Transformers Grapple
Transformers Grapple
Transformers Grapple
Transformers Grapple

Grapple is a second series Autobot, first released in the West in 1985. The toy itself dated from 1984, when it was issued as Truck Crane, the anti-penultimate figure in Takara's Diaclone Car Robot series. The figure was a retooling of the 1983 Fire Truck Long Ladder Type figure (issued as the Transformers figure Inferno, issued at the same time as Grapple), with the ladder part replaced by a crane jib.

Since then, Grapple has been reissued twice - once as a Japanese convention exclusive in 2001, and then as part of the Hasbro Commemorative Series in 2003 (with the name altered to 'Autobot Grapple' for trademark reasons). The latter (with no significant changes from the original) and the character's relatively low profile means Grapple is one of the cheaper Autobot cars to find, and will set you back around £20 complete.


Grapple's mobile crane mode is modelled on a Mitsubishi Fuso Crane Truck. I've not seen any pictures of the real thing, but I'd be surprised if the midsection was as much of a mess as it is on Grapple. The arms are barely hidden on the back (the elbow joints being particularly visible); while viewing from many angles will exposes that the chassis is made up of two bars (i.e. Grapple's legs). It's very unusual for a Car Robot figure to let it slip like this on an alternate mode.

The colour scheme, on the other hand, seems to be slavishly real. Grapple is nearly entirely orange, which does a lot for plausibility but not a huge amount for aesthetics. A couple of stickers, a bit of chrome and the odd dash of black plastic do what they can against the monotony, but it's an uneven battle. It's one of those alt modes that leave you torn - sure, realism's great, and I haven't got any fantastic ideas for jazzing it up without making the thing look ridiculous, but it's all orange… Grapple is pretty sturdy in this mode. While the die cast is limited to two pointless panels on the back in another bout of Takara stupidity, the plastic is of decent quality, and at least the tones of orange match up nicely this way. Rubber tyres and a fair amount of detail are also present. The crane hook and lift and extend, though Grapple's too lightweight for it to be able to carry much.


The transformation sequence is quite well done - the black joint that allows the base of the crane jib to be brought up to the cab is a solid piece of engineering, while there's nothing that frustrating to it - detaching the head from the torso on the way back takes a little bit of practice, but it's hardly difficult. As with the vehicle mode, the robot is one of the larger Autobot Cars, standing around 7.5" high. It's quite imposing, really, and nicely proportioned. Grapple really does look quite good, with a nice design and the colour scheme broken up a bit more in this mode. Shame the head wasn't remoulded, however - in this mode, there's little beyond the colour and the absence of those curious white winglets to define him from Inferno; I guess at this stage of Diaclone, the crane jib cast ate up all the design money available.

Articulation is limited to the arms - rotating shoulders, bending elbows, spinning fists - but that's to be expected; indeed, it's better than most of the others in the range. His robot mode depends on other accessories (notably the spring-loaded fists - these are disabled on Western releases, unable to do much more than release the fists rather than fire them) which can't be stored in vehicle mode, but once again this is pretty much par for the range, and to pick on Grapple for it would be harsh. The robot is surprisingly sturdy. The plastic is that 1980s stuff that looks great, but will shatter if dropped onto a hard surface from a few feet, but then you won't be doing that, so he's just for ages eight and over these days. You seem to find a few Grapple and Inferno figures with the black bar broken, and thus the head missing - I'm not sure how; you could break this thing, but you'd have to be trying.


Sadly, that sums Grapple up - he's competent and sturdy, but not exactly exciting. The toy does turn from a moderately realistic mobile crane into a respectable robot, but the whole execution is slightly lacking. A neat transformation does sweeten the deal a little, and there are more pros than cons, but Grapple is hardly an essential toy.