Wheeljack

Wheeljack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time for the third and last of the Alternators. Wheeljack is the Autobots’ inventor. And he’s good at his job if the machine doesn’t blow up or something. Basically he’s a mad scientist for the forces of good. His original vehicle mode in the G1 days was based on the Lancia Stratos Turbo‘s “Group 5 Statos” race car. No, I don’t know what that means outside of knowing what a race car is.

It won’t be obvious why until the very end of the review but this was the last Alternator I ever picked up. This was the figure where I decided that this line just wasn’t making me happy, which is odd considering this is not the one I’ll be taking out of my collection. That part will be immediately obvious.

I’m going to take the background apart and rethink it. I still like the idea.

In this new incarnation Wheeljack is a “2005 (S197 chassis) model Ford Mustang GT” according to the Transformers wiki. It is also my only retool from the line, original created for Alternators Grimlock. The Grimlock version is surprisingly plain given his character, while Wheeljack gets a nice blue strip and a white paint job. The Mustang is right there on the grill. The Autobot symbol is part of his license plate. Otherwise he’s the best disguised of the panel jobs. To make up for it his hands are often quite obvious hanging underneath the front grill, a big flaw for such a good-looking automobile mode. Oddly they don’t show up in the pictures so angle and lighting may play a part.

That was one angry skunk!

Wheeljack has two working doors (and still has the molded interior that includes a dashboard and other things you’d expect to see in a car, although lacking the tilt steering of the other two), hood, and trunk. Everything works like it should, but like Smokescreen the trunk doesn’t actually have room to put anything comparatively sized. You can’t expect perfection on this one.

I’m sure that’ll buff out.

One minor gripe is that you can’t open the hood all the way without using part of the transformation joint that hides where his head will slide into place. It’s not close to a dealbreaker but it’s still worth noting. You can also see the side mirrors have that reflective surface again. By the way there is one inner detail missing from my Alternators: no rear view mirror inside the car reflective or otherwise.

Yep, there are the hands, and the Autobot symbol for his robot mode. Also a sword.

The undercarriage is probably the most hidden of my trio. That’s because that big plate in the center covers everything up but will be kibble later on. The “cryo-sword” even hides well under there. You can also see that the magnetic axle of the other two have been replaced with…well, that part you can’t see. There are buttons on either side of Wheeljack’s arms that push the wheels one direction or another and go into spots that work the wheel on the other arm. I still don’t see the point in having the front wheels turn together on these figures but it’s still a nice touch. But enough about the vehicle. Let’s get into robot mode already.

I know what caused the crack in the wall! One of his gadgets went kaboom again, didn’t it?

Wheeljack’s robot mode is almost perfect. You have the big front wheels on his arms and the underside of the car just hanging off the small of his back, but otherwise he looks really good. The doors form wings for shoulder pads and the hood of the car hang off but I like to have some idea what he turns into, to show that this is in fact a Transformer. The feet are formed by his car seats, a different transformation that his comrades, which I like. He’s probably the best looking robot of the three I have.

“No, not that button!”

And such a great range of posability, certainly better than Side Swipe’s. The waist is way too tight to be of real use, but he has decent shoulder range, great head, and elbow/bicep range, hips, ankles, and feet. Plus his wrists turn. The kibble doesn’t get in the way or make him look awkward in the slightest.

“You meant ‘mad GENIUS’, right?!”

His weapons…are not that great. The engine gun continues but it just looks like his engine with some lasers stuck to it. The engine gun seriously downgraded as we went through. Smokescreen’s gun made a good rifle. Side Swipe’s still looked like an engine with a gun barrel but still looked like a gun. This just doesn’t work as well. The sword, a hold-over from the Grimlock version of the mold, is a bit small for him. It’s more like a really long knife or at best a short sword. I also can’t get them to plug into the holes in his hands so they’re never really that tightly in place. The thumbs are just too awkward for me to get them in there right. However this is also not my biggest complaint about this figure.

If you’ve read enough of my Transformers Reports you may have noticed I haven’t discussed the transformation like I usually do between the vehicle and robot modes. This is where my rage against this figure comes from! For some reason legs are easy to transform on all three Alternators I have but the upper part gets worse as the line goes on. Smokescreen I can figure out after awhile. Side Swipe is a little harder to get used to. And then there’s Wheeljack, and I can’t believe they used this mold twice unless somehow this is worse than transforming Grimlock.

The biggest problem is there is no way to transform this without the doors coming off of the clips, sometimes the arms pop off, sometimes the legs come off, and that too-tight waist joint I mentioned makes it hard to put the undercarriage plate, which also pops off by the way, in the back where it belongs, and you have to turn that twice so the legs are pointing the right direction. Every time I transform this thing I end up angry, and have even needed to stop before I break the darn thing…on purpose! The clips and ball joint design are there to keep it from breaking on accident but it means they keep coming off during transformation and I’m worried that waist is going to break trying to get it to work right. That’s why I stopped buying Alternators. The robot and vehicle modes are great but getting this was way too frustrating for what these things cost. Remember, they’re the size of a model car you get at a hobby store with heavy engineering and licensed from actual auto dealers. These things were more expensive than the regular Transformers of their day and I just lost interest in the whole line because I don’t want “puzzling” transformations, I want fun transformations. And for all the Alternators did right their transformations were seldom to never fun!

Decision: Stays

As rage-inducing as the transformation is, and while I was tempted to buy Prowl because I like the character (at least on the show and Bob Budiansky run of the comics) I opted not to, the modes you transform it into are just the best of the set I did pick up. The weapons could be better but that’s the only thing visually wrong. When my clean-through of the collection is done and I hopefully have a way to display my Transformers, even if it ends up being a rotation of displayed figures, I really want this to show off. I just don’t plan to transform it very often.

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