Ace wasn't released in the Japanese Gobots counterpart Machine Robo, being rejected for Japanese release by designers Bandai. However, Tonka needed any figures they could lay their hands on in their doomed attempt to prolong the Gobots line, and happily snapped him up. Initial prototypes were mainly white (if you have a better image than this dodgy screencap, please contact me!), something carried over to the toy's card art.

The character did make it into the animated series (again with a distinctly light hue, and also a markedly different robot mode; by my reckoning Ace was on TV before he was in stores, so Hanna-Barbera were probably working from an early concept), appearing as a member of an underground section of Gobot society in "The Gobots That Time Forgot". Bandai themselves considered him good enough for Europe, releasing him as part of Robo Machine in 1986, and then again as 'P-51' in the 1993 Robo Machines line.


ALTERNATE MODE

The figure's vehicle mode is a chubby version of the P-51D Mustang W.W.II fighter. This is great as it's a classic aircraft, and Transformers never touched that sort of thing. I've always been a fan of 1940s fighter planes, so this fits well with me. That said, there are a few drawbacks. The all-blue does look rather good, especially with the stickers, but I can't help thinking silver or grey may have looked better - Ace would have looked great in metallic paint. The figure is made almost entirely from plastic (only the shoulder-bar, thighs and of course a few screws are metal), which is a shame, but probably a sign of the line's declining popularity.

The moulded cockpit (as opposed to the transparency used for Zero) is a bit of a letdown, and compared to the Renegade figure, the scale is a bit larger. He's still very nice-looking and there are some nice touches, like the retractable undercarriage (though this can work loose over the years). However, the propeller blades are a weak spot - a lot on ebay are missing these altogether, and most have hardly any chrome on this part even if it's unbroken. For reference, there should be four blades.


ROBOT MODE

Ace's transformation is quite good, though take care when extending the wings to become his arms - I get the distinct impression these can become rather loose if pulled too hard. Ace does look a little bland - despite having wings running down his arms, there's not a lot to hint at him turning into an aircraft, with most of the relevant parts ending up on his back. The robot also looks very stumpy.

That said, he still manages to look pretty nifty at the same time, with a respectable head mould (though like lots of Gobots it does lack a certain character - well, okay, it looks like the cartoon version of Leader-1, but then he lacked character). Even having wheels for hands just works somehow. There's a fair bit of mobility in the arms, which makes up for the stubby legs to some extent.


SUMMARY

Overall, Ace is a fun figure to pad out your Gobot ranks, with a novel alternate mode and a passable robot form. I wouldn't recommend spending much on the little guy, but he's certainly worth keeping an eye out for. While the pukka Gobots release is rare, both the original and reissue European versions (identical to the US release) can be found easily and cheaply second hand.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1986, Gobots Series 3 - 67: Ace
1986, Robo Machine - RM-58: Ace
1993, Robo Machines - P-51

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
Propellor, undercarriage, rear wings