You could say he’s forward-compatible with Mini-Cons.

As part of last week’s Mini-Con article I broke out Fire Prime, the Optimus Prime version of Car Robot’s Fire Convoy. While “Robots In Disguise” probably fits the new toyline better, it’s confusing to have two toylines and a comic called Robots In Disguise that are so disconnected to each other. To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to the original RID line as RID1, and this take on Optimus Prime as Fire Prime, since this is the US toy and thus not Fire Convoy. It’s why I call this guy Fire Prime in my collection to begin with.

Car Robots was not intended to be a toyline and cartoon outside of Japan. It was a filler line as they waited for Beast Machines to gain enough episodes to properly promote the line. For a time you could only get Fire Convoy at Japanese import stores, and I really wanted to get him, at the height of my Transformer collecting, but the price was way too high, and I had bought Japanese Transformers in the past. I think he went for $80, but you have to factor in not only import prices from Japan but bringing them across the country to Connecticut and that the store needed to make a profit.

And it’s a good think I passed. The next intended Transformers toyline from Hasbro was dropped for whatever reason and Car Robot, redubbed Robots In Disguise, was given a US release to take its place before the next intended US line, which turned out to be Transformers Armada, where the Mini-Cons came from. So let’s take a look at Fire Prime to see if he is worth to be a Prime. Click on the images for a larger view of each mode, because he has quite a few.

I wonder if they ever stop in the drive-thru at McDonalds after a fire?

Not surprising given his Japanese name, but Fire Prime is a fire truck. A fire truck with a big robot head under his ladder which has built-in missile launchers, but we’ll come back to that. Otherwise it’s not a bad fire truck. While there have been better ones in the hook-and-ladder variety this is still pretty cool. The sirens go off when you press the button on top of the cab…and it is very loud! I do not keep the batteries in this one. It also looks like humans could use this thing. The paint is pretty good. Headlights and sections of the rear end are painted. The ladder to the big ladder is cast in white while the control chair for the big ladder is appears to be cast in black, and this is the only size scale issue. How big is this ladder supposed to be? Granted I’ve only seen American ladder trucks so maybe Japan makes theirs bigger?

The Japanese that only appears on the left cab door is a relic from the original line but on both sides of the truck you’ll see a tampographed Autobot symbol, added by Hasbro to the US line. It does set them apart for collectors and a bit of branding for the kids, although I remember some fans complained that it broke the “disguise”. I don’t mind it because it’s never stopped this franchise before. The Maximals and Predacons lacked any symbols for a very long time, but otherwise faction symbols are just part of the toys. Additionally, the ladder can move around and the bucket can drop to be used in fire rescues.

“The fire’s this way.” “No, it’s that way.”

I should note that the cab separates from the back, with Fire’s pistol forming a wheel to keep him balanced. This is good for quick getaways or launching from the rear (this is not a play feature) to lunge at some unsuspecting Predacon. (In this line the Autobots fought the Predacons until they turned some sleeping Autobots into Decepticons. It was a transition from Maximals and Predacons back to the old Autobots and Decepticons, just as Beast Machines brought vehicles back.) It’s a neat little addition. The rear parts don’t always stay together as well as I would have liked except for two parts that are the exact opposite–impossible to pull off without enough force to worry about breaking the darn thing, but there’s a reason it’s made of various parts.

“I wonder if I should get a Dalmatian?

Fire Prime’s robot mode is also pretty cool. He has the fake front windows that Primes have had since G1 Optimus Prime first became a Powermaster, a way to keep Optimus’ classic look but not be forced to transform him the same way. I’ll talk more about that when I eventually review the reissue. The vacuum-metal paint on his chest has a few small bits missing and I don’t know if that shows up on camera as I’m writing this. I think his eyes are also vac-metalized (a paint that gives the illusion of shiny metal) or it could be a sticker; either way it works better for me than lightpiping. The only detraction is the big backpack that houses the battery pack and speaker, but it’s minor.

Getting tough on firebugs.

He has a really good range of articulation. Head, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, wrists, and admittedly weaker ankles that can still hold a pose are all available to him. The head has fair range; there’s a limit to how far up or down he can look, and you need the pistol in his hand to be able to work a wrist. He can hold his gun gansta style if he wanted…although that’s not in his nature so I doubt he would. The pistol itself doesn’t fire anything, although I usually pretend it’s some kind of electric pistol and the part that serves as an emergency cab wheel spins to power up a charged blast. But special weapons disappeared some time during the Beast Wars line so this isn’t official. What is official is that he has two armor modes.

