Wheeljack is a brilliant risk taker, both in his lab and on the road. His inventions are both the cause of and solution to many problems as he pushes the boundaries of science and engineering in his quest for the next big thing. Due to the daring nature of his experiments, his lab needs to remain isolated - mostly because it blows up on a regular basis.
Really, there's only two things anyone needs to know about Wheeljack: He invents things, and then something goes horribly wrong. There is more to the character than that ...sometimes... but those two things are all most people actually remember about Wheeljack. I think for the most part Wheeljack's absence in Classics style toys has not been felt as strongly as Jazz had been. For one thing, a pretty good likeness of Wheeljack was released in Energon under the name Downshift, so a stand-in has been available for a while anyway. In any case, I don't think anybody was expecting when Tracks was revealed all those months ago that the same mold would be utilized to fill the Wheeljack-shaped hole in the lineup. What's even more surprising, at least to me, is how well it works out.
It's no Lancia. But as long as it has the red and green rally deco and isn't, like, a Mazda or something, is anyone going to care or really notice that much difference?
It's a good generic sportscar type, seemingly not particularly inspired by any real model - or more accurately probably inspired by little bits of a lot of different cars. It may be credit to the deco layout, but the vehicle mode really does look at home as a Wheeljack body, and if there had been a way to do that bizarre curved wraparound windshield I'd be willing to call it dead-on.
The colors are obviously the major difference from Tracks, but some physical changes are present in vehicle mode. For one, while keeping the same base design as Tracks for the front end, grille and headlights, Wheeljack's version of those parts is molded to include a freaking huge cow-catcher style air dam along the front bumper. Wheeljack also adds a spoiler in place of the flip-around plate behind the rear window. Seeing as Wheeljack hasn't got any rockets/missiles to go in that spot, that seems completely sensible.
I've found that at least this Wheeljack can't get the rear section and driver-side door to close flush against each other. I've worked on it to some extent but haven't found a way to correct for it, and so there's a somewhat sizable gap, which carries on partway up the roof as well. I know this was sometimes a problem on Tracks, so it's probably a luck of the draw deal on exactly how the parts all lined up during assembly and/or individual variation on finding a trick around it. Otherwise the vehicle holds together solidly and has no other panel split issues to speak of. One credit I'll give Wheeljack is that even though the clear windshield and side windows are a lighter tint than Tracks, they managed to do a pretty good job of getting a similar looking paint for the rear window. Under the circumstances that's about the best I could ask for. Finally, instead of missiles tucked under the doors, Wheeljack has a big custom exhaust system. Certainly a more reasonable upgrade. Unless you're Tony Stark or something.
It's important to not pay too much attention to the instructions this time. They're largely a straight reprint of Tracks, so they'll give you some bad advice. Like to pull the legs to full extension. Which they CAN'T DO, and will break if you try. The legs do extend, but they're made to stop shorter than Tracks. They have a nice little click to lock in place at their full length, so don't try to go past that. Folks have managed to break things that way. But otherwise it's even simpler than Tracks, since you don't need to rotate the waist, even. I guess you could stop at flying car mode along the way too, but it's not like Wheeljack is really supposed to do things like that. Wheeljack would just build a Transformer scale car that could turn into a jet. (and probably explode)
I am frequently amazed by the state of mold reuses in Transformers these days. Before Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, getting new heads on a recolor was pretty uncommon. And after the designers found out they could get away with bundling extra pieces into a tooling, it's like a floodgate opened, and over time the number and complexity of the extra parts increased surprisingly. Wheeljack definitely falls into that category. Plus making use of the modified transformation trick Sunstreaker and Sideswipe introduced further removes the toy from its moldmate. The changes in the legs actually restrict the figure's height, making him distinctly shorter than Tracks. I think it might be a first time that the height of a figure has been altered for any reason other than changed head size/shape. But on that note, be aware that this is a hard limit; If you try to force the legs to extend farther you'll break the toy before you get more height. And then Wheeljack will be very short.
Aside from the hood/fender panels, everything below Wheeljack's knees is different than on Tracks, even including slight changes to the engineering of how they transform. What were large, closed-in shin panels on Tracks are smaller, more open calves for Wheeljack. The calves each include a 3mm C-clip bar on the outer side between the leg and fender. Maybe not a useful place to equip a weapon, but useful for storage. The calf parts being a bit more open also relieves Wheeljack of a nagging problem present on Tracks and allows Wheeljack's knees a 90-degree range of bend. Y'know, versus the 3 1/2 or so Tracks gets. In terms of the modified engineering, Wheeljack's tires are mounted to posts sticking out the sides of the ankle struts. They're riveted on, but can swivel a short distance. They can't go far enough to remain within the wheel wells, but you do have the choice to either add the wheels to the overall footprint, or keep them elevated based on preference. Notably, Wheeljack doesn't have the problem with plastic tolerances that Tracks did, and the ankle joints are perfectly solid. Even above the knees, more cosmetic changes could have been made. For instance, the thighs have different sculpting front and back, as does the pelvis. Unless there's a greater reasoning I'm not seeing it would have been simple to have the assembly of these parts reversed. Conveniently, it looks very much like that's also something that can easily be done at the consumer level if the toys aren't already different enough for your tastes.
