The last bunch of Transformer Thursday features have targeted specific figures that I wanted to look at. Today I’m trying to get back to a little more of the randomness that I originally envisioned for Thursdays. And so, this morning I reached my dirty robot-grabbing mitts into a drawer and pulled out the Deluxe Autobot Tow-Line from the Energon series. As usual, there’s no packaging to talk about, so let’s dig right in to his alt mode.
Tow-Line is a cool and compact little van. The sculpt is fairly basic, especially compared to some of the Deluxes that came in the subsequent Cyberton line and beyond. He does have ladders sculpted into the sides, weapon ports on the sides and top, and there’s not a whole lot else going on with him. Still, the van mode holds together quite well and rolls along on his wheels rather nicely.The deco is two-tone blue with red and gold striping on the sides and a white front with a nice crisp Autobot emblem stamped above the grill. The windows are translucent red plastic. Paint apps weren’t usually used sparingly back in the Energon days, but Tow-Line looks like he could have used a few more, particularly the back windows and tail lights.
I seem to recall Tow-Line’s alt mode being referred to as an electronic surveillance van and the red Energon piece that snaps onto his roof would certainly support that. It has two ball jointed pieces, one is a radar dish and the other is a screen. If you see a van that looks like this patrolling your neighborhood, chances are good that Big Brother is listening.
Transforming Tow-Line is pretty unorthodox and doing so reveals a surprising homage to a certain other pair of Autobot vans from the G1 days. You fold down the sides of the van and remove only the top portion. That’s going to be your robot, whereas the bottom part becomes a weapons platform. It’s a very similar concept to the oddball G1 toys of Ratchet and Ironhide. Unlike G1 Ratchet and Ironhide, however, Tow-Line’s robot mode doesn’t totally suck.
Nope, he’s actually a pretty clean and well proportioned little bot. Because Tow-Line’s robot mode is comprised of only half his vehicle’s bulk, he turns out to be a bit smaller and simpler than your average Deluxe. In traditional Autobot fashion, the front of the van makes up his chest and I really dig the way his doors fold up to make shoulder armor. I also love this little guy’s head sculpt. It’s pretty grim, but it looks great.
The surveillance kit from the roof of the van can transform into a pretty impressive looking rifle, which Tow-Line can wield in either hand. I absolutely love this gun. It looks like something out of early Star Trek and it’s big enough that Voyager figures can equip it rather comfortably. It’s a little big for Tow-Line, but that’s OK, because you can also save it for his mobile weapons platform.
That’s right! The weapons platform is made by pulling out a set of treads for the front and raising the wheels in the back. We’re getting a little into M.A.S.K. territory here and the results aren’t exactly inspiring. There are some sculpted guns on the inside of the shell, which would be a lot more impressive if they could pop up. You can, however, attach the energon weapon to it and now Tow-Line has something to ride into battle or a remote drone that can do his fighting for him while he sits back and has a cool, frosty mug of energon. Work smart, not hard! That’s Tow-Line’s motto! And if you’re wondering, yes Tow-Line can combine with other Energon Deluxe Autobots, and no I’m not going to dig any out to show you because I hate the whole gimmick. I will, however, point out that he can combine with his own weapons platform to become a horrible, twisted, rolling tank-bot.
The craziest thing about Tow-Line is that, as far as I’m aware, he was never repainted into Ironhide or Ratchet. It’s a puzzling oversight, considering Hasbro’s love of repaints and the fact that the mold seems like it was practically created for this very purpose. I’ve seen some pretty good custom jobs and they look fantastic. I think a two-pack would have been a great idea and certainly better than the Ironhide and Ratchet that we got in the Classics line, albeit a little undersized. Other than that, this is a cool, but not exceptional, little figure that mainly deserves notoriety because Hasbro tried something different with him. It might have been an interesting idea for a sub-group of Transformers, but whatever the case, Tow-Line’s curious design seemed to be a one-shot experiment.
This guy was actually redone as Ironhide and Ratchet for Botcon 2005. So they’re pretty hard to get, but it happened. Hasbro wouldn’t let that opportunity pass, it wouldn’t be like them.
I’m sure I’ll never find/afford the Botcon versions. Too bad. If this guy were Ratchet I would buy him in a second.
Ah, and I thought I was up on all the Botcon exclusives. Shame it wasn’t a wide release!
what I always found amusing with the Energon line was that the best figures, this guy, Slugslinger, Sharticon…were the non tv ones.
Interesting! I never made it through the whole show, so I didn’t know that. Sharkticon was one of my favorite figures. I troop built that sucker! He was Mirage’s Sweeps!