Red Alert was always something of an unfortunate, ignored character - especially considering he comes from the fanboys' favourite era "before that G2 shit in the film were they replaced Optimus with that gay one". The mould was a recolour/retool of first series favourite Sideswipe (joyless fact attack - he's actually a recolour of the Diaclone remould of the toy that would become Sideswipe. The Diaclone police version was issued more or less unchanged as the eHobby exclusive Clamp Down in 2003. The More You Know...), something which nobody in the associated fiction has ever drawn attention to. Sunstreaker gets to be Sideswipe's brother despite looking nothing like him, while Red Alert was hidden away like some sort of redheaded illegitimate bastard. Actually, in the cartoon his head was red, wasn't it? And his mother was a hooker. Weird.

Red did get a feature episode of the cartoon, one of the three decent scripts from the whole run. Aside from that he was a bit of a nonentity, and like most of the promising Season 2 characters was junked when the film came out. He did even worse in the Marvel comics, for some bizarre unknown reason never appearing in the American series (well, apart from the Transformers Universe profile series) and only making largely-silent cameos in the UK material (though he did clobber Brawn once). Despite getting a cover with buddy Inferno, he was similarly elusive in the Dreamwave series, and so far in the IDW material - the odd background appearance and little else.

However, a Red Alert has gone on to lasting fame as the trademark was reused for key characters in the Unicron Trilogy Armada and Cybertron series. He might even be in the Animated series, but I can't pretend I've paid much attention to that. The original has been homaged several times, though - the original 2003 Universe line featured recolours of both the Deluxe and Spychanger versions of Prowl in Red Alert's exact colour scheme but named Inferno (Deluxe) and Prowl (Spychanger) for no real reason, while the current Universe line has recoloured some Cybertron Legends figure or other in his scheme. A Red Alert variation on the Deluxe Sunstreaker/Sideswipe was a widely-expected addition to Generations, too. Oh, and there was a Binaltech Asterisk figure bearing his name - in a weird inversion of Hasbro's policy, this looked like Prowl with a red head.

The alt mode is a little left field (apparently, though, some fire service somewhere did use Countaches as auxiliary vehicles. Hmm, not sure about that.), and maybe that's what I like about it. Just the idea of a Fire Chief driving around in a Countach is great. But it looks cool, doesn't it? Well detailed with a nice colour scheme and all the Car Robot mod cons - diecast parts (the paint of which actually matches rather well with the white plastic), rubber tyres, transparent windows, actual resemblance to a Lamborghini Countach, and so on.

The biggest problem are the stickers, which involve large patches of white to be added over white, which don't look good up close. However, nitpicking aside Red Alert looks dynamite, it has to be said. Even the rubsign placement isn't totally stupid, rendering the feature simply pointless rather than an outright fault. Realistic it perhaps isn't, but it's better than another bloody police car. Seriously, what was it with Takara and police cars? Three Car Robot figures were remoulded to become police types (and there was the ambulance version of the Onebox as well, we were lucky it wasn't a police van I suppose)... We should be doubly grateful to Hasbro - not only did they initially prune the number of police cars down to a more sensible one, but the creation of Transformers meant it replaced Diaclone in Japan before Takara could come up with police type Ligier F1 cars and cranes.

There's a nice, unchallenging but satisfying transformation, with lots of visible car mode parts that don't get in the way. It's probably the simplest of all the Car Robot moulds, though this does mean the figure's one of the least fragile from the range. The only problem, which appears to be a reissue thing and may even be a "reissue I happened to get" thing is that the roof won't go flush to Red's back like it's meant to. The detail's nice (though coloured eyes would have been cool), but poseability is just about zero without making the arms look naff. A pleasant surprise is that the stickers aren't insane overkill in this mode, as mid-80s TFs tend to go overboard on the printed circuits motif.

The robot is nicely proportioned too, actually managing a decent boxy humanoid shape - I'd argue the Datsun and Honda City moulds are the only ones ahead of Red Alert on this score, though he does lack the quirky charm of some such as Hound, Wheeljack or Trailbreaker. He's very sensible-looking, but lacks a certain amount of individuality. The fists have possibly been modified (I'm going by memory of the Sideswipe I had for Xmas '85 here) to widen and shorten the rifle-stem, which is a good thing as it won't snap when you try to take it out of his hand. He's a nice display piece, especially alongside a de-stickered Generation 2 Sideswipe. For aesthetics, he kicks the bland original Sideswipe into touch quite firmly. Oh, and the best thing is he doesn't have that stupid red head Sunbow stuck on him. Not only does it look better, but it annoys fanboys. I'm surprised they didn't make him cartoon-accurate, but in a good way.

In summary, Red Alert looks sharp in both modes thanks to an imaginative colour scheme and sticker sheet. The mould lacks that X-factor and fails to stand out much, but it's a perfectly competent piece of work that functions as it should. One thing I should stress that this one is really worth hunting down in reissue form - the visual impact made by the white plastic and red scheme is lost on older examples (where it tends to be yellow/orange, and it's only that good if the paint hasn't chipped and the sticklers haven't peeled off altogether....). Well worth hunting down, but it shouldn't be at the very top of your list.