The new head seems to be a Best Of Wheeljack, incorporating elements of multiple previous takes on Wheeljack, including cartoon, toy, and even Alternators. Tracks barely had any tilt in the neck joint due to the helmet shape. Wheeljack does come out a little bit better, between the head having a narrower base and maybe a tiny bit taller neck post or slightly shallower socket in the head. It's not spectacular, but it is just enough for Wheeljack to look downcast after his new catapult throwing machine explodes. The only thing I'm less than happy about with the way the head turned out is that since all the clear plastic comes off one sprue, Wheeljack has smoky clear eyes and ears. Without a light shining directly in from the back his eyes always look dark. I may after photography is over take the clear plastic piece out and paint his eyes blue or maybe yellow. Or pretend it's Wheeljack during Transformers The Movie.
The only other new body parts are the little wingtips, which have become more techy and not as aircraft-wing looking as what Tracks had. And in a welcome move, they even painted the insides of the doors silver so it would properly look like Wheeljack's wings. Angling the doors up into a V pretty well cements the visual connection to Wheeljack.
As noted already, Wheeljack's knees work a lot better, but otherwise the functional aspects of the toy are about equal to Tracks. The arms are very nice with solid double hinged elbows and a pretty wide ball jointed shoulder, though the exact design of the shoulder bothers me some. It's nothing different from Tracks, though I'll admit to not paying it as much attention since I didn't pull Tracks in the review assignments. The basics of it are that the shoulders have a great ability to pitch backwards but basically none to hunch forward, as a result of oddly angled shoulder posts. Since I already said the shoulders have good range, it obviously doesn't majorly impact their usefulness, but having felt the limitation the first time I can't un-notice it now. I wish I could ignore it more too, since these are really nice generic robot arms, and aside from the wheels at the shoulders don't even have any vehicle parts to impede their movement.
I'm a little bothered with the torso, but this may come down to individual variation. On both toys the roof of the car slides up, pushing the shoulders outward and raising the head. Both toys depend on friction to hold these chunks up in robot mode, and while Tracks feels pretty solid in this regard, Wheeljack never feels like it's settling in place. It's hard to exactly explain, but it doesn't seem to rest. I can push it to where it stops, but it feels like it needs to go farther or it'll start sagging down. Like I said, I can't explain this very well, and there's a good chance it's just a very very slightly loose fit on my specific copy of the toy. It's not like the chest has caved in so far or anything. Moving along, tabbing the backpack into the torso has me a little worried, where Tracks didn't inspire any great concern. I even had to take a hobby knife and shave away a tiny bit of plastic that was keeping one tab from even fitting in the slot. Hopefully it'll get easier over time, because even up to the point of writing this it's a spot where I have a fear of something snapping under pressure.
Shared with Tracks, though it was clearly always designed for Wheeljack. The gun can still be hand carried via 5mm peg or clipped to any of the 3mm bars on the toy. The obvious ones in the middle of the backpack result in the mounted launcher being near enough the head to run afoul of Wheeljack's ears. It's possible to use one of the 3mm bars that exhaust pipes attach to in vehicle mode instead. They're hidden behind the shoulders, and though it's a bit fiddly the launcher can fit that space, albeit sideways. Just bend the missile halfway though and you're in business. Getting the launcher to sit there properly level requires extra finesse, but it can be done. Might make it more likely to get knocked off from moving the arm, though. Just sayin'...
With the promotional photos released last year, this was one of the more subtle changes to the toy. Originally most of us believed Wheeljack would just be intended to hold Tracks' shoulder missiles to use as wrenches. Which in its way seems completely in character. I mean, who if not Wheeljack would design a wrench that could be used as a missile also? But I digress...
Fully new parts that store as a large dual exhaust system in vehicle mode, but can be held by the shafts to form a pair of 3mm wrenches. It's actually rather clever to have the clip do double duty like this, though it may not make the most convincing head of a wrench. Interestingly, the wrenches each have two spots where additional 3mm clips can snap on. So, I guess you can take a wrench and attach a missile launcher to it. Or maybe Terradive. My one concern overall is that the wrenches are painted entirely silver, and putting them in the hands will probably wear off the paint eventually.
I'm very impressed by the degree of swapped parts on this version of the mold, as well as the transformation being reworked beyond simply turning the waist the other way around. Ever since this was revealed as the second use for the mold, it seemed like a natural fit with the short, wide body shape. And in person the execution comes off very well, making it seem like one of the cases where the second use may have been the driving intent behind a lot of the particular design features. For me, Wheeljack owns this body type and Tracks is just along for the ride because it sort of fits him too.
I'm really happy with this, and certainly glad it made it through before Generations had to take a backseat to the movie line. Wheeljack is Very Good, and if you're only going to get one use of the mold, I'd recommend Wheeljack even without the fact of the plastic tolerances being worked out better than on Tracks. Now, I need to go find parts so he can build a tiny catapult throwing machine...
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