Causality: CA-13 Diesel and Military Multiplexer Kit by Fansproject, Part 2

Yesterday I looked at Fansproject’s Diesel in his alt mode and basic robot mode, now it’s time to break into the back half of that trailer. Like the Native American hunters of old, Diesel makes use of all parts of the buffalo semi-truck. Our first stop is to cannibalize the back trailer to power up Diesel. Here’s where the fun begins because you have to bust down the trailer into all sorts of parts. All the time I was doing it I kept wondering, “How the hell am I ever going to get this back together again?” The first time I tried, I had one piece that I just couldn’t figure out how to get back into the mix. The second time I tried… well, the same thing happened. The third time was the charm and I figured out what I was doing wrong. Now I can practically rebuild that trailer in my sleep.

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Diesel’s Powered Up mode basically consists of him wearing parts of his trailer as additional armor and weapons. It gets broken down and rebuilt into four parts. Two of these become weapon pods that go on his shoulders. Each one has a set of quad-barreled blasters with four missiles above them and a smaller quad-rocket pack on each side. It’s safe to say that Diesel can lay down a ridiculous amount of fire without even trying. I like these things a lot, as they look intentional, rather than a convenient way to stick extra parts on him. I don’t think they’re every day walking around weapons, but rather Sunday Best for when he has a special battle to show up to and wants to present himself well.

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The other two parts of the trailer just clip onto Diesel’s shoulders via the combiner ports. Unlike the shoulder weapons, these do look like just a convenient way to stick extra parts on him. They don’t really serve any purpose other than to bulk him out and so you can say, “Hey, look he really does use all his parts!” Honestly, they don’t look as bad as I thought they would, but I’m sure I will never display him with those on ever again. Assuming you give him his gun, that just leaves the parts to make M3’s sword. The sword is too big for Diesel to sensibly wield even in this Powered Up mode. He can, however, wear it on his back. The instructions are a little vague on this point, so I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m content with just placing it aside for now.

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Powered up modes are all well and good, but let’s face it, the real attraction here is “The-Robot-That-Shall-Not-Be-Called-Menasor!” While the Motor Squad’s combined mode has often been referred to as Intimidator, I don’t see any mention of that name on the package or in the instructions. Instead, he’s just known as the Motor Squad Military Multiplexer, or M3. I’ve only formed M3 one time so far, and it was a total bitch. It should get easier after a couple more tries, but it was quite the chore and I’m going to let a little time go by before I try it again. Basically, Diesel transforms into the torso, head, and upper legs. The trailer parts form the framework for the legs with Car Crash and T-Bone basically just stuck on in their car modes. Downshift and Last Chance are than transformed into the arms, with trailer parts used to form the shoulders, hands, and to fill out the gap in Last Chance. It’s a daunting task to get through it, but it’s hard to complain when the end result looks like this…

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M3 is absolutely gorgeous and he’s a lot bigger than I expected him to be. A lot of the added height comes from the fact that his lower legs are built from his trailer and the cars are just stuck on to bulk him out. That’s not a complaint. Quite the contrary, the way he’s designed makes for a remarkably stable combiner. The feet are broad and ball jointed to give him the ability to achieve a flat and wide stance. The legs do, however, represent the biggest design departure from the original G1 character as the cars are on the front and not the back. I have to admit I like having them on the front better.

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The arms are a tad less stable than the legs. If you manipulate the figure a lot, you may find the arms mis-transforming a bit, but that’s not always the case, and it doesn’t keep him from being a fun figure to play with. The hands feature fully articulated fingers and they hold on really well. I had a lot of fun putting M3 through the paces and didn’t have to worry about bits falling off. The chest piece, formed from the back wheel assembly of the trailer, did pop off once, but only once. The combiner ports use a keyhole method, which locks the limbs in place and releases them again when you turn the slot to line up with the notch. This clever system solves the problem of having to apply a scary amount of force (I’m looking at you, Uranos!) to get them on or off. If you’re applying any degree of force, you aren’t lined up right.

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Like everything else, M3’s giant sword is cobbled together by pieces of the trailer. The blade comes from two side panels and the point is concealed within. The hilt is stored under the trailer just behind the wheel assembly. Like everything else in this set, it’s a brilliant piece of parts-forming design. There’s a long tab on the hilt, which pegs tightly into M3’s fist, which allows him to hold it perfectly.

