Saturday, 23 July 2011

3H BotCon 2002 Tap-Out

Ah, the humble beginnings of BotCon... While the current operators, Fun Publications, have taken it to the dizzy heights of several thousand attendees, regular boxed sets of 5 or 6 exclusive repaints - some with remolded parts - and increasing numbers of attendee-only additional figures, the original BotCons started small, with a couple of repainted Generation 1 Mini-Autobots. One of 2002's exclusives was Tap-Out, a dark, minty green remix of Cliffjumper

Vehicle Mode:
There's really not much to say about any of the Mini-Autobots except that some of them, like Cliffjumper - and thereby Tap-Out as well - were Super Deformed. The range of pull-back cars was called Choro-Q in Japan, but it better know to the Western World as 'Penny Racers', because the of the slot on the back which accommodated a small coin. This coin was to weigh down the back and cause the car to rear up into a wheelie as it sped off under the power of its pull-back motor. I've always though it was very clever that these Choro-Q/Penny Racer style Mini-Autobots - initially just Cliffjumper and Bumblebee, but later the repaints and remolds like Bumper and Hubcap - used the inconcruous penny slot as a feature of the vehicle. Cliffjumper and Bumblebee both have stickers depicting electronic or mechanical detail, but the remolds and repaints have tended to have an Autobot logo instead.

The car is supposedly a Porsche 924 Turbo, but you'd be hard pressed to find any photos of a car that looks much like this mold - the nose of the toy matches reasonably well to some modified 924s, but that recess on the bonnet, the large, protruding wheel arches and the angular spoiler don't match anything I've been able to find. Still, it's a cute model, and even this reasonably contemporary refit came with rubber tyres, a G1 staple that has disappeared in recent years.

This 2002 exclusive is a recolouring of the 2001 keychain version of Cliffjumper, rather than the original, hence the ring sticking out of the rear bumper, and the lack of 'Dunlop' detailing on the tyres. The model was bagged with the chain and loop but I can't imagine anyone actually using this - or even the original mass-release - as a key fob. The green plastic has a strong glitter component, which really adds to the look of the model.

Robot Mode:
If the vehicle mode is simplified, it's no surprise that robot mode is too... and yet this is one of the iconic TransFormers. The fact that something so small could be both a car and a pretty convincingly humanoid robot was a revelation. What's really weird is that it has basically the same articulation as some of the larger models - the legs are fixed, but the arms move. The only joint that's missing (and that's only from some of the better models in G1) is the elbow.

Robot mode doesn't really show off any new colours - just like the original, the limbs are molded in the same grey plastic as the windows. And, just like Cliffjumper, Tap-Out's face is picked out in silver, and he has a large Autobot logo on his torso.

Transformation is of the same pattern as many G1 Mini-Autobots - pull out the arms, pull out the legs and flip up the feet, then finally flip out the head. It's a simple, but effective, and it's testament to how effective it is that the Classics 'reimagining' was basically an upgrade to this, rather than a complete redesign.

Tap-Out comes with a playing card-sized bio card, on which one side is a well-coloured, sharply printed rendition of the character in exactly the kind of action pose the toy cannot achieve, while the back is a monochrome bio which suggests that Fun Publications were not the originators of the "All Autobots Must Be Cheerful" cliché.

My very first TransFormer was Cliffjumper and, given my record thusfar, I wouldn't be surprised if that original will be one of the last I get round to chronicling. Still, it did mean that a moment of nostalgia led to me picking up this limited edition which, while not necessarily uncommon even today, and certainly not commanding the high prices of contemporary BotCon exclusives, is still not widely available.

I'm not sure than any of the pre-Fun Publications BotCon exclusives are 'must haves' to the same degree as theirs but, since it tends to be cheap, and it's a cute model both in robot and vehicle modes, I'd tend to recommend picking Tap-Out up wherever he appears.

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