Saturday, 21 September 2013

G1 Stunticons/Menasor (My First Gestalt!)

The arrival of gestalt teams in the UK back in 1986 felt like something of a triumph. We'd missed out on the Constructicons/Devastator for no obvious reason and suddenly combining robots were 'the big thing' in both the TV series and the Marvel comics. This was back in the days when Hasbro's UK marketing and distribution made gaffes like releasing Metroplex without Trypticon, and then Scorponok without Fortress Maximus, so it was also rather surprising that all four of 1986's teams were released in good numbers.

One rather obvious point of interest was that this was the first time the Decepticons got a truly significant ground presence, and the first time the Autobots gained some air power, so much was made of this in the associated fiction of the time. With most humans thinking all giant robots were evil invaders from another world, and only a select few aware that Autobots tended to disguise themselves as cars and trucks, while Decepticons tended to go for jets and spacecraft, this turnaround threw everything into doubt...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you... The Stunticons!

Vehicle Mode:
Basically the same kind of Lamborghini Countach as G1 Sideswipe, but in a pearlescent white (now somewhat yellowed by age) with blue trim and a large red block on the bonnet. Considering the diminutive size of the model, it's an excellent rendition of the Countach, but the transformation seams are that much more obvious due to the proportions.

The only paintwork on this model is the blackening of the windows so, even with the red sticker on the bonnet, Breakdown looks a little plain... but since he's a Countach, I'm inclined to let that go - it's such a beautiful car. His secondary plastic colour, blue, is used for the front bumper and all the wheel arches. Not necessarily true to life, but it adds to the look of the car.

All the Stunticons came packaged with large dual-barrelled cannons which mount on their vehicle modes via an L-shaped unit that plugs into the 5mm sockets on the backs of the cars. The L-piece on almost all of them is taller than it strictly needed to be, so they're not exactly 'roof-mounted' and there's plenty of clearance for them to rotate a full 360degrees. Breakdown's vehicle weapon is not listed in his tech specs.

Robot Mode:
Considering the constraints of his size and the simplicity of his transformation, Breakdown looks pretty good in robot mode. OK, his legs are essentially a solid piece - their only movement is in the lower legs, which swing out to the sides and down from vehicle mode - and his arms only move at the shoulder, but the molding is such that you can see the robot they intended in this little brick.

The arms seem short and fat, and the hands are comparatively enormous, but they do feature pegs for his handgun and they are molded with some detail.

Paintwork is minimal - the head has a splash of red to highlight the visor and the lower part of his face - but the head sculpt is surprisingly detailed for its size, and considering its alternate purpose, as a junction point for the gestalt. Instead of paint, Breakdown has a good selection of stickers on his arms and legs. The chest is largely unpainted die cast metal, with the head/junction arm fixed within.

Dead End
Vehicle Mode:
Carrying on the theme of accurately modelled cars, Dead End's disguise is a Porche 928. He's probably the only model in the set which would have benefitted by additional paintwork, since the Porche's headlights are always visible, whereas those of the Lamborghini (above) and the Ferrari (below) fold away into the body of the vehicle. Like Breakdown and Wildrider, however, the only paintwork on the model is on the windows.

Dead End is molded largely in a reddish-brown colour with metallic flakes, making him look especially glossy. His additional decoration comes in the form of a yellow and silver stripe, made up of five different stickers running the length of the car, and a pair of Decepticon insignias, one on each door.

While he has the same transformation scheme as Breakdown, his seams are less noticeable, largely because of the darker plastic colour.

His dual-barrelled cannon looks pretty cool but, again, it's not mentioned in his tech specs.

Robot Mode:
The identical transformation scheme to Breakdown is very obvious in robot mode, but I'd say his overall look is better. The way his hands are molded means their proportions (and, indeed, those of his arms) are a better fit to the rest of the robot, and he somehow manages to look slimmer. Most of his sticker details turn up on his chest, so he also looks rather more elaborate than Breakdown.

He also has a die-cast metal chest and a single splash of paint over the face. With his head being used as the connection point for gestalt mode, his nose has become worn down over time, exposing the black plastic below.

Articulation is exactly the same as Breakdown and, despite the smaller hands, he holds his weapon very snugly.

Drag Strip
Vehicle Mode:
If the gestalt teams all had an odd man out, Drag Strip would be the odd Stunticon. Not only his he a race car rather than a street car, but he's bright yellow. Also, to look at him, you'd think he probably wasn't based on a real car but, according to the TF Wiki, he's a Tyrell P34 and, just like the other Stunticons, a pretty accurate rendition at that! The strangest thing about it is that two of his six wheels are raised so that, while they will freely rotate, they never actually touch the ground.