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Like TFC’s Uranos, I mainly bought the Motor Squad to display as a team in their original robot modes. Now that I’ve spent some time with M3, I’m seriously rethinking that. The combined mode on this guy is just a homerun and I really think it deserves to be shown off. As a kid watching the Sunbow cartoon, I thought the Stunticons were the coolest thing ever, but their figures were so disappointing looking that I never even asked my parents for them. Owning FP’s amazing homage is in a lot of ways like a 20-some year old dream come true. And that brings us to the question of value. All told the Motor Squad set me back about $375 (some retailers are now selling him as a complete set for just a tad more) if you add up the shipping, and I have absolutely no regrets. When considering the amazing amount of work and planning and design that went into these figures on an individual basis as well as their gestalt mode, it’s easy for me to see where all the money went. In terms of the engineering, combining M3 is a bit more involved then I would have liked, but the finished product is probably the best Transformers-style combiner that I’ve ever seen. Of course, that honor may fall before the end of the year as MMC’s Feral Rex is shaping up to be mighty impressive as well.

Causality: CA-13 Diesel and Military Multiplexer Kit by Fansproject, Part 1

It’s hard to believe that it was almost a year ago that I received Car Crash, the first figure in the Motor Squad, Fansproject’s take on the Transformers G1 Stunticon team. It took until the end of the Summer to get the rest of the cars, but the real wait began after that, as the final figure, Diesel hit delays and didn’t land in my hands until about a week ago. Was it worth the wait? Well, today and tomorrow we get to find out. Today I’ll be looking at Diesel in his alt mode and basic robot mode and then tomor1row I’ll circle back around to look at his powered up mode as well as the combined mode of the “Stunt-Driving-Evil-Robots-That-Are-Most-Definitely-Not-Called-Stunticons.”

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The packaging for this line has been a real treat. Each figure has come in a colorful and professional looking window box with some kick ass artwork. Diesel comes in a very similar package, with the key difference being that he’s boxed in his alt mode, whereas the rest of the team came in their robot modes. That may really irk some people, I don’t know. It probably should upset my borderline OCD, but oddly it doesn’t. The toy just looks so good in the package, and I happen to like the fact that if you line up all the car boxes with the side panel artwork out, Diesel’s box fits neatly on top and is almost the exact same length. The front and top panel feature great character artwork, whereas the back panel shows Diesel making use of the M3 Kit in Powered Up form. For whatever reason, Motormaster has always been one of my favorite Decepticons and I can still remember how disappointed I was when I first saw his figure. Woof! Even as a kid, that was a bitter pill. Suffice it to say, I am super excited to get Diesel out of the box and check him out.

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Diesel comes sandwiched between two clear plastic trays. If you were expecting to see a whole bunch of additional parts inside, you’ll be surprised to find just the truck. The Military Multiplexer Kit is comprised of cannibalized parts of the rear half of Diesel’s trailer leaving no messy combiner pieces to rattle around in a tote when you’re not using them. The fact that Diesel is one self-contained unit is a pretty impressive feat of engineering and design that can’t fully be appreciated until you start building his combined mode and see all the goddamn pieces. Included in the box is a nice color instruction booklet, which includes directions to convert the figure from truck to robot and back, as well as how to form the combined mode. You also get a color profile card.

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Fansproject did a wonderful job recreating a modern and more detailed version of the original G1 Motormasters’ truck mode. From the black cab with purple windows to the grey trailer with purple striping, this alt mode is almost everything I had hoped it would be. Almost? Sure, I can’t deny that I wish there was a little articulation between the cab and the trailer, but I’m perfectly willing to accept and understand why it isn’t there. The trailer is covered with seams, but the panel lining sculpted into the trailer helps hide a lot of it. On the downside, because of the seams and hinges, I really couldn’t find any place on the sides of the trailer to stick a Decepticon insignia. Nonetheless, despite all the seams and hinges Diesel holds together tightly and he rolls along beautifully on ten wheels. The cluster that is attached to his rear trailer gate can also be removed if you find it too unsightly.

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Diesel’s truck mode scales quite nicely with his four Motor Squad comrades. He’s probably a little smaller than he should be. If his trailer were hollow, you might be able to get one of the cars inside, but not two. I’m willing to be pretty forgiving here, since the size of the figures all had to work with each other for the combined feature. Whatever the case, putting all these vehicles together really conveys the Stunticon vibe that Fansproject was going for.

