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Much the same way the name Bumblebee was reobtained a decade or so ago, we can thank the live action Transformers movies for getting us Hot Rod back. Hot Rod has needed a Classics style updating for a while. The Rodimus from the 2006 line aged very quickly, a fact that became very evident with its rerelease in 2010. But with troubled Masterpiece releases between then and now, the question must be asked: can we actually get a good Hot Rod toy? Yes. We can.
It's really appropriate that the original name is back, because this is so much a Classics Hot Rod. I really like the body proportions, except for the upper arms looking a little overly thick. It might also be that they're set out from the body a little far. There's an unfortunate consequence there too where the positioning of the arms makes the spoiler wing basically impossible to see from the front.
I think one thing I really like is the bit of liberty taken in the design. The chest is squared up, and some dimensionality is added by making the car's hood look like a plate over the "actual" torso, peeking through just above the waist. But it's done so it still reads perfectly as Hot Rod even with the new lines and shapes used. This feels more like the best of Classics and Generations where the designs were reimagined more, and not just updated.
Likewise, the detailing of the shins is representative of nothing in particular, rather more trying to express a general idea of the look of various toy takes. The shape of Hot Rod's shins follows the outline of the boots from the cartoon, though it can be hard to immediately make out among the vehicle kibble on the outside and the half cylinders on the inside faces of the legs. Also because all of it is colored red, following the lead of toys more than media. A TakaraTomy version with the shins painted dark grey could look pretty neat.
What I'm most happy to see here are the arm cannons. It's something I wanted to see when the original Classics Rodimus came out. I'm glad they made it this time.
Hot Rod does use quite a bit of paint. The chest is up to a few layers thick where the Autobot symbol lies. But the flame pattern looks fantastic. The silver for the engine has some sloppy edges on my copy, unfortunately. And while the orange base coat doesn't quite match the orange plastic, it's a very pleasant shade that I like a lot.
The spoiler eats up a ton of paint too. The entire thing is covered in yellow paint because it's cast in clear blue. Yellow paint is typically evil. Especially when covering a dark color it either covers poorly, or ends up being really thick. Surprisingly, this is actually retaining some good sharpness on the details and still keeping the underlying blue from bleeding through.
The wheels are also paint corrected, but hide it well. The only way I could tell for sure was seeing the stems of the back wheels which are still the base grey plastic. So, Hot Rod has a lot of paint work, but most of it is not utilized for detailing because it's doing corrections for the limits of the mold layouts. And the absence of detail work is only particularly evident in the arms, where there's sculpted elements that could be picked out a bit if there was any budget left for them.
Before I talk poseability, I want to highlight a couple things. The hips are on the loose side. This seems to be a systemic problem with the production batch which may or may not end up better later on. The neck socket is also very loose. I've been able to turn Hot Rod upside down and shake the Titan Master out a couple times. While the hips could be floor polished stiffer, there's probably no helping the neck socket. Not without adding material on the outside to push the clip inward, anyway. But those are the only meaningful problems.
The arms move well, though of course you get head bumps because the shoulder sticks up so high. But there's plenty of clearance so the arm can move without the spoiler getting in its way.
The bicep swivel can only go this far. There's a vehicle tab that stops it from moving past this point. It also stops it at the equal point going inward. It is a limitation, but not an unreasonable one in general use.
The waist has a somewhat stiff swivel, and the hips are ball joints. Ignoring the looseness we talked about, they have a solid range of movement. And they're accompanied by the typical thigh swivels.
The knees normally bend a little less than 90 degrees because of the car kibble. If you just have to have a deeper bend, you can move that out to the side. The feet have a few degrees of travel back and forth. The problem here I find is there's not a stop at the correct position so it's too easy to end up with Hot Rod slanted forward or backward.
Firedrive is a very sad, unpainted boy. Visually the Titan Master is styled after the Targetmaster Firebolt, more or less. The lack of a black plastic sprue or any spare paint precludes any color variance to try to strengthen the resemblance.
