Transformers Vintage G1 Reissue Hot Rod Toy Review

in 2018, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Generation One (Vintage G1), Wal-Mart Exclusive

Generation One Vintage G1 Reissues

Hot Rod

General Information:
Price: $29.84
Retailer: Walmart Exclusive (Also carried by RobotKingdom and BigBadToyStore)
Release Date: 2018
Accessories: Blasters x 2

Official Photos above and text in italics below are from Walmart.com:
Experience the figures that started it all. This Transformers: Vintage G1 Autobot Hot Rod figure is designed like the original G1 version -- including figure styling, packaging, and art inspired by the 1986 G1 release, plus classic tech specs and accessories. (Re)start a vintage Transformers collection with this Autobot Hot Rod figure.

Autobot Hot Rod is an all-American-boy Autobot. He’s a typical adolescent who dreams of being heroic and important. He tends to follow rules too closely, and his impulsive actions often get him into trouble. He carries 2 photon lasers that temporarily electromagnetize an enemy robot's microcircuits.

This Autobot Hot Rod figure comes with photon laser cannons and converts between racecar and robot modes in 6 steps. Clip out and save the on-box tech specs to share, then see how this figure compares to other heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons (each sold separately).

Transformers and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro.

  • Re-creation of the G1 Autobot Cavalier Hot Rod figure
  • Inspired by the styling of the 1986 G1 release
  • Vintage decoration and sticker decals
  • Tech specs showing the capabilities of Autobot Hot Rod
  • The actions of Autobot Cavalier Hot Rod speak louder than words
  • Includes: figure, 2 weapon accessories, instructions
  • Ages 6 and up
  • WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD - Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.

As of 2018, Transformers is almost thirty five years old, making it one of the longest, continuously running action figure toy lines on the market. Of course, as time passes, so does the potential for nostalgia, especially for the original series that started the toy line. Recognizing this, Walmart announced a series of "Vintage G1" figures based on the sculpts of several Generation One figures. In May of 2018 Walmart listed a "Vintage G1" Hot Rod figure on its site. In time, Ben's World of Transformers sponsor BigBadToyStore also listed the figure, so I decided to snag it (uncertain of how readily available he would be via Walmart). As of this writing, Walmart has not yet stocked this figure.

Hot Rod has been reissued a few times before. The first time was in 2000 in Japan. In 2002 he was reissued as "Rodimus Major" outside Japan. Japan then released the figure one more time in 2004 as part of their "Transformers Collection". This review will be a blend of talking about the figure itself and then some comparisons to other releases of this tooling.

Packaging:
Generation One Transformers have been reissued before. For about a decade starting in 2001 there were many reissues both in Japan and the North America. However, while those reissues paid homage to the G1 era with their packaging they did not try to reproduce it to the level of this "Vintage G1" line.

Hot Rod's box is based on the design of the G1 packaging. That means not only the graphics on it are vintage, but so is the actual box shape. G1 Transformers often came in boxes that had a rectangular section containing the toy, and then a flap at the top that had a large "Transformers" logo on it. This was eye catching to say the least, but it also represented an easily damaged design. As G1 went along, the line moved away from this design to boxes without flaps. This box however has the flap at the top with a giant G1 logo on it including the "More than meets the eye!" tag line that has all but disappeared from Transformers packaging over the years. It also has two bars extending out from the side of the logo with the words "Heroic Autobot" on them, another classic touch!

The graphics on the box are almost all reproduced in some fashion from G1 Hot Rod's packaging. The background is a red to black gradient with a grid in the front. The top of the box shows the figure transforming in four steps from vehicle to robot mode. On both the front and sides of the packaging there is a bar with the name of the character (and the front has his function: Autobot Cavalier). Hot Rod's G1 artwork is on the right side of the box with a yellow glow behind him. A cut away window provides room to show off Hot Rod in vehicle mode. Interestingly enough, my copy of this figure came with the tray inserted backwards, so I saw the weapons and the rear of the vehicle instead. Perhaps one of the most significant design elements on the box is the Hasbro logo. Instead of the modern day logo, this one is the classic 80's logo featuring two children inside of a house with the word "Hasbro" under them. This is the logo I grew up with and I confess to a big rush of nostalgia seeing it on the box.