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As you can see above, Diesel splits apart at the middle of the trailer. The front half forms his robot mode and the back half is the M3 kit that can be used to beef up his robot mode or combine the team together. When split apart, Diesel’s front half still forms a perfectly viable vehicle, somewhat like a box truck. You can even remove the tailgate pieces from the back of the trailer and put it on the back of the shorter half. I can’t imagine ever displaying him this way, but I do like that FP was able to keep the robot contained to the front half of the vehicle. Ok, so I can only admire the alt mode for so long. The truth is I was a little apprehensive about transforming this guy. I’ve heard things. But I’ve got my instruction booklet in hand, so here goes!

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Nine times out of ten I can figure out how to do a Transformer without help from the instructions. In this case, I gave up pretty quickly and took it step by step. I did this partly because the transformation really is crazy complex, and partly because I didn’t want to try to move something where it shouldn’t and wind up causing stress marks, or worse: Snapping something off. Overall the quality of the plastic feels great here, but there is one hinged arm that connects the torso to the pelvis that worries me. The toy places a lot of responsibility on that poor little arm, plus it is required to rotate along a little peg and requires some force to move it. Forcing it hasn’t caused any stress marks, but the first couple of times doing it, I held my breath. Truthfully, it’s the bottom half of Diesel that gave me the most trouble, particularly the lower legs and ankles. Once I got him into robot mode, I was able to reverse it with only a few glances at the book and going back again to robot mode was much easier the second time around. Diesel features some very clever engineering, but he’s very complex and has a ton of moving parts. I can’t even begin to imagine the process that went into designing him.

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When you’re done you get a very cool looking robot mode that includes some solid references to the original G1 toy design. The black and dark grey deco fits him nicely and there’s a little metallic silver and purple and yellow to make him pop. The grey metal finish is so convincing that parts of him really look like diecast when they are indeed all plastic.  It’s great that FP was able to keep the split cab front on the legs, especially with how neatly they wrap around the lower legs. Diesel also retains the boxed head design of the original Motormaster. The head sculpt is good, but surprisingly neutral for a Decepticon. Still, it matches the aesthetic FP used for all the Motor Squad. The official transformation has the combiner ports angled out on his shoulders, and while it adds a bit of flare, it’s obvious that they’re combiner ports, so I prefer to leave them tucked in.

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While Diesel is mostly a pretty clean robot, he wear his trailer folded up into wings that come off his back. Both pieces are ball jointed, so you can usually get them out of the way when posing the figure. Plus, Diesel is a fairly husky robot, so the trailer wings are mostly concealed when viewing him from the front. I thought these would be a potential problem, but they’re really not. Of course, since they are set on ball joints you can just pop them off the figure if you really don’t like them, but I think that’s cheating.

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Diesel features a lot of serviceable articulation. The shoulders swivel and feature lateral movement, although they do tend to push the chest plate out, so it’s a good idea to hold in place with a finger when making drastic movements with the arms. There are also swivels just below the shoulder, but these can only be used if you display Diesel with the combiner ports angled out. I prefer to lose the swivel and keep them tucked in. His elbows are double-hinged and while they seem to butt up against the back panels hanging off the backs of the shoulders, those pieces are hinged to prevent it. The wrists also swivel. The hips feature solid ratchets that offer lateral and forward movement as well as swivels. The pelvic plates are hinged to accommodate the leg movement. The knees are hinged and the ankles are ball jointed allowing for wide stances, and the feet include a clever post that allows the leg to rest on it and support the figure.  Lastly, the head is ball jointed and the figure can swivel at the waist.

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The only piece of Diesel’s M3 Kit that you need for his basic robot mode is his trailer door and the thing stuck to it. This entire assembly breaks down and gets rebuilt as Diesel’s big gun. Again, another example of some really impressive engineering. One of the pegs that hold it into the back tailgate was broken off, but obviously Fansproject new this was a problem because my order contained a baggie with a brand new replacement part. The broken part was still perfectly useable, but it’s nice that they went ahead and took care of this, particularly when the figure costs so much.