Drag Strip had absolutely no paintwork other than the chroming of his engine block (covered over on the real-life vehicle) and, rather curiously, had a sticker to put over the very front of the raised cockpit area, almost as if it were meant to represent a windscreen. Since that sticker had a terrible habit of peeling, I simply removed mine and replaced it with part of the sticker that was intended for the spoiler.

His dual-barrelled cannon is molded in a similar reddish brown to Dead End's vehicle mode, just a bit more purple and without the metallic flakes, and it's one of the more interesting designs of the set. Also, since the attachment port is comparatively low on the car, there's less clearance between the highest point on the car (the spoiler) and the cannons than on any of the other Stunticons.

Robot Mode:
Drag strip is probably one of the most disappointing of the set, since his transformation seems more simplistic even than Wildrider's, despite it being essentially identical. He's also still essentially the same uniform yellow throughout, with the only additional colours being his red and yellow strip stickers, the chrome plate on his torso, the reddish-brown/purple of his head and the cyan of his face.

Worse than that, his hands aren't even molded to hold his gun - he has sockets molded in his wrists for that! He also appears to have only one foot, despite having two upper legs - the only thing separating one lower leg/foot from the other in robot mode is a very shallow groove.

Like Dead End, his nose has been worn down over time, due to his head being the junction point for the gestalt.

Like all the other Stunticons, he does have a die-cast metal panel, but it's on his back because his transformation is back-to-front compared to the others. There are four vent-like details on his back but, with the car's nose hanging down, they're effectively obscured.

Vehicle Mode:
Another very cool vehicle mode - the Ferrari 308 GTB, a slight variation on the car very famously used by Magnum, PI. It's molded largely in a faintly metallic grey plastic by, unusually, the side windows are molded in the model's secondary colour, red. The windscreen is painted red, though it's not an especially good match to the plastic.

Like the others, it's a very detailed model for its size, and his seams are kept to a minimum by some reasonably intelligent placing. The exception to this is the bonnet, where a large chunk of windscreen is attached for no obvious reason. Also, due to the nature of his transformation, Wildrider has a large gap in the front end of his vehicle mode.

Wildrider's dual-barrelled cannon is the only one listed in his tech specs, which describe it as a 'plasma-energy blaster'... and it's entirely possible that I've switched his weapon with Dead End's, since they're the same colour...

Robot Mode:
Wildrider probably ends up looking the weirdest of the set, despite being largely similar to Breakdown and Dead End, and using almost the same transformation scheme as Drag Strip. Like the latter, he has holes in his wrists to mount his handgun, but his 'hands' aren't even as detailed as Drag Strip's - they're just carved outlines, molded on the insides of his forearms. They are also broken up by large slots to accommodate the tabs on his lower legs which are the only things keeping his arms from moving in vehicle mode... Not the world's greatest bit of design!

On the upside, yet keeping Wildrider in the 'weird' side of things, he head sculpt is unique. Whereas all the other Stunticons have humanoid faces to one degree or another, Wildrider's is almost featureless and very robotic.

He has stickers adding colour to his arms, chest and legs but, as is evident in the photos, those on his arms have a habit of peeling - one on mine is held on by sellotape...

Other than Drag Strip, none of the Stunticon cars have especially prominent feet, but Wildrider's are just plain tiny, though this was a fairly common feature of smaller toys as recently as the Galaxy Force/Cybertron lines.

Vehicle Mode:
For a character who considers himself Optimus Prime's nemesis (ho ho - see what I did there?) Motormaster is just plain tiny. Sure, he had to be of a scale to fit the cars adequately in gestalt form, but that leaves him with a vehicle mode that'sof a completely different scale to his team-mates.

Like Optimus Prime, he transforms into a flat-nosed truck, this one described as a Kenworth K100. Unlike Prime, the robot is formed from both the cab and the trailer, rather than separating. Also like Prime, the sides of his truck are decorated by a stripe pattern incorporating his faction insigna.

Considering its size, this is a very detailed model, and the chrome on the front grille, headlights and bumper is a welcome touch. The windows are molded in purple plastic, as is the trailer hitch... through there's no articulation in this truck due to the way it transforms. The trailer has loads of molded panel lines, and even has stabiliser feet underneath... though they're molded in position, and cannot be used in any way.

While the full vehicle has ten wheels, only six of them actually touch the ground - the four on the back of the truck are raised, and don't even rotate.

Base Mode:
The original Japanese version of Motormaster had several features that were either removed or just not publicised in the western releases. The main one - the existence of a base mode - was puzzling. While the UK didn't get Trypticon, the US did, and Motormaster and Onslaught's base modes are intended to connect to Trypticon. They do, supposedly, also connect to Metroplex... though I don't have him at my home just now, so I can't confirm.