The back of the box features gorgeous vintage artwork showing Metroplex in the middle with Autobots and Decepticons battling around them. Some fun aspects of this art include a transformation of Metroplex that can't actually be done without disassembling the toy, two Blurrs, two Razorclaws and Rodimus Prime hovering in the background (you know, while two Hot Rods are in the front). It is a spectacular piece of art however and I love seeing it on this packaging. Even better? The top h as the "Transformers" logo with a blurb next to it beginning with "It is a world of constant change, where things are not what they seem.", a reminder of a time when the line was new enough that such explanations were needed. The same text is printed in French next to it.

Other interesting notes about the packaging:

  • The tech spec features a cut out line around the edges.
  • The "Robot Points" have been replaced with the "Authentic Transformers" logo, but there is still a printed line around it to cut that square out.
  • The tech specs are printed in both English and French.
  • The stat numbers have the G1-esque "pink" lines that you would have needed a red decoder for. However, the pattern is actually just there for show as there is no decoder included and you can see the blue lines for the specs just fine.
  • Firepower is used again instead of "Fireblast" which has appeared on Transformers packaging in recent years.
  • My copy of this figure has a sticker in Chinese and English on it indicating it was distributed by Hasbro Hong Kong, so it is likely this will see an alternate distribution in Asia.
  • The figure is listed as "Made in China", which is where most Transformers figures were once produced. However in recent years manufacturing moved to Viet Nam. However it is likely the G1 tooling (and related reissues) are all still sitting in warehouses in China so it makes sense that this figure was manufactured there.
  • Unlike the G1 toys, this figure and its weapons sit in a clear plastic tray inside the box instead of a piece of cardboard with a bubble. This is preferable since you can take the figure out without destroying the packaging inside.

In case you're wondering, yes, that is a lot of text to write about packaging. It may be the most I've ever written about packaging but given that this is the first time a non-Japanese vintage release has really tried to emulate the G1 design I thought it deserved a detailed look. Also I have to confess to feeling a huge hit of nostalgia going over it. Well done, Hasbro/Takara.

Vehicle Mode:
Without a doubt when Hot Rod was introduced in 1986, Hasbro and Takara unleashed an iconic design that would last for decades to come. Even thirty plus years later the figure looks like an awesome, sleek, scifi car. The curved lines from front to back, the exaggerated spoiler design sweeping back, the exhaust pipes on the sides and the big engine sticking out of the hood all make an instant impression. As a kid I saw the design and thought "Wow cool!" and as an adult I say the exact same thing!

The other striking element of the design are the colors. Most of Hot Rod is made up of a deep red. The windows are translucent blue, which contrasts beautifully against the red. Then the spoiler is a bright yellow that pops off the darker red color. Orange plastic provides some additional color in the form of the headlights. As if all that was not enough, the engine and exhaust pipes are vacuum metallized silver which somehow makes the vehicle look retro and futuristic all at the same time. For the most part the plastic colors are the same as the G1 version except the spoiler. While it is still yellow, the yellow used on this reissue is a much deeper shade than the yellow used on the original and 2000 reissue Hot Rod figures.

Most of the paint on this figure is found on the top of the cabin section, where red is used on the translucent blue plastic. The other details are largely filled in with stickers. The most striking one is on the hood, featuring a foil sticker with an range background and yellow flames with a large Autobot symbol in the center. In an interesting difference between this version and previous releases, the foil used on this sticker is highly reflective. When you hold something up against it you see a very distinct reflection. This is not the case with previous releases, where you will see a somewhat fuzzy reflection. Similar flame stickers are found on the sides. On top of the figure is a heat sensitive "rub" symbol that shows an Autobot symbol when warm. Interestingly, this sticker also uses a much more shiny and reflective foil background than the one on previous releases. Whether or not this is a plus or minus is largely a matter of personal taste. My preference is the less reflective sticker since under some lighting the flame detail becomes hard to see because the light is reflecting so strongly.

Hot Rod includes two blasters. Either one can be attached to the top of the engine in front. It is interesting to note that the engine follows the design of the G1 Targetmaster Hot Rod figure, which widened the port on the engine to accommodate Hot Rod's Targetmaster partner, Firebolt. For those curious, G1 Firebolt can fit into the engine without a problem.