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Diesel is not quite twice as tall as his fellow Motor Squad robots, which jives quite well with the scaling of the original G1 Hasbro team. He also scales very well with Fansproject’s Function-X series and stands about a head taller than those figures. As someone who expected to display him in his basic robot mode with the rest of the team, I couldn’t be happier with how he turned out. Aesthetically, I find Diesel to be a near perfect update to old Motormaster and he looks absolutlely stunning when displayed with the rest of his team. But at $120-150, Diesel needs to do a lot more than form a nice Voyager sized robot, so tomorrow I’ll be back to bust into his trailer and take a look at his Powered Up mode as well as the entire team combined into their M3 gestalt form!

Function X-3: Smart Robin by Fansproject

Hell, yes! It’s time for more Third-Party Transformers goodness! Folks, I’ve got to say that of all the things I’m collecting now, I don’t think anything gets me more excited than getting a new Not-Transformer from Fansproject , MMC, TFC, or any of the other heavy hitters turning these things out. Smart Robin is the third release (if you don’t count the Code repaint) in Fansproject’s Function line of what are basically their own take on the old G1 Headmasters. And some might say that Smart Robin bears a resemblance to a certain G1 figure called Brainstorm. I’m sure it was totally unintentional as is the fact that if you scramble the letters in his name you can spell out “brainstorm.”  As a character, Brainstorm has gotten some love lately in IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic, and as we’ll soon see that works for and against this figure. I’m going to buck tradition and just start with Smart Robin’s robot mode… but first, the packaging!

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While most third-party companies are content with window boxes, FP is releasing their Function figures in these rather cool shoebox-style packages with an illustrated clear plastic sleeve. We’ve seen this before with Code and Quadruple-U so I won’t dwell on it too much here. Smart  Robin’s box is grey and looks great with the illustrated sleeve in place.  I like it, as it feels a little more special than something you would find on the shelf at Walmart or Target. It’s also pretty durable and totally collector friendly and the packages for all three Function figures look great lined up on a bookshelf. The figure comes packaged in robot form between two clear trays. Behind the trays there’s a baggie with his wing-weapons and another baggie with the folded instruction sheet and profile card.

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The moment I got Smart Robin out of the box I was impressed. Two of the things I’ve come to expect from FP’s Function series are clean and beautiful robot modes and Smart Robin certainly delivers on these points yet again. To put it plainly, he’s gorgeous! The only jet kibble on display is there because it looks stylish, not necessarily because engineering required it. Fansproject really understands the ideal G1 aesthetic and how to make it work with a functional transforming figure. What we get, is just a very streamlined, beautifully proportioned, humanoid robot. The coloring has also been a strong point with the FP figures and that’s still the case here. Brainstorm’s coloring consists of mostly grey, dark grey and teal plastic with some scattered red, white, and orange paint apps. I still think Q-U has the more striking color scheme, it’s hard to beat that yellow and blue, but Smart Robin is still beautifully colored.

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The wings on Smart Robin’s back are really the only overt clue that he turns into some kind of jet. Even the cockpit on his chest isn’t terribly obvious. Of course, the wings on his back can be unpegged and be wielded as guns. Any time a figure like this can store his weapons I think it’s a major asset, but when it’s folded this well into the design it’s just amazingly cool.

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Now, let’s deal with what will be obvious to some. Smart Robin does not have the face plate that readers of the MTMTE comic would expect on an homage to Brainstorm. It’s going to be a sticking point for a lot of collectors. I’ll be honest, if I had my druthers, I would have wanted the faceplate, but the fact that it’s missing doesn’t diminish this figure for me at all. Indeed, the head sculpt is awesome and beautifully painted. Naturally, the head pops off and transforms into his little buddy, oh let’s call him Not-Arcana just to pick a random name out of the air. The transformation is basically the same as we saw with Q-U and he is a pretty impressive figure for such a tiny robot.

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We’ve seen some pretty impressive transformation engineering from the Function line and Smart Robin does nothing to buck that trend. The quality of plastic here is superb and nothing about the transformation feels fragile or dubious. In a feat similar to the mind-bending change of Quadruple-U’s hind quarters, Smart Robin’s jet mode unfolds from his collapsed torso and forms the compartment for the cockpit. It’s very, very cool and creates a jet body that seems far too thin and sleek to have come from this robot. The other thing that I really enjoy is the way everything pegs together so securely. The way the wings fold out from inside the legs and the feet become the wing guns is amazing. The legs and arms, which form the back of the jet, all peg together snugly in about three different places. Everything  about this guy is so wonderfully thought out and delivers a really great looking Cybertronian jet that doesn’t seem like it should be possible from the robot.

