shot, he has been warned about rushing into battle without a solid plan of attack. Hot Shot, especially, can relate to this headstrong young Autobot and has vowed to mold him into a mature and seasoned warrior.

So Energon had a Wheeljack, and also had a stripey white car, but they were two different characters? What was going on over at Hasbro? Were they having a contest to see who could sow the most confusion among the fandom? If you're a Wheeljack fan who cares more about looks than names, then Downshift is the figure you want.

Downshift is, as we mentioned, a white car. The G1 version had racing logos all over, since he was based on a real race car, but this one isn't. It's not even a real car at all, but is rather one of those "almost but not quite" designs that keep Hasbro from having to pay licensing fees. It's a sleek car, with a long, blocky nose vrooma-zoom-zoom! and a very low-set passenger cabin. The windows and headlights are translucent red - and you thought tinted windows would get the cops on your case!

The car is 5½" long, 3" wide and only 1¾" tall. The plastic wheels all roll freely, and translucent red "Energon weapons" can plug into ports on the car's sides (or even "hide" as exhaust pipes). The car is mostly white, with red and green stripes that don't even come close to duplicating the G1 pattern. But that's fine; just having the stripes on the white body is enough of a nod.

Transformation isn't bad, double-gun but getting it started is a bit tough. Open the gull-wing doors, bend down the running boards, fold the roof over the hood, pull the rear wheel wells to the sides to form arms, drop the rear window, split the front half of the car to form legs, and fold his feet out of the shins. The car's rear spoiler can detach and fit in the figure's hand with the Energon weapons attached. He stands 5½" tall and moves at the head, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles.

Downshift's robot I'm slightly more homage-y! mode has quite a few references to Wheeljack's design. There's the head, of course, with its goofy little ear-wings, even though they're ridiculously small - smaller even than the Alternator version's. His chest is sculpted to resemble the roof and windshield of a car, and even his feet have some of the same small details. If that's not enough, you can also mount his guns on his shoulders and use the spoiler to simulate his wings.

The robot's proportions are kind of screwy - tiny head, huge legs, odd arms - If Combiners can be equated to robot sex, would this be masturbation? which is endemic of the Energon line. The line's gimmick involved the "Powerlinx" system, in which pretty much any robot could combine with any other, either as the upper or lower body. Downshift is one of the few 'bots who look good both as legs and as arms, so take your pick, there. Or buy two and Powerlinx him to himself for what has to be one of the strangest bits of self-appreciation in Transfandom.

Downshift was apparently a bit hard to find when he was first released. He came out when the Energon line was switching packaging styles, so after his first brief appearance on store shelves, fans had to wait for later assortments to arrive. Still, he was eventually more plentiful, and was even re-released (with minimal changes) as a KB Toys exclusive that you can still find in some stores today. Even if Hasbro couldn't call him Wheeljack, this homage is a decent toy - and even better, he'll blend nicely with your Classics collection, where nobody will question his name at all.


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