This transformation is pretty enjoyable. Start by folding in the fists. They'll stick out a little bit. Tab the forearms to the biceps. When transforming the toy in either direction, it's best to turn the forearms slightly to make the tabs easier to engage or disengage.
Rotate the waist, then pull down the spoiler, and rotate the roof section.
Open the quarter panels out of the legs.
Fold the feet back.
Tab the legs together, and fold them under.
Bring out the chest, and pull out the bumper.
Tab the arms in at the front.
And join the side panels to the rear wheel wells and exhaust pipes.
Then pull down the roof and spoiler and tab it in.
Classics Rodimus was based on a real car, the Dome Zero, which resembled the G1 Hot Rod design.
Titans Return Hot Rod is based on emulating the cartoon and original toy look. And I am very happy with that. Where I was glad to see the robot mode go more its own way, the car mode trying to be more faithful is really doing something for me. And I'm not sure if it's because it's specifically imitating that old design, or if it's just because this vehicle mode has really nice lines.
Either way, the aesthetic is fantastic.
Of course it's also so specifically Hot Rod that I'll have a hard time separating that in the event this mold has to be reused as another character.
Even as much as this goes for a specific look of Hot Rod, there are still elements of previous toys. One in particular is a little jet engine in back that's seemingly calling back to Classics Rodimus.
The vehicle mode's parts fit is pretty good. Mostly everything comes together solidly, and tightly. There are visible gaps that can't be avoided. Most visibly is between the roof parts and the side panels. But some separation is visible between the canopy and the car body too, no matter how well you get that seated down. Since the vehicle is a lot of big pieces coming together, those panel seams are minimal, at least.
The vehicle has only a small amount of paint specific to it, almost entirely in framing the canopy. You do get the, uh, headlights, I guess? Though the light grey down here looks more convincing as headlights, so I don't know. The color match from the canopy edges to the red plastic is rather close, with the paint only being slightly lighter looking, and then only in just the right lighting. Very good job.
The Titan Master's seat is a little bland looking. There's vague sculpting for instrument panels, but nothing particularly creative.
You want to be sure to press the Titan Master in firmly. There's almost no extra head space in here, so if it's not all the way in, the windscreen can't close completely.
The weapons are intended to be used in vehicle mode combined together. But there are 5mm ports along the sides of the car as well. It's possible to have the guns attached here in a way that doesn't look terrible.
Fitting the guns together is tricky, as you have a series of tabs that interleave, for want of a better description. Two tabs on one side go under two tabs on the other side, while the remaining tab on the first half goes on top of its counterpart on the opposite.
You have to bring the together at a slight angle and you can snap it all in. And do it in reverse to split them, bending them apart just slightly to pull them loose.
The combined weapon fits in the engine slots, and of course can seat a Titan Master.
This also blocks the canopy from opening. But, between the interior seat, the gun seat, and two pegs on the back roof, Hot Rod can actually support up to four Titan Masters at once. And heck, even more if you add babyseat cannons from other toys!
Sadly these guns don't look as good split apart and being carried in robot mode, thanks to the big hollow spaces. Good thing Hot Rod has the arm cannons, I guess!
Hot Rod's not perfect, but if not for the couple material tolerance issues, it might be pretty close. There are minor design nitpicks like the bulk of the upper arms I could hold on to, or maybe the spoiler not being more visible as something that might reflect opinions outside of just my own preferences. But fundamentally, this is a solidly designed figure that makes a really great representation of Hot Rod, and probably the best G1 Hot Rod vehicle mode you're gonna get this side of a Masterpiece. This is very near to being everything I want in a Classics-family Hot Rod, and maybe even a couple things I didn't know I wanted before. And if the TakaraTomy version goes all out on animation derived colors, I'll probably buy this again. And I'll do so gladly.
|Date||December 4th 2016|
|Score||(9 out of 10)|
|Link||Titans Return Deluxe Hot Rod & Firedrive|
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