There is one flaw in my copy of this figure that was unexpected: the left side of the spoiler is slightly warped. The left side curves downward slightly. It is not immediately noticeable, but when you look at the vehicle from certain angles it becomes obvious. I cannot say that all copies of this reissue will have this issue, but it is something to be aware of.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach any weapons attached and set them aside for now.
  2. Pull the rear half of the vehicle back to begin forming the robot legs.
  3. At the back of the vehicle, swing out each robot foot.
  4. Swing the sides of the vehicle out.
  5. Push the hood piece up, then rotate the robot head around, then swing the hood down to the form the robot torso.
  6. On the underside of the vehicle, rotate the waist piece around.
  7. Push the torso panel down, tabbing it into the waist panel.
  8. Rotate the lower halves of the arms around.
  9. Rotate the section with the spoiler on it around so the spoiler winds up behind the head.
  10. Attach the weapons into each hand.

Robot Mode:
Thanks to his sleek vehicle mode, Hot Rod's robot mode is also very sleek looking for the time. Sure it has some bulk, but follow the lines and there are a lot of cool looking design elements. The torso has angles at the top and curves towards the waist. The spoiler on his back provides a dramatic detail. His shoulders are angled while his wrists have raised curves on them. The lower legs are a bit bulky on the sides, but the interior have lines that narrow towards the knee areas. The exhaust pipe sections on his forearms also look awesome and quickly became an iconic part of the character's design (and his primary weapon in the cartoon). It is a very cool design overall that I believe has stood the test of time.

The red color is still very prominent in this form, but now orange plastic comes into play via the hands, shoulder joints and thighs. The face is painted grey with blue eyes. Stickers make up a majority of the details in this mode. The "flames" from the car hood wind up on the chest, creating yet another iconic deco point for future Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime toys. His shoulders and lower legs have silver stickers with chevrons on them featuring his three key colors: red, orange and yellow. The waist has a different sticker with a pattern that roughly aligns with the shape of the waist piece. This is also very reflective foil with light red colors and black lines on it. The stickers on his legs are very interesting as they feature wires and machinery on them. It is worth noting that the stickers on the waist and thighs in particular are much lighter in tone than their counterparts on the original G1 Targetmaster Hot Rod or even the 2000 reissue. I am not sure if this was a conscious choice or not but I prefer the bolder colors of past stickers. Another note: the thigh stickers are based on the larger versions of the stickers instead of the smaller ones. That means with enough transformations these stickers will likely get worn out, so be warned.

A few construction notes that may interest fans looking for a straight up reissue of the original Hot Rod:

  • The fists are the ones with widened ports, so he can hold his blasters and G1 Firebolt.
  • On the G1 and 2000 reissue versions of Hot Rod, the arms were connected to the body via a hinge with a metal pin. Since the 2002 reissue this was changed to tiny pegs. This does not affect the functionality of the figure at all.
  • There is a small panel on the inside of each foot
  • The feet on this reissue are die-cast metal and painted black. For some reason, they have yellow panels on the inside of each foot. These were present on the 2000 reissue as well, but not on my copy of G1 Targetmaster Hot Rod.
  • All the joints on this figure are nice and tight. Nothing is floppy or loose, which is a relief given how many times this figure has been reissued and the age of the tooling.

With only six points of articulation, Hot Rod does not hold up well to his modern counterparts but the figure has a nostalgic charm that cannot be denied, and isn't that what a reissue is partly about? I think it is.

Final Thoughts:
I love the idea of a line of reissues hitting a major retailer like Walmart. Sure there have been recent reissues such as Platinum Edition Trypticon and a two pack of Astrotrain and Blitzwing but none of them have attempted to really mine the nostalgia of G1 in the same way as this series. The packaging looks fantastic and the figure itself is still in relative good shape (spoiler issue aside). If you do not have any of the previous reissues or if the packaging really appeals to you I would say the Walmart retail price on this is the upper edge of how much you should pay. I confess I went a bit overboard buying it from BigBadToystore for $59.99 but I am happy with the purchase (and it is one less figure I have to worry about scalpers getting to before me). You could probably purchase a loose G1 Hot Rod for around the same price or get the Japanese 2000 release for anywhere from $60-100+ on ebay so take that into consideration as well.

Pros:

  • The Hot Rod design is a classic one and this figure is a beautiful example of what G1 had to offer at the time.
  • Packaging is a beautiful recreation (with updates) of classic G1 packaging.
  • The stickers use a better quality foil and glue than the stickers on recent "Power of the Primes" releases.
  • Parts are still nice and tight.

Cons:

  • The warped spoiler is worrisome (but I am not sure every copy of this release will have the issue).
  • The stickers are very reflective. For me this detracts from them, but others may disagree.
  • Some of the stickers have much lighter colors than their G1 counterparts (ex: the waist area). I prefer the bolder colors of the original stickers (and stickers from previous reissues).