Release Date: March 2011
Price Point: $12.99 (Depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Missiles/wrenches x 2, Weapon
*Images with asterisks and text in italics from The Official Transformers web site:
WHEELJACK is a brilliant risk taker, both in his lab and on the road. His inventions are both the cause of and solution to many problems as he pushes the boundaries of science and engineering in his quest for the next big thing. Due to the daring nature of his experiments, his lab needs to remain isolated – mostly because it blows up on a regular basis.
Roll out for some serious robot-battling action! Your too-smart-for-his-own-good WHEELJACK figure features a converting blaster to give his opponents extra trouble. When it’s time for combat, convert him into sports car mode and send him racing right into the heart of the battle! Ages 5 and up.
There are some Generation One characters that tend to get more attention than others. Whle guys like Bumblebee and Optimus Prime tend to get the spotlight, other characters sometimes get a moment or three to shine. In the case of the Autobot Wheeljack, he was one of the original crew of the first "Ark" starship in Generation One, and over the years he would pop up now and then in new forms such as his "Action Master" and "Alternators" forms. Now as part of the ongoing effort to revamp classic characters for a new era, Wheeljack has popped up in the "Generations" line of toys. This figure was not the easiest one to find. Along with Warpath, he sold out quickly in retail stores and online. I'm glad I finally got my hands on him to review for BWTF!
Wheeljack is an extensive retool and redeco of the "Reveal the Shield" Tracks figure. While I do recommend you read that review to get a better idea of the functionality for this figure, I will be covering the retooling and redeco of the Tracks figure into Wheeljack.
Wheeljack's vehicle mode in Generation One was a Lancia Stratos rally car. This legacy of having had a sleek form in Generation One carries over into this vehicle. Based on the Tracks sculpt (which itself transformed into a very sleek looking vehicle), the fit is very appropriate. However, to further bring him into line with the look of the original character, two key elements were retooled for this form:
- The back of the vehicle now has a spoiler whereas Tracks did not. Tracks had a panel that rotated around with two tabs on it to fit his missiles in "Flight Mode". This functionality has been eliminated with just the spoiler sitting there instead.
- The front end of the vehicle now extends out a little, with extra panels sticking out the bottom that resemble those on Generation One Wheeljack's front end.
There is another change, but it is easy to miss. Right under each door is an exhaust piple extending back. These are not the same "exhaust pipes" as those found on Turbo Tracks. His resembled missiles pretty much in both forms. Here, Wheeljack's accessories truly look like exhaust pipes complete with a thicker cylinder with small holes on it.
The changes above are relatively small, but they have a dramatic effect on making this figure distinctive from the source figure. I really have to give the designers kudos for going so far as to modify both the front and back of this vehicle to make this redeco/retool figure. It's not common to see retooling beyond a new head sculpt nowadays. Not only does this make it more worthwhile to buy the same basic sculpt again, but it also makes the vehicle look dramatically different than its predecessor.
In this mode, the primary plastic colors are white, translucent grey and black. White makes up most of the vehicle from the front to the back. His windows are translucent grey and the wheels are black. These base colors are all callbacks to the colors used on Generation One Wheeljack. On their own, they're fairly simple and don't jump out much visually. However, when you add in the paint applicaitons on this figure it goes up to a whole different level. Paint applications are done in red, green, silver and gunmetal. The red and green are the most prominent details, used for a line pattern starting on the hood of the car going all the way to the back. There are also green lines on the sides of the vehicle. Right on top of the canopy is a red Autobot symbol.
Wheeljack's vehicle mode looks very much like a modern day descendent of his original Generation One form. I'm impressed by just how much was modified in this form to make him resemble G1 Wheeljack. As a fan of the original series, I'm also very appreciative of the effort.
Transformation to Flight Mode:
- Detach the exhaust pipes/weapons.
- Swing the back half of the vehicle down.
- Swing each door out to the sides.
- Swing the doors out flat, and pull them out to extend them a bit.
- Swing out the ends of the wings formed by the doors.
- Swing the back piece back into place.
- Attach the exhaust pipes/weapons to the rods on the hinge of each wing.
- The rear wheels can be swung down for a more "Generation One" style "flying car" mode.
Wheeljack's Flight Mode is just a variant on the vehicle mode, but it offers us a glimpse into even more of the modifications made to this sculpt for this release. First, on Turbo Tracks you had the option of attaching the weapons to the sides or on the spoiler, but here they pretty much have to go on the sides. This isn't a big deal and it does look cool, almost like he's a fighter plane of some sort. Second, keen eyed fans will notice that the ends of each "wing" look different than the ones on Tracks. Tracks' wing tips were designed to pay homage to the jet like wings he had in his G1 Flight Mode. Here, Wheeljack's "wing tips" are designed to resemble the wing designs his Generation One counterpart had. This includes a flat end with a circle design at the end and raised detailing. The rest of the Flight Mode is what you saw in vehicle mode, so there are no surprises there.
