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Road Hauler

Transformers Legacy
by yo go re

Okay, apparently not everyone attending the Speedia 500 is there to win: looks like some are there to actually work the race.

Road Hauler has his towline at the ready to haul away wrecked racers.

Unless that's saying he's planning to race and drag disabled competitors behind him? Brother, if you can win like that, you deserve to! The Japanese release has similar info, but a little more in-depth:

Although he is mainly responsible for the maintenance of the race course, such as removing broken cars and lifting cars that interfere with the race, he boasts that he is ready to participate in the main race at any time.

Road Hauler is an industrial crane truck, a repaint of Grapple from the Earthrise line. With the character and design tracing its origins all the way back to the Diaclone "Crane" toy, the vehicle has a very blocky frame, with a rectangular profile and harsh corners. The surface is sculpted with lots of small details to make this look like a functioning piece of equipment - access panels, hydraulics, etc. - and there are non-functional support feet molded on the sides. All six wheels rolls, and the crane arm can lift, rotate, and extend; the hook at the end even swivels down a bit.

Despite the Autobot symbol on the front of the truck, Road Hauler is done in Constructicon green, with black details and a few yellow hazard stripes around the crane part. There's an interesting bit of history behind why.

In the first episode of the Transformers cartoon, there's a single scene where a yellow crane (identical to the 1985 character "Grapple") appears with some other Autobots. He never transforms or speaks himself, but is referred to as "Hauler" by Cliffjumper. Presumably Hasbro was planning to release their version of Diaclone Crane in 1984, but changed their minds (and the character's name) for some reason, and didn't bother to remove that single quick appearance from the show.

In 2003, one of the Generation 1 commemorative reissues being released was Inferno, a character who shared a mold with Grapple. Since the molds were available, Japanese online retailer e-Hobby took the opportunity to make a redeco. Looking for characters he could be, they learned about "Hauler's" brief pre-Grapple history and went with that. But since Hauler's colors were identical to Grapple's, that wouldn't have been much of an exclusive: however, a scene in Season 3's "Five Faces of Darkness, Part 4" showed a group of eight Constructicons instead of just six, so e-Hobby repainted Grapple neon green and had Hirofumi Ichikawa write a bio that explained the new character's absense (and his change of colors):

Millions of years ago, Hauler was a member of the construction team for the Cybertronian metropolis of Crystal City. After losing his teammates in an attack by Megatron, he became an Autobot. Since awakening on Earth with Optimus Prime and the others, he has taken full-time to his original purpose of securing energy resources, for which he now travels throughout the world. A highly capricious self-expressionist, he frequently changes or restores his coloration and optional equipment.

Although he was called "Hauler" on the cartoon, e-Hobby chose to name their new character ロードホーラー (Rōdohōrā). This led to some confusion over his name in English, since R and L are the same sound, meaning it could be Romanized as either "Load Hauler" or "Road Hauler," both of which make the same amount of sense as a name. (Also as "Lord Horror," which doesn't make as much sense for an Autobot.) When e-Hobby used English on their website, however, it was RoadHauler, so now "Load Hauler" is just a nickname some other characters call him. Weirdly, this isn't the only time an Autobot recolored as a Construction has had name issues like this!

Road Hauler is fairly easy to convert. I never had the G1 Grapple or Inferno, but this looks like it would be almost identical to those: the cab of the truck becomes the chest, the arms fold out of the middle, the rear of the truck becomes the feet, and the crane attachment rises up to become the head. Simple! But still fun. This toy gets a different head than the one(s) it's repainted from, with the mouth open and shouting. Why? Probably because it was designed at some point and cut into the steel tool, so it would be silly not to use it; and if you worry such an expresssive face is going to annoy the fans, best to use it on a variant most won't be able to get.

The robot mode isn't as blocky as the G1 toy, because modern figures try to take influence from the softened animation designs as well - more angles than perfectly perpendicular lines, you know? The bot remains green, with more black visible in this mode, but you know what's missing? Purple. Constructicons aren't green, they're green and purple; where's his purple? His translucent truck windows are blue, so why not shift the color of that plastic down the spectrum a little and bring in the secondary color that way?

Back in the day, Grapple and Inferno had a feature where their hands could be replaced with launchable missiles, but that barely made it to the US releases. Both characters' animation models were based on photos of the toy with one hand replaced by a missile, which the animators took to be a permanent "nozzle" in place of one hand, a la Shockwave. This mold includes that piece, as well as a four-pronged claw (which Grappel used once in Season 2) and a large black rifle. Either the nozzle or claw can fit into either wrist, allowing you to determine what loadout you want your Road Hauler to have, and all the accessories can be stored in vehicle mode.

The articulation is good. The robot has rocker ankles, hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, swivel waist, hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a swivel neck. It's a little tough to move the head, since it's inside a "box" just as it was back in the '80s. Which does kind of ruin the effort of making the eyes light-piped, but so it goes.

Road Hauler is an interesting character... or at least a character with an interesting history. He was born of two animation errors and has never had a toy outside of Japan before. If you have Earthrise Grapple (or Kingdom Inferno), you don't really need Legacy Road Hauler, but as a part of this Walmart-exclusive line, he's a great inclusion and a lot of fun to play with.

-- 09/06/22

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