This would not fit in the photo box. In fact the robot mode and separate cab were are the only modes that might, so I didn’t it at all.

First there’s the base unit. I call it that because the various parts can be combined to form a base and it is an official mode. This sucker is really really tall. The ladder becomes a giant radar dish with anti-flyer (not just aircraft) guns, and a bunch of guns on the base of the base to protect it. I guess Fire Prime can use it to track down Predacons/Decepticons. The guns can rotate into different positions, some up and down but most side to side, offering a full spread of protection for the base. But if it’s more firepower Prime needs, it offers that, too. Namely those two armor modes I mentioned.

The recoil on those things must be murder on his shoulders.

The instructions…sheet, nothing–this is a darn poster!…calls this his “mega robot” mode. It’s just two huge missile pods. It also suggests using one of the gauntlets…just one, mind you…from the other armored mode but frankly it looks a bit silly to me. I suppose it does offer a bigger fist for punching…but look at these things! He’s not planing to punch you, he’s planning to bloody nuke you! There are two forward-compatible Mini-Con ports, one on either side of the pods…if they’re suicidal! Based on their placement I’m not even sure what Mini-Con would fit there since they’re usually designed to lie flat against the robot or vehicle. On the plus side you could use the arm ports in fire truck mode for extra firepower, or if you use Mini-Con fire trucks you could really strike against the fire. Of course a fire truck with little baby fire trucks attached to it may attract some attention, which is not a good idea in a fire area when you’re trying to be in disguise.

It’s been years since I’ve done this and frankly it was a pain trying to get each piece where it needs to go and how for our second armored mode. That’s the trouble with “partsforming” (transforming by moving pieces around). Even when using it the main body tries to come off…or rather the regular robot head keeps trying to push it off while posing anything and that’s very annoying. It’s good for poses you’ll leave on the shelf but during playtime I imagine a lot of angry kids tossing the armor aside and just using the normal robot.

A pain? Yes. Worth it? Yes!

But once in “Ultra Robot” mode (we usually just call it “super mode” these days) Fire Prime looks really cool (I just realized how often I’ve used that in this review, which I promise is not an intended pun) and ready for battle. We get more vac-metal eyes that capture the light well. On his chest is a flap that reveals…another weapon? With an unpainted target sight on it? Yeah, I don’t know for sure. The missile pods are now on his feet, which doesn’t seem all that safe to me, and you can’t even use the Mini-Con ports. There are some new ones on his gauntlets, which plug into the old ones on his arms, but they’re harder to access than the regular ones. Of course, that’s not what they’re intended for since this toy pre-dates Mini-Cons. 🙂 I also like how the pistol can attack to the body armor as a shoulder-mounted weapon to go with the arm cannons, and you could still have him use the guns on his new head as well. But what really allows him to blow stuff out is the rather oversized the ladder and bucket hanging off his back, or rather what it transforms into:

Taking out fires in the next block over.

THE HUGE FRICKIN DEATH CANNON OF DEATH!

On the show this was a high-pressure water cannon backed by four missile launchers. (The missiles are still in the box so I can’t test them.) You don’t have to fold out the radar parts, but helps him hold it with his right hand (or look like he is aiming with it) and a bit more protection for his head so I like it that way. The hands can’t actually hold it since it only has a wrist and articulated thumb joint, but you can give it the appearance. This baby will send your foe into the next county. In pieces!

Decision: Stays

Fighting with the armor bits that form the rear of the fire engine aside this is my favorite of the non-G1 inspired Optimus Primes. He looks cool, the armor is cool, even it’s a pain to play with, and it looks more like a fire truck than his Transformers: Cybertron counterpart. I have a history of firefighters in my family as well as a couple friendly acquaintances, so having a Optimus Prime who is a fire truck is something I can get behind and he was really cool in both versions of the show, a testament to what an Autobot commander, and specifically a Convoy/Prime, should be, plus he is unintentionally compatible with Mini-Cons. I’d be hard pressed to let this one go from my collection anytime soon.

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