Transformers Wheeljack
Transformers Wheeljack
Transformers Wheeljack
Transformers Wheeljack

While not in the top bracket, Wheeljack has always been one of the more prominent second-string Autobots, frequently getting meaty roles in Sunbow's kids cartoon in the mid-1980s (before getting killed offscreen in the 1986 film) and then staying fairly popular in the later comics, even getting an Action Master figure alongside such luminaries as Megatron, Optimus Prime, Starscream, Grimlock and, er, Tracks. So this is a chap with a long, distinguished service record to The Brand. Hasbro/Takara realised this, and commemorated it with their usual care, either destroying or losing the moulds for the original figure. One possible option was to reverse-engineer the moulds from an example of the toy, but this would be a long and expensive process.

Obviously this was beyond the resources of long-established corporations, and was never undertaken. Thankfully, some bootleggers in China thought to swipe the moulds when Takara were concentrating on a hit like WebDiver or something. The bootleg version, which comes with a replica box, instruction manual and so on, is freely available from sites like IOffer for around £40-50 - not much more than the accessories for an original will cost you. I imagine there are some tiny subtle differences the dedicated nerd could root out, but nothing real people would be bothered with.


Wheeljack turns into a Lancia Stratos rally car, using the late-1970s Alitalia works colour scheme (the Diaclone version was produced in two schemes - this one, and a Marlboro scheme with a different head cast and the name of Philip Morris' best-selling brand adjusted to Marlboor that tends to turn up in crowd scenes from Dreamwave comics). It's a nice design, firmly of its' time but at least it has some sort of identity to it. The toy is mainly white aside from a few paint apps on the roof and some back under the spoiler - thankfully, there's a comprehensive sticker sheet to replicate the Alitalia scheme, even if the green 'panels' behind the doors are a bit of a pain.

As per usual for Takara, there are join lines, but these actually aren't too intrusive on the whole - aside from the large ones in front of the rear wheels, and allowing for the intentional hinging canopy, they're generally in convenient places such as around the doors or engine covers. The overall impression is a good one, it's a very neat car. One criticism would be the use of the two spoiler halves, which could really have done with being screwed on or something - they're basically designed to get lost. Talking of parts, the wings for the robot can theoretically be stored underneath the car, but they come a little bit too close to the ground for my comfort.


The transformation isn't one of the line's very best, basically involving stand the car on its' nose and folding out the back end. Actually, that's not fair, there's a bit more to it than that, and while the overall layout might have been cheapened over the years by rubbish like Backstreet and Lightspeed (sorry, Lightspeed - I love your alt mode, your animation model and your cool voice, but your toy is a barrel-chested, stump-armed mono-pod freak, mate), but this is still a good use of the concept. Plus Wheeljack has a very unique shape - the monkey-armed look won't be to all tastes, as he's not got the same humanoid proportions as he did on the telly, but I think it's a great retro robot mode. Between the unusual proportions and the near-featureless face (no eyes on this chap - it's probably a good thing Takara did swap the mould for some soup in a street kitchen, as they'd have smeared some blue paint on any reissue somewhere) give him a unique look.

The arms do bend at the elbow, though this does tend to leave gaps in them as you can see in the pictures. Aside from the shoulders and elbows, there's a turning head - sure, it's not Soul of Chogokin, but from those points you can get a few variations out of the chap. The accessories really round the figure out (I owned an accessory-less Wheeljack until a year or so ago, and kind-of regretted moving him on, even if he went towards some good stuff... of course, when I found out that within my price budget I could even get either a yellowed, knackered bare example or a pristine 'remake'), especially the wings. Wheeljack has no hand-mounted weaponry (there aren't even holes in the fists), but he does sport a cool pair of boxy missile launchers, which are more fun than a chrome handgun could ever be. The robot generally looks better from the front or from three-quarters, being a little flat-backed and (visually) front-heavy, but overall it's a really charming piece.


Wheeljack is highly recommended to anyone who likes the Autobot cars - the alt mode is stylish, the robot mode is interesting, and he's just a really well-made piece. Quite how so many turn up broken I don't know... That said, the figure has too many limitations to be worth the three figure sums it tends to fetch in good condition (like most of the Autobot cars, Wheeljack is best enjoyed clean and complete). The bootleg therefore is highly recommended - if there is any quality loss in the mould, I didn't notice it, and the price is nice too.