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Brainstorm’s cockpit opens up and, as is the case with Code and Quadruple-U, Not-Arcana can sit inside the cockpit. This has always been one of my favorite things about the Headmaster gimmick and it’s nice to see that Fransproject has translated it so well for their versions. You also get three sets of folding landing gear.

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Smart Robin is priced at around $60-70 at most e-tailers, which is right in line with FP’s past Function figures. If you aren’t already on board with third-party Transformers, spending that kind of money on what is basically a Deluxe Class figure is likely to produce sticker shock. All I can say is FP’s design and craftsmanship make it worth my money. This figure is a Masterpiece grade Brainstorm in everything but name only. It’s also worth pointing out that Fansproject isn’t the only one with a Not-Brainstorm figure on the market right now. Toyworld has also been dipping their toes in the Not-Headmaster pool and turned out their own version. I went with FP’s because Smart Robin is better scaled to their excellent versions of Chromedome and Weirdwolf. Toyworld’s figures are considerably larger, which doesn’t work for Brainstorm. Although, as we’ll see next week, it’s perfectly acceptable to me for a character like Hardhead. Anyway, this one has been another homerun for Fansproject’s Function series and I’ll be eagerly awaiting their next figure, which coincidently looks a lot like Mindwipe!

Function X-2: Quadruple-U by Fansproject

Fansproject continues to be one of the forerunners of the whole third-party transforming robots scene. They impressed me with their “Cars That Turn Into Evil Robots But Are Most Definitely Not The Stunticons” team and more recently, I was able to finally pick up Code, the first release in their “Transforming Robots Whose Heads Also Turn Into Robots But Are Most Definitely Not Headmasters” line called Function. The next Function figure in the line is Quadruple-U, a figure that some may say bears a striking resemblance to the Hasbro G1 toy, Weirdwolf. Let’s check him out…

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The packaging is similar in format to Code’s. You get a blue folding shoebox type deal with a clear illustrated sleeve that fits over it. I do dig the artsy nature of this packaging, but I’m sure there are plenty of collectors who would have preferred a more traditional window box. I can see the merits of both, but when you’re paying $60 for a Deluxe sized Transformer, it’s nice to have it presented in a package style that you wouldn’t see sitting on the shelf at Walmart. It does look really nice standing on the shelf beside Code’s box, and I imagine will look even better with FP’s third Function figure, Smart Robin, on the other side of it.

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Slide off the sleeve, open the box, and you reveal Q-U in robot mode between two clear plastic trays. His sword is bagged and there is an instruction booklet behind the figure at the back of the box. I know that I usually start with alt modes, but since this guy’s alt mode is a robotic beast, I decided we’ll just kick it off with his robot mode.

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And what a spectacular robot mode it is! Q-U takes all the essence of the G1 figure, throws some spices into the pan and… BAM! It kicks it up a notch. You still get that great classic G1 boxy look to an extent, but there’s so much going on with this guy’s sculpt that you get the best of both worlds with a superb modern update. The balanced proportions, the stylish raised shoulders, the way the wolf head tucks neatly on the back, it all works so beautifully. Yes, this is one dead sexy looking robot! I’m reluctant to ever throw around the word perfect, but Q-U’s robot mode comes damn close in my book.

 

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If there’s one thing about Q-U’s design that keeps him from that perfection, it’s the rather unusual hand designs. He doesn’t have conventional fists, rather he sort of has paws with a long hinged thumb that closes up the hole, allowing him to hold his weapon. Unless you count the stylish wolf head on his back, the hand designs are one of the few areas where this figure makes a sacrifice for his alt mode. Is it bad? Not at all, just unconventional and somewhat surprising at first. Truth be told, they still work great and this is an alien robot, so why should he have to have human looking hands?

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If the sculpt and design is amazing, the deco is just as good. Like Code, Q-U primarily makes use of colored plastic with paint apps used sparingly. It’s a great way to go if you’re using good plastic and the quality of the plastic here is fantastic and the yellow and blue-green colors make for a vibrant figure. The grey and black balances out the deco nicely and the little bits of red paint pop beautifully.