The second feature is that Motormaster's 'roller' car could be launched by a spring-loaded mechanism, just like the one in Optimus Prime's trailer. Remnants of this feature remain (the black plastic piece on the main bay is inserted into what was the track of the launcher), but it's very much disabled. Why this is so is anyone's guess. Hasbro would probably say it was a safety issue (I know that Optimus Prime's roller-launcher was altered for the UK so it didn't spring quite so far) but it's more likely to have been a simple cost saving.

Thing is, it's not the most convincing of base modes... the truck is split in half and forms the rear 'wall' of the base and, other than that, it's basically just a (mostly) flat bay with a ramp. What with Motormaster's colourscheme being a bit dull, and none of robot mode's stickers being visible, base mode ends up looking more like a fanmode than an intentional part of the design.

Robot Mode:
Motormaster comes from the grand tradition of TransFormers with very little articulation and some extremely dodgy positioning of the joints. Not least of his problems is that his shoulders are also his elbows. There's also some debate as to the correct arrangement of his legs - I tend to default to positioning them as per his box art, giving him a nice, wide stance. Some prefer to have the 'upper legs' extended down at an angle. He doesn't look good either way, to be honest, but it's nice to have options.

Since the majority of his robot mode is formed from the trailer, he's very boxy and grey (albeit with metallic flakes), only broken up by the black parts of his chest, head and feet. I know it's generally a bad move to look at TransFormers toys from behind, but Motormaster brings this rule of thumb to a new low, because he has essentially the entire base of the trailer running up his spine.

The head sculpt is pretty good, and the impassive face is highlighted in a pale purple. It has been said that there are versions out there with the eyes painted a different colour, but this is not the case with mine.

He comes with two weapons, neither of which can be mounted on his vehicle mode: a chromed sword and a large purple handgun/rifle, described as a 'Cyclone Gun', capable of producing winds of 400mph. Doesn't sound especially useful to me, but hey...

Personally, I think the Stunicons/Menasor still stand as one of the most successful gestalts from Generation 1. His proportions are good, he looks powerful, he stands well in any configuration. Naturally there's no leg or head articulation, but that was par for the course - even those torso 'bots whose heads were not framed like Motormaster's would tend not to rotate. In fact, if I remember correctly, the only one with any kind of head articulation was Defensor, because his head was part of Hotspot's ladder rig.

While none of the G1 gestalts were in any way uniform in their colourscheme (a feature reserved for later re-releases such as the Wal-Mart and TF Universe 'Ruination' repaints of Bruticus), Menasor has the advantage of three components whose robot forms have die cast metal torsos, which blend quite well with his thighs. I'm not entirely convinced by the purple hands and feet, but since that's Motormaster's tertiary plastic colour, it makes some sense... and he would have looked a bit dull with black hands and feet.

Motormaster's weapons probably look a bit better with Menasor - the gun certainly fits better and, while the sword doesn't look too large in Motormaster's hands, it certainly doesn't look too small in Menasor's.

The big problem with the G1 gestalts was that, where a robot's head was used as a connection peg, the socket tended to wear away at protruding parts of the faces, in particular their noses - evident on both Dead End and Drag Strip. It also seems to me that the pegs themselves are excessive in length. Clearance isn't an issue, even with the cars' tyres, so shorter pegs would have allowed for higher, tighter shoulders on Menasor, improving the look of the upper body. The two vehicles forming his lower legs can be arranged with the car parts facing forward, which gives Menasor a kind of rudimentary 'knee' articulation but it's rather useless without any movement in the upper leg and the pegs can be a little loose, leading him to lean backward slightly. This latter problem doesn't occur with the limbs arranged 'properly', as the torso tends to be back heavy.

It's something of a shame that none of the vehicle mode weapons can be incorporated into Menasor, since all the possible joints are already in use. That said, few - if any - of the G1 gestalts could use the vehicle mode weapons of their component parts, and most of that would probably be more by luck than judgement.

Menasor was the first (and, until only a few years ago, the only) G1 gestalt I completed. Even by the standards of the time, he wasn't exactly massive but, to me, he was always one of the best: Superion was too lanky, Bruticus too blocky... Only Defensor came close to his overall coolness. While it's obviously very dated now, it still stands as one of the best experiments of Generation 1, and the way they were integrated into the lore, as Decepticons effectively made in the image of Autobots as a means to discredit them among the humans, and with Motormaster considering himself a direct rival to Optimus Prime, made them one of the more interesting teams as well.

However, simplistic as they may be now, they're a higher achievement than the Energon/Superlink gestalts simply because the limbs are four unique molds... and the fact that four such different models could create limbs of approximately the same size is still pretty impressive. That, and they at least have proper hands and feet!

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