It’s always a treat when I can grace Transformers Thursday with a Masterpiece Transformer and I hope to be doing it at least two more times before the end of the year! This time, however, we’re gathered around to look at everybody’s favorite eccentric scientist, Wheeljack. I loved Wheeljack in the Sunbow cartoon. He was clearly out of his mind, but that didn’t stop the Autobots from letting him have his run of their lab equipment. Let’s just say that if you were a captured Decepticon, you probably didn’t want to wake up strapped down to a table in his laboratory and hear Wheeljack utter the phrase, “I have this theory about making a Cybertronian Centipede!” It’s hard to believe that this release marks the 20th release already, but then I pretty much consider the line rebooted with MP-10, so it’s perhaps not as prolific as it seems. Nonetheless, as amazing as the Datsuns were, it’s pretty damn cool to be getting a brand new mold, especially one that doesn’t lend itself to so many different characters.
If you’ve been collecting the current MP line then you should know what to expect from the packaging. Wheeljack comes in a compact and enclosed box with a deco that matches the other Autobot releases. Inside, the figure comes in his alt mode in a clear plastic tray with his accessories (gun, missile launcher, and missile) laid out above him. You also get an instruction booklet, a profile card, and a baggie containing the mirrors.
I’ll be honest, my classic car knowledge doesn’t extend beyond American Muscle Cars and my weird fixation with Jaguars, so Wheeljack here is the only reason I know the name Lancia. Still, it was a drop dead sexy car back then and it still is today. Next to maybe the Lambor Brothers, Wheeljack was always my favorite alt mode among the Class of 84 Autobots. As one might expect, this Masterpiece version is a gorgeous recreation. Everything packs together tight and solid and one detail I love is the side view mirrors that come separate. You just twist them off the sprue and plug them in and you even get a second pair in case you lose or damage the first. Nice!
Even though the paint on my MP figures have been pretty good, I still haven’t shaken my anxiety over Takara’s QC after the horror show that was my first MP Sideswipe. I was terrified to see how the paint on this one was going to turn out. In the end I had nothing to worry about because the paintwork here is just about flawless. There are maybe one or two small areas where the lines could be a little sharper, but to find them I really had to scrutinize this guy closely. Takara defintiely seems to have gotten their act together to the point where I doubt I’ll be worried about it again. The white plastic used for the base color feels nice and looks good. The white paint used in some areas is a good match. I’ve got zero complaints about this alt mode… it’s damn near perfect!
When I looked at the promo shots of Wheeljack, I thought I had his transformation all figured out, but there are still some pleasant surprises to be had. It’s definitely based on the engineering of the original toy, particularly the way you pull out the front of the car and unfold the arms from the back. Still, there’s a lot of cool new stuff happening here to help along with the better proportions and articulation. He actually stumped me a few times on my first go through and getting him back into car mode the first couple of times took me a little time and patience. Thankfully, there’s no scary moves and once I saw what was happening, particuarly with the torso, I found it to be quite clever and intuitive.
And there’s Wheeljack in all his robot mode glory. Straightaway the most impressive thing about this guy for me is how clean his profile turned out. Everything packs away so neatly into his humanoid form leaving absolutely no car kibble, unless you want to count the tiny mirrors on his legs, but I don’t. Even his back only shows off the top back of the car neatly folded into his back, the two halves of his spoilers on the backs of his forearms, and the doors folded into the backs of his lower legs. It’s sheer poetry. In fact, if I were to level one complaint about this guy, and it’s such a tiny one, it would be that he packs away almost too well leaving him looking rather thin from the side. Wheeljack’s “wings” are integral to his transformation. They just unfold and angle into position. His missile launcher, on the other hand, is separate and just needs to be plugged into his shoulder and you can apply it on either side.
The deco is pretty much the same as what we saw in his auto mode with all his glorious racing colors still present on his chest and lower legs. The biggest change here is all the black showing up in his hips, thighs, and forearms. I particularly love how the lettering from his car mode winds up across each of his feet. The whole thing is topped off with a neatly printed Autobot emblem right on his chest.
The portrait is excellent, with his silver bands running across the lower half of his face and his narrow blue eyes. I’m on the fence over whether or not his “ears” would have looked better in transparent blue plastic. They look fine as they are, but going the other route may have added a little more something. Nevertheless, it’s a great headsculpt supported with an excellent paint job.
Wheeljack’s articulation hits all the right points. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, hinges in the elbows, swivels in the biceps and wrists, and his four fingers are hinged as one piece. The legs have universal movement in the hips, hinges in the knees, and swivels in the thighs. The ankles are hinged and feature some very generous lateral rockers to keep Wheeljack’s big feet planted firmly on the ground no matter how wide his stance. Lastly, you get a swivel in the waist and a ball joint in the neck.
In addition to Wheeljack’s missile launcher you also get his little pistol. I really like the sculpt on this little guy as it feels like the kind of last resort weapon that a scientist might carry. It has tabs that plug into the groove in either of his hands and he holds it very well.
Besides being just an all around excellent figure, I think what surprises me the most about MP-20 is all the work that Takara put into what is essentially a one-shot deal. Lambor was a quick turn around as Red Alert (not to mention Tiger Tracks and the G2 version) and the Datsun mold easily filled three slots with an additional repaint as Bluestreak. Wheeljack? Well, he’s just Wheeljack. Yeah, they’re repainting him, giving him a new head, and calling him Exhaust, but I have to imagine that release is going to have limited appeal. I certainly have no interest in it. And so it gives me added hope that no figure is truly off the table, even if they aren’t a mold that can be milked over and over again.
With Takara’s release schedule it’s tough to know which MP figure I’ll be checking out next. I do still have the second production run of Red Alert still on pre-order along with another run of Optimus Prime himself. After that, we’re looking at Bumblebee and the big guy, Ultra Magnus. It’s quite a fun (and expensive!) time to be a Transformers collector. Of course it helps that I saved some money by abstaining from the Age of Extinction line.