Saturday, 9 June 2012

Universe (Chevrolet Dealership Exclusive Aveo) Swerve

Something interesting happened in the wake of the 2007 live action TransFormers movie - the concept of 'robots in disguise' as real-world cars suddenly became cool. Sure, Takara Tomy and Hasbro had tried a similar thing with the Binaltech/Alternators line, with a fair run of success, but GM's involvement in Michael Bay's movie seemed to be the thing that really whetted their appetite for transforming versions of their cars... And when they had a new version of the Aveo to launch, they teamed up with Hasbro to organise a dealership exclusive toy for a special offer: Test drive the car, get a transforming robot based upon it. Of course, that offer was only open in the States but, since it evidently proved quite popular, the model was later made available in Chevrolet Europe's web shop... which was pretty darned cool of them.

Vehicle Mode:
Well, yes, it's the 2007 Chevy Aveo. Like most contemporary cars, I just look at it, shrug and say "meh". It's really not a remarkable car (sorry, Chevrolet, I'm sure you were proud of it but, considering the pedigree, this Aveo was a disappointingly bland family car). This toy was only available in red - possibly a homage to G1 Swerve, since just about every TransFormers Swerve since has been red - with the paint matching the plastic almost perfectly - far better, certainly, than Hasbro's more recent efforts. I guess being teamed up with Chevrolet raised their game a little.

Other than the matching reds, the paintwork is sparse, and yet more focussed that yer-average main line release - the main front grille is painted with silver and black, the rear lights are fully painted, with some trim across the boot, the hubcaps and door handles are painted silver, the front and rear Chevrolet logos are both picked out in gold and all the windows - transparent blue plastic - are trimmed in black. Even so, there are some notable omissions - such as the lower part of the front of the car - and the large Autobot logo on the bonnet is all but lost because it's tampographed on in a red only a little darker than the plastic used for much of the car's body. Believe it or not, it actually stands out better in the photos below than it does in real life.

I know that not all TransFormers can be supercharged powerhouse muscle cars or sleek street racers... but this and Alternators Rumble (Honda Civic) really had me wondering why the manufacturers wanted some of their more staid and - dare I say - family-oriented vehicles transforming into giant alien warriors. I guess it might tickle some kids to know that their parents' car has a place in the TransFormers universe, but I'm sure they'd also prefer their parents to have a more impressive car.
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Robot Mode:
Chevy Swerve is a bit of an oddity. Considering he appeared in the wake of the first live action movie, he's a fairly traditional TransFormer... that is to say, more fitting in the Classics line than the movie line, and yet the level and types of molded detail seem to more closely resemble something from the movie line. Make no mistake, though, this is a very G1-esque 'chest = front of car, legs = back of car, arms come out of middle' type of TransFormer. He even has those G1 staples, the car door wings... though they're mounted rather strangely on his shoulders rather than sticking out behind him.

Robot mode introduces a bit more colour into the mix... or rather, more black and a fair bit of mid/dark grey. Other than the robot's face, there's no additional paintwork exposed in this form.

The head sculpt continues the blurring of lines between Classics and movie transformers. The level of detail fits in with the movie line, but the fact that it's a more traditional robot face than the movie's almost organic approach puts it squarely in with the Classics... but then there's the added 'easter egg' of the design - look closely, and you'll notice a striking resemblance to the Autobot logo. And, as mentioned, the head is where all the robot-specific paint is applied - grey and silver paint on the chin, and black parts painted in under the corners of his visor. The way the eyepiece is molded almost makes it look as though it was supposed to be painted so that only the 'eyes' were light-piped, but the tiny light 'input' on the back of his head mean that even a partially painted visor would make for almost entirely wasted light piping. It looks pretty good as it is.
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Considering this is basically a Deluxe class toy, transformation is quite involved and fiddly in a couple of places. The arms can be quite a pain to stow in vehicle mode, while lower legs are strange and very original in the way they form from the back of the car. All things considered, I'm surprised Hasbro/Takara Tomy haven't reused this transformation scheme for other Classics. While I prefer Classics Jazz to this scheme, it is significantly more interesting than Classics Prowl/Bluestreak/Smokescreen. I absolutely love the way the wheels fold into the chest and remain partially visible above the waist, but I do wish the front of the car clipped into place, rather than just flopping about as it does.

All things considered, Chevy Swerve is very well articulated. The door wings do get in the way a little, but the shoulders are jointed in such a way as to minimise this. Even so, having them mounted on the back, proper G1-style, would have been an improvement. The feet aren't great - jointed pretty much the wrong way for the more dynamic poses, but they're reasonably stable. My only real complaint is the collar around the neck - the head is ball-jointed, but the collar gets in the way and forces one to tilt Swerve's head as it's turned from side to side. There's no structural reason for the collar, and it doesn't add much to his appearance, but it's not the first time - and won't be the last - that this sort of thing has happened. Swerve does have waist articulation, though perhaps this is largely due to the need to rotate the waist for transformation. Even so, it adds a lot of fun to robot mode.

Naturally, he comes with no weapons, and the hands are molded in such a way as to make it impossible for any other TransFormer to loan him a weapon. Rather strange, considering he does have wrist articulation, but I guess Chevrolet have their limits when it comes to warring alien robot toys outside the context of the movies. I wonder if he had a weapon at the concept stage...

G1 Swerve was a modified version of the Mini Autobot Gears, and has since become the go-to name for red repaints of many TransFormers - the Binaltech/Alternators Corvette and the Revenge of the Fallen Corvette Stingray concept (both Chevrolet cars!) being just two examples.

I can't remember what I ended paying for this - far less than I would have if I'd paid eBay prices to a vendor in the States, and certainly less than the average Collectors' Club exclusive... but it was enough to prevent me buying more than one, despite the fact that I'd considered getting one as a gift for a friend (though he's not so much into TransFormers these days). Chevy Aveo Swerve is certainly a cool figure, and well worth picking up... but not worth silly prices. He turns up on eBay once in a while, though, and occasionally the prices are quite reasonable.

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