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Q-U comes with his jagged sword, which he holds quite well. It’s also worth noting that the figure has four different fold out points where it can be attached for carrying. By folding down the handle you can attach it to either hip point, or either shoulder. It’s a wonderful idea, which really shows how FP is willing to go the extra mile to add value and features to their figures. In practice, it works only Ok. It looks a little strange hanging off the shoulder. I prefer it on the hip, but even there, it’s held completely horizontally, instead of at a more stylish and functional angle.

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Obviously, the whole point of the Function line is to pay homage to the Headmasters, so Q-U’s head pops off to transform into a tiny robot. Let’s call him Not-Monzo. The head sculpt itself is amazing. The helmet is wonderfully complex and there’s even a translucent red visor over the painted yellow eyes. Popping the head off allows you to unfold it into the nifty little guy. It’s pretty straightforward, except for the visor piece, which requires a tad of finesse to slide it into place.

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Transforming Q-U is a delightful surprise. In theory, he’s very similar to the old G1 toy. The arms become the front legs, the legs become the back legs, and the wolf head flips up from the back. How can FP possibly update that? Well, there is some enormously clever engineering at work here. The sides of the torso, for example are on hinged arms, so that it actually becomes longer and leaner for the wolf mode, while still allowing a cabin for the Headmaster to ride in. The upper legs join together around the sword-tail to form the back half of the wolf with the bottom of the robot legs folding out and doing this crazy thing to become the back legs.

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With transformation complete, you get a really sleek looking robo-wolf. Comparing this guy to the stubby original Hasbro toy is as fun as it is unfair. How dare you, $10 toy from the 1980’s not look as good as this $60 toy from 2013!!! You suck!!! Seriously, though, the alt mode is every bit as good as the fantastic robot mode. He does tend to favor standing with his ass up in the air, much the way my cat stands when he wants the base of his tail scratched, but it’s a good look. It makes him appear as if he’s ready to pounce. The legs retain good articulation and even the mouth will open and close.

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As already mentioned, Q-U’s wolf mode can open up to form a driving cabin for Not-Monzo. I absolutely love this feature as it reminds me of being able to put the little figures into the old Diaclone toys and makes the whole Headmaster gimmick function in both modes.

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I could probably go on and on fapping figuratively to how great Quadruple-U turned out, but I’d rather just wrap things up now and actually go play with the toy. While there is no shortage of third-party developers out there now putting together impressive Transformers homages, I think Fansproject remains the one truly consistent front runner in the group. Q-U and Code are both exactly what I want out of third-party transforming robots and while $60-70 is still a lot to pay for a large Deluxe Class figure, you can clearly see where every penny went into the quality and engineering of this toy. Bring on Smart Robin and Diesel, Fansproject. Bring them on and take my goddamn monies!!!

Function X-1: Code by Fansproject

Every now and then every collector suffers one of those missed opportunities. You hesitate, you lose out, and you brood over it. It doesn’t happen that often to me, but Fansproject’s Code (aka Not-Chromedome) was one of those times. I didn’t pre-order him because I honestly didn’t expect him to be that hot an item. When he was released and I was ready to buy, he was gone. I got into a few bidding wars on Ebay later only to find that this one had gone beyond what I was willing to pay for him. It was time to let him go. Well, Primus smiled upon me last week as e-tailer TF Source got some extra Codes in stock and I was able to toss him in with my order of Quadruple-U. I realize that it would have been more topical to look at Quadruple-U first, since he’s a brand new release, but the truth is, I couldn’t wait to bust open Code and check him out.

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Until now, the only Fansproject figures in my collection have been the Causality figures. I was a little surprised that the Function line (which seems to be focused on “Not-Headmaster” releases) comes in a very different type of package. There’s no window box with colorful artwork this time. Nope, Code comes in what is sort of like a plain brown shoebox with a folding cover. The artwork and lettering are all printed in white on a clear sleeve, which fits snugly around the box. Like I said, it’s a very different style of presentation, and while I don’t like it as much as the more traditional window box, it does have its charms, and it does make the item feel more special and limited, as opposed to something that would look at home on a big box retailer’s toy shelf.

