Sunday, 29 August 2010

Galaxy Force Autovolt

While Autovolt is obviously not a homage in terms of his name, character or paintjob, he most certainly is in terms of his construction and visual style. Back in the days of Generation 1, one mold got almost as much reuse as the F-15 body - the Nissan/Datsun Fairlady Z. It was pretty much the iconic body form for the boxed Autobots - the front of the car became the chest, the back of the car became the legs, and the doors spread out like wings behind them.

Fast forward to 2005, and we have Autovolt transforming into a modified Bugatti Veyron, a far prettier car than even the contemporary version of the Fairlady Z. Bugatti seem to have taken some design cues from Anton Furst's Batmobile, creating a curvy car whose front sweeps inward to what could easily be a jet engine intake. There are key differences between the way Autovolt transforms and the way the G1 icon transforms, partly due to overall improvements in toymaking allowing greater articulation, and partly because they only really needed to hint at, rather than duplicate the aesthetic. Classics/Universe later duplicated and updated the look with the new Prowl, (Silver)Streak and, later, Smokescreen.

Vehicle Mode:
If anything, the modifications to the Bugatti design make this look like a harder-edged, more powerful car. The impression of a jet engine intake on the front is enhanced considerably by the conversion of the little blob that was the Bugatti badge, into a fully-fledged spike, dead centre in the front grille. The headlights are more angluar, and sweep upward toward the outer edges, rather than down. The rear end is rather more squared-off - where the real Veyron has a hydraulically-deployed spoiler, Autovolt's robot mode weapon attaches as an additional jet engine/spoiler. Consequently, the roof-mounted scoop sits further forward on Autovolt than on a real Veyron.

If I had to describe one single TransFormer vehicle mode as 'beautiful', it would be this one. It harks back to the Lambourghini Countach in terms of its low, almost stocky look, but is curved everywhere the Countach is angular. The addition of the jet engine/spoiler at the back does rather ruin the sleek appearance of the car, but it does suit the character.

The key-activated gimmick in this model is another G1 reference, though this only becomes fully apparent in robot mode. To accompany the jet engine/spoiler, a pair of missile launchers - each containing four non-firing missiles - pops out an onto the car roof.

Robot Mode:
And so we have the iconic G1 Autobot form, 2005-style. The front of the car has become the chest, but the legs are far slimmer, more mobile and, frankly, more leg-like... and yet they do include the car's wheels to remind you where they came from. However, while they would have come from the rear of the car in a G1 model, Autovolt's ankle wheels are from the front. Where G1 spread the car doors out behind the arms, Autovolt's doors are attached as armour panels to his shoulders, and the roof of the car, rather than hanging uselessly off his back, becomes a wrist-mounted shield.

Everything about his robot mode tells you he's ready for battle, and that's before the key-activated missile launchers are deployed. In robot mode, the confirm Autovolt's G1 heritage - they pop out onto his shoulders, either side of his head, just like the plug-in launchers of G1 Prowl, Bluestreak and Smokescreen.

And if you think he's still not armed heavily enough, large chunks of the rear and sides of the car can flip round from the back to be another pair of guns mounted on his hips.

Robot mode isn't as sleek as it could be, however... having the car front as the chest makes him look very unbalanced between his top half and his legs - which look powerful enough, but very slim. He's about twice as wide at the shoulder than he is at the waist, and that's not including the car door/armour panels.

Still, while vehicle mode was quite uniformly dark grey, a lot more gold and light grey/silver is apparent in robot mode, with touches of red at the waist. The head is a bit of a disappointment - none of the transparent blue plastic is light-piped, and the overall shape of the head seems flatter than the animation model. Then again, the animation model cheats a fair bit of his appearance - the car front loses much of its width, giving him a much more balanced look.

Transformation is fairly simple, but the awkwardly interlocking panels - specifically the car doors versus the roof and the hip-guns - makes it a bit of a pain, and occasionally quite traumatic. Everything seems to have to be positioned halfway between modes before it finally clips into place. Thankfully, the rest of it is simplicity itself, and I particularly like the way the front of the car hinges into place to form the robot's chest.

Articulation should be excellent, thanks to the abundance of ball joints, but ball joints do have a habit of being a little weak... my Autovolt suffers both from weak knees and weak hips so, coupled with a back-heavy construction (compensated for somewhat by having flip-out heels as long as his feet) he does have a habit of flopping over backward.

Overall, though, Autovolt has to rank as one of my favourite Galaxy Force Autobots. The G1 homages are there, robot mode is dynamic and, while his overall aesthetic seems more like armoured human than alien robot, it suits the character, who was depicted as metallic knight/monster hunter. He may not have the most extensive or intricate paint job, but the look works very well.

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