With the wings exposed, we not see more silver detailing on the top side of the wings as well as the wing tips. You also get a look at more green plastic on the hinge area that connects the wings to the main body of the vehicle. The extra silver color works well with the rest of the car, offering a nice metallic color to the more solid white, green and red colors.
One bit of warning as you work on the transformation: if you pull too hard, the doors have a tendency to pop off. It's no big deal if they do, just push them right back into place on the hinge sections. Mine did this about every other time I transformed the figure. This isn't a huge deal in my book since the hinge they are on reconnects tightly.
Generation One Wheeljack did not have a "Flight Mode", but he was shown now and then as one of the few Autobots of the original Ark crew capable of flight. Also, given his "mad scientist" reputiation, it would not be a stretch to imagine Wheeljack upgrading his body so he (like his friend Tracks) had a vehicular flight mode. In that sense, this mode fits the character very well and looks great as a toy.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Detach the exhaust pipes from the sides of the vehicle and set them aside for now.
- Swing the back panel of the vehicle mode out.
- Remove the blaster weapon and swing the front barrel out, and set it aside for now.
- Pull the doors out to the sides.
- Swing each door out to form the wings, and extend out the ends of the wings.
- Swing the wings up on the hinges so they are set at angles on the back.
- Swing the front section with the grille and headlights down.
- Swing the rear wheels around and then swing the robot arms down.
- Push the cabin section up, which will raise the robot head up and extend the arms out to the sides.
- Pull the front half of the vehicle down to extend the robot legs.
- Move the robot feet down.
- Swing the panel inside the back of the vehicle out, then move it forward and clip the two tabs into the notches on the back of the robot's back.
- Attach the missiles onto the panel behind the head.
- Attach the gun to one of the hands.
You know, if you said to me "Think about it, take Tracks and just retool him into Wheeljack!" a while ago I would have said (quite skeptically) "Yeeeah, maaaaybe..." but now that I'm staring at Wheeljack right in front of me in robot mode, I really can't believe how well this works. Looking at this figure, there is no doubt that this is Wheeljack, through and through and I am very,very impressed. Let's take a look at what's changed shall we?
- The head sculpt is completely new, and huge kudos for the designers designing the figure's chest compartment to accomodate Wheeljack's unusual head design. Instead of a traditional "helmet on face" design, Wheeljack has a forehead and mouthplate that wraps all the way around the head. Then to the sides are flaps that resemble giant "ears". In the original television show (and even on the box art) these panels would flash whenever Wheeljack talked since his actual mouthplate did not move. His head design here takes his G1 cartoon head sculpt and makes it a reality. This includes three raised ridges on the top of his head, a mouthplate that looks like several strips of metal in a horizontal pattern and the aforementioned ears. It's a fantastic job.
- The exhaust pipe/weapons are now fully revealed in this form. Even better? If you want, you can take the exhaust pipe weapons and have Wheeljack hold them in his hands as "wrenches", which is super appropriate for the character and a very creative use of the "C" clip functionality.
- I commented on them before, but I'll say again that Wheeljack's wings look fantastic here and pay proper homage to the wings found on G1 Wheeljack. Indeed, here they pay almost more homage than on Tracks since Wheeljack's wings were actually mounted on his back as opposed to being on his shoulders.
- The new pieces from the front of the vehicle mode become Wheeljack's feet here, and using a slightly alternate transformation winds up creating a leg structure that is very similar to G1 Wheeljack, with the front half of the car making up the lower legs and the feet formed from the front of the vehicle.
In this mode, the white color is broken up by gunmetal, silver and black parts. His forearms and handheld weapon are black while his thighs and many joints are cast in gunmetal grey. His knee joint is cast in silver, offering nice contrast to the gunmetal parts. His head is cast in black, with silver paint applications. The back of the head and his "ears' are cast in the same smokey translucent grey color as the canopy in vehicle mode, giving his head a rather dark look. It's not bad, but I do find myself wishing a bit that the ear flaps were blue instead. In this mode, the paint applications from the vehicle mode add splashes of color to his chest and legs. The Autobot symbol from the top of the vehicle mode winds up right in the center of his chest here. Finally, silver paint is use don the end of his handheld weapon. Overall the paint job is excellent and Wheeljack has never looked better!
Wheeljack has twenty two points of articulation in this form including five in each arm and leg along with waist articulation. I'm not counting the wings, so if you want to throw those in, he has twenty four points. All the joints on the figure are nice and tight as well. As mentioned earlier, his exhaust pipe weapons can be used as wrenches and hold nice and secure in each fist. You can also attach any other "C-Clip" weapons to the back panel for some added firepower. In a final and awesome touch to pay homage to G1 Wheeljack, you can take his handheld weapon and use the C-Clip on it to clip on one of the bars on the back panel. The result is creation of an "over the shoulder" missile launcher, a feature that G1 Wheeljack had in both the G1 animated series and comic books!
Wheeljack is the ideal example of a redeco and retool. Taking a basic figure, giving it some new parts and a new paint deco to make it a proper homage is not an easy task, but it is one that the designers have accomplished with aplomb here. Highly recommended!