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Open the box and you get the figure in his robot mode nestled between two plastic trays. His weapons are bagged and the folded instruction sheet is on the bottom of the box. Everything is totally collector friendly, which is cool because for now I tend to keep my third-party transforming robots in their original packaging. Let’s stick to tradition and start out with his vehicle mode.

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Code is a somewhat Cybertronian car, very similar to the original G1 Chromedome toy. He’s about the size of a large Deluxe Transformer, which makes him bigger than FP’s Causality figures, but as a vehicle he scales rather well with Hasbro’s recent Generations Deluxes. His auto mode isn’t terribly sexy, the brown and cream colored deco is far from flashy, but the homage is as solid as it could be. There are very few paint apps here, as most of the coloring is in the plastic, which is always a good thing in my book. I think the front bumper and headlights could have been better defined, and it doesn’t roll all that well, but otherwise I’m really happy with this alt mode.

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There are a couple of noteworthy features to Code’s auto mode. First off, the cockpit does lift open to reveal a space for his Headmaster buddy (oh, let’s call him… Not-Stylor) to sit inside. He pegs in between his legs and there’s a fold up steering yoke for him to grab. Very cool! You can also attach Code’s two guns to the back of the car to give him some nice alt-mode firepower, just like with the G1 Chromedome toy. His guns are hinged at the handles so the barrels can be leveled straight forward. It’s this kind of little bits of engineering that really impress me. Adding a couple of hinges to the guns may sound like nothing, but there’s a reason why toy companies are cutting articulation to the bone… it’s expensive.

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As for Not-Stylor, he’s about what I expected from a Headmaster figure. He looks quite good for what he is and he just folds up into a ball to form Code’s familiar looking noggin. I was worried he might feel flimsy, but he’s got the same high quality plastic feel as the rest of the toy.

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Code’s transformation is both clever and amazing. I’ll confess, I thought it a bit overly complex the first time I attempted it, but then it’s so cool the way the hood travels along the little track, passes off to the pelvis so that it can rotate around and do what seems impossible and become his chest. I can’t help but appreciate what the designers did here and it provided me with a real gee-whiz moment the first time I did it. The plastic is high quality and nothing about the transformation feels dubious or risky. On the contrary, considering what’s involved it feels quite comfy and after a few times, I was able to do it rather quickly. Everything fits together nicely.

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And yes, the payoff is certainly worth it. Code has a beautiful robot mode that makes him look like the latest in Takara’s masterpiece line. He’s a wonderful amalgam of the G1 toy and the IDW art. It’s the clean, boxy G1 feel of this guy that really grabs me and makes him look like he just stepped out of the Sunbow cartoon or a panel of a comic. Thanks to his clever transformation, his hood is actually his chest and not faked out, and his cockpit lands neatly on his back. The wheels pack into his legs and into his torso quite well leaving virtually no kibble or blights on his bot body. The end result is he appears more like a non-transforming articulated figure rather than a working transformer. The headmaster’s excellent head mode really ties the whole figure together wonderfully. His robot mode stands a little larger than the current crop of Hasbro Deluxes, but not so much that it wouldn’t work in a display.

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The headmaster plugs right into a notch in the middle of a rotating plate so that you can still turn his head. The downside is that it isn’t ball jointed, so he can’t look up. The rest of the articulation includes ball joints in the shoulders and hips. The arms have swivels in the biceps and wrists, and double hinged elbows. The legs swivel at the thighs and have double-hinged knees. I would have really liked some rockers in the ankles, but he’s an exceptionally well-balanced figure so can still stand quite well in various poses without them. And this is definitely a fun figure to fiddle about with and pose.

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Code comes with his two red rifles, which are nice sculpts and include some white paint on the scopes and barrel tips. He can hold them in both of his hands making him ready to dish out the hurt on Decepticon fools.

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I seem to recall Code originally sold for around sixty bucks. I paid $90 for the re-stock and that’s a lot less than I would have paid had I kept bidding on him on Ebay. As far as third-party robots go, it’s not that bad a price. I paid $60 a pop for FP’s Not-Stunticons, and they are notably smaller than Code. The truth is, I would have probably still been totally happy with him if I paid a lot more. It’s worth mentioning here that I never owned Chromedome as a kid. I did have him in the vintage G1 collection that I had about 15 years ago, but that collection is long gone. I liked him well enough, but it wasn’t until I started reading the More Than Meets The Eye comic that I had a desire