Friday, 22 November 2013

FansProject CA-11 Causality: Down Force

The final two limb components from FansProjects' unofficial Stunticons were a long time coming. Not sure quite why that was, considering their initial announcement wasn't that far behind Car Crash and T-Bone. Both were entirely new designs - an absolute necessity for their Drag Strip analogue at the very least - and, unlike CA-09 and CA-10, not clever re-shells of essentially the same transformation scheme.

Of the group, Down Force was always going to be the most contentious because his official G1 counterpart disguised himself as a Tyrell P34 racing car, a unique and rather radical design. I seem to recall quite a few complaints when images of Down Force first turned up on the fan sites simply because he only had four wheels rather that Drag Strip's six.

Vehicle Mode:
FansProject's mode is based on another British-designed vehicle, the Caparo T1. Believe it or not, though, this isn't a racing car, it's a roadworthy sports car. Even stranger, it's a two-seater!

Considering the design of the real-world vehicle, it's no surprise that some compromises have been made to turn it into a transforming plastic model. What's odd is that some of the concessions are to the vehicle and others to the robot. There's a lot more vehicle body at the front, while the rear of the vehicle is almost entirely open. From the sides, it looks very authentic... and also strangely Batmobile. Or it would if it was a more suitable colour.

The choice of main plastic colour is quite authentic to the G1 original, perhaps a little brighter and more vibrant. Drag Strip's red and gold stripes have been almost entirely removed, however - all that remains is a pair of red stripes on the rear spoiler. That brings me neatly to the big complaint about this entry into the Causality family - it's surprisingly plain. Granted, the others weren't exactly covered with paint, but all of them had more paintwork that Down Force. Aside from the stripes, the only paint he has is silver for the hubcaps, front axle-thing, and headlights (behind the transparent cyan plastic) and some black rimming his cockpit.

Additionally, he looks pretty terrible from behind, as you can see that his rear wheels aren't complete wheels - this is basically the same trick as both Car Crash and T-Bone use, but they both used a matching plastic colour for the stationary 'inner wheel', whereas it's bright yellow on Down Force. By sheer coincidence, two hinges on the underside could pass for exhaust pipes, but that back end really needed a bit more work.

Just like all the others, there's no vehicle mode weapon, but the robot's weapon splits into two parts and can be stashed on the underside, either side of his robot hips. It's a shame Down Force's weapon was cast in yellow, as it looks like the giant alien robot equivalent of a Nerf gun. Obviously it couldn't have been cast in a burgundy colour similar to the one used by Dead End, but this model uses grey and black plastic, either of which would have been more suitable for the gun.

Robot Mode:
There's no getting around the fact that Down Force looks rather weird in robot mode. The slender, bell-bottomed legs and the enormous shoulder pads certainly make him unique among his team-mates. There's almost something effeminate about him, as if it's a G1-ised version of BotCon 2011's Drag Strip, based on the TF Animated Arcee mold.

If the vehicle mode seemed a bit plain, robot mode more than makes up for it. Far more colour is visible in this mode, starting with purple on his head, hips and feet, then there are two metallic shades - the silver seen in vehicle mode and another, darker gunmetal shade applied liberally on the torso and forearms. The most interesting aspect of Down Force's molding and paintwork is the obvious G1 homage at his waist. Drag Strip's chromed vehicle engine block flipped up to become mechanical detail on the robot mode's torso, and a similarly shaped section exists here.

The head sculpt is an interesting feature... it's clearly inspired by Drag Strip from the G1 cartoon, but has two eyes rather than a visor, and lacks the curious orange side panels. I can understand dropping the extraneous colour but, other than to make the homage as much to the toy as to the TV series, I can't see why they decided against the visor since the cartoon reference would be clearer. The face, like the first two, is verging on 'dull surprise', but it's not terrible.

As previously mentioned, his two part pistol is yellow... and looks terrible in the robot's hand. FansProject really should have used one of the other plastic colours for the gun - any of them would have worked, though one of the two greys - that of his hands and biceps or of his thighs - would have been favourite.

The bulk of Down Force's transformation is far simpler than any of the other non-Stunticons, but the few complications can be a real pest. First and foremost, arranging the two chunks of the front of the car on his shoulders is little more than an exercise in utter frustration because there's no way to clip either part into place. It's almost possible to use the notch on the base of the nose to clip over the wheel arch, but they're not designed to become fixed together. Likewise, getting them back into vehicle mode is just plain irritating - it's easier to pop them off their ball joints and only replace them when the reset of the transformation is done. Next up, the feet really don't like transforming into/out of vehicle mode and there's barely enough clearance to get them under the windscreen. For me, though, the most annoying part was the windscreen itself, since it's only designed to rotate one way. The very first time I transformed Down Force into vehicle mode, I virtually stripped the peg that's meant to stop the windscreen rotating anticlockwise. I don't see why it was necessary to limit rotation, except insofar as it kind of needs a way of letting one know when it's in the 'upright' position for robot mode. Considering the cost of these figures, I think FansProject should have played it safe and done without.

Articulation is about as good as any of the Causality non-Stunticons, within the limits of the model. Surprisingly, the shoulders aren't overly restricted by the chunks of car sticking out of them, but the legs are hindered somewhat by the tiny feet and the lack of a proper heel. It's not too difficult to balance him, but he is prone to falling over backwards. Still, as shown in the photos above, it is possible to balance him on one foot. On the upside, the wrists are ball joints, making the partly-open hands that little bit more expressive than those of the other three. On the downside, the upturned cockpit window on his back does sit below the waist joint and so clashes slightly as the waist rotates.

While the bio cards packaged with these figures are weird at best, the 'interview' with Down Force is the strangest of the set, characterising him as monosyllabic rather than like the obnoxious braggart of Generation 1.

Down Force clearly isn't the highlight of the set, but he's still an excellent effort from a third party, and still far better than any gestalt component Hasbro has yet to produce. Given that FansProject clearly wanted this to be a reasonable homage to the G1 vehicle, I can't think of a better car to have chosen, but it has placed some awkward constraints on the robot.

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