Master Mini Series: Krank “Construction Engineer” (MM-1) by X-Transbots!

Today we’re checking out a third-party Transformer from what I thought to be an otherwise untested company. A little research, however, showed me that they’ve already dabbled in this kind of stuff a few times with upgrade kits. Nonetheless, the first project of X-Transbots that caught my eye was Krank, a transforming robot that some might say bears a slight resemblance to a certain G1 Autobot named Huffer.  I’m sure that’s a complete coincidence. I was extremely excited for this release because Huffer was one of my favorite Minibot characters. I can’t remember much of anything from the old G1 Autobot Tech Specs, but I’ve never forgotten the line in Huffer’s that tells us he sees the world through sludge-covered windshields. I found that line to be oddly poetic for a bio on a toy box and on some level I must have related to it. Anyway, Huffer actually has two third-party homages shipping right now, the other being Cubex’s Huff, and both of them looked quite good. It was a tough decision, but I ultimately decided to go with this one. Let’s see if it was the right call…

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Krank comes in a simple box that is most certainly designed to mimic Takara’s Masterpiece packages. The front has shots of the toy in both robot and alt mode and the layout sure looks familiar. The artwork is rather washed out and overall the package doesn’t pop like some of the stuff we’ve been seeing from other third-party companies, but it’s not bad.

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I find the back panel to be a lot more appealing as it recreates the style of Hasbro’s old G1 boxes right down to the Tech Spec. Very cool! You don’t actually get the red decorder strip for his attributes bar, so you may want to bust out one of your G1 decoders and see if it works. The bio tells us that Krank is a real downer, just like his G1 Hasbro counterpart. He’s also a brilliant engineer, which is something else they have in common!

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Inside this collector friendly box you get a clear plastic tray with Krank in his alt mode and some parts off to the side. The extra bits include his weapons, his mirrors, and his exhaust pipes. The mirrors peg into the sides of the cab and there’s no reason to take them out again once they’re in. The toy will even fit back into the tray once their installed as you can see in the picture above. It’s a good thing too because they are very thin and I wouldn’t want to risk breaking them by pulling them out again. The pegs on mine required me to shave a little mold flashing off before they would go in. The exhaust pipes, on the other hand, do need to come out when you turn him into his robot mode. These were a total bitch to get in the first time. I had to do a lot of twisting and coaxing. Doing so stripped also stripped a little chrome from the pegs. Not a big deal, because the peg is always going to be concealed. I’m happy to report that it was only that first time where these pieces gave me a problem. 

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Krank also comes with a folded instruction sheet and a profile card. The instructions are quite good and feature not only illustrations but some notes to help you along. Chances are most experienced Transformers fans will be able to change Krank without the need of instructions, but I find it’s usually a good idea to consult them on the first go, especially when we’re talking about a $65 figure. The profile card has become a staple accessory for just about every third-party Transformer these days. The one that comes with Krank is not one of the better ones I’ve seen. But who cares about profile cards anyway? Let’s get to the toy…

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As expected, Krank’s alt mode is an orange semi cab trailer and not a bad looking one at that. There’s very little paintwork here as the toy relies on colored plastic and the chrome… Oh, the chrome! It’s the first thing that struck me about this toy when I saw the initial pictures and in person it’s even more glorious. There’s no doubt that chrome parts have their disadvantages. I have an entire tote full of old Kenner MASK toys that will illustrate how it doesn’t tend to age well. Still, I love the way it looks and I lament the fact that Takara didn’t include at least some chrome parts where appropriate on their MP cars. And the beautiful thing about Krank is there’s even more chrome hiding away for his robot mode. I won’t be rough housing with this toy, so I’m not terribly worried about the chrome wearing.

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As far as the design and sculpt go, Krank sports a great amount of detail for a toy this size. Some of those little details include the door handles, windshield wipers,  and textured steps. Krank also features a working hitch that is slotted to carry MP-10’s trailer. Some day, if MP-10 ever creeps down below $300 again, I may get to test that out. On cursory glance, there really isn’t a lot to betray him as a transforming vehicle, unless you pick him up and look underneath and then you can see it all. One nice surprise for me was that the windows are all tinted clear plastic. Until I had the toy in hand, I presumed the windows were just painted black. They’re also tinted just enough to keep you from seeing what’s going on inside too clearly. As far as accuracy to the G1 toy or Sunbow character goes, X-T took the most liberties with the wheels. The original toy always had wheels that stuck out of the sides. X-T just prettied it up by adding shrouds over them. All in all this is an excellent looking cab.

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The plastic quality here is good, but it’s not as solid as what we’ve seen used in recent efforts from Fansproject or MMC. I’d rate it closer to the plastic used by TFC for Uranos. It doesn’t feel cheap, but just a little closer to model plastic or Takara’s MP plastic than the hardcore rough-and-tumble toy stuff. QC in this mode is overall pretty good, although the passenger side rear wheel assembly is a little floppy. It’ll lock in fine when the truck is rolled along, but if you pick it up it has a tendency to flop about.

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Transforming Krank is fairly straight forward. The bulk of the transformation involves unpacking the arms from inside the cab and manipulating the cab shell to lock into place onto Krank’s back. The original G1 toy’s arms were made out of his smoke stacks and obviously Krank’s are faked out to keep the aesthetic looking right. During transformation the stacks are removed and can be clipped onto Krank’s forearms, so while it’s technically cheating, it still maintains the spirit of the original design. The other thing worth mentioning about the transformation is the way the cab shell clips into the shoulders. When you do it right, it’s a secure connection, but a connection that relies on some very small pegs. Clipping it and unclipping it requires a slight bending of the plastic that makes me a little nervous. Keep in mind, I’ve transformed him a half dozen times already and there have been no stress marks in the plastic or other warning signs, so at this point it’s not really a problem, just something to watch out for.

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I dig just about everything about Krank’s robot mode. It presents a nice amalgam of the G1 toy and Sunbow design without shying away from the goofy design elements that make the character so distinctive. Yes, Krank still has a huge truck cab on his back and shrouding his head. It’s cumbersome and awkward, but would it be Huffer if it wasn’t? No it wouldn’t. Besides, even with the cab behind his head, Krank is still a wonderfully balanced figure and stands quite well. The faked out arms still look like they could have come from his smoke stacks after some animation mass-shifting magic. And once again, the chrome looks just gorgeous.

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I do have two little gripes about Krank’s robot mode. The first is extremely minor. The hinged caps on the tops of his shoulders don’t lay flat. I might be able to fix this by shaving some plastic, but since it’s on the chrome parts, I doubt I’ll try because it doesn’t bother me that much. The other is the fact that Krank wears his back tires on his legs. It’s accurate to the G1 toy but not the Sunbow cartoon. It doesn’t look bad at all; in fact I think it works to balance out the bulk of his top half rather nicely. Nonetheless, the fact that Cubex’ Huff was able to avoid showing the wheels on the legs was what made me have to think long and hard over which Not-Huffer to go for. Collectors looking for a truly Sunbow accurate figure may want to check out Huff or wait for a possible MP Huffer from Takara.

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Krank has two portraits thanks to a face-switching gimmick. You get a G1 toy accurate face and a Sunbow accurate face. The Sunbow face was the one that was displayed on my figure when I opened him and that’s the one I’m going to stick with. Unfortunately, it’s also the only one we’re going to see here today. Flipping the face proved to be too stubborn for me to risk doing it without fear of scratching paint off his face with my thumb nail. I’m sure it’s doable, but the Sunbow face is fantastic and I don’t have any incentive to try.

In addition to being incredibly solid in his robot mode, Krank features a wonderful amount of articulation. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, hips, and ankles. His arms have double hinged elbows, swivels in the biceps and wrists, and four of his fingers are set on one hinge to grip his guns. His knees are hinged and he can also swivel at the waist. He is loads of fun to pose and I really dig the ball joints in his ankles which keep his feet flat even in wide stances.

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He may be an engineer, but Krank is still an Autobot warrior and as such he comes with two guns, which he can wield comfortably in each hand. I prefer to just give him the one and let Stax be the dual-wielder, but more on that when I do my feature on Stax. The guns are chromed and they feature tabs in the handles that peg into Krank’s palms to help secure them into place.

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Like I said, choosing a third-party Huffer was a really tough decision, but ultimately I went with Krank for a few reasons. First, some in-hand impressions of Cubex suggested he might be overly complex and I’ve seen a few reports that say some of his tabs have a tendency to pop out. Second, I really like Krank’s chrome. I think you could argue that Huff achieves a cleaner and more Sunbow style look, but now that I’ve had Krank in hand and have been playing around with him for a week or so, I have zero regrets. He’s refreshingly simple and fun to transform and I can’t argue with how great he looks in robot and truck modes. I think he scales perfectly with the MP Datsuns, as I’m of the opinion that the MP-style Minibots should be about the same height as the regular Autobot cars. Of course, the fact that I was able to pick him and Stax up as a pair for about $120 made it all the sweeter. This is a quality effort on X-Transbot’s part and I’m looking forward to seeing some more releases from them in the future.

As for Stax, I’ll swing back around to check him out sometime next week.

6 comments on “Master Mini Series: Krank “Construction Engineer” (MM-1) by X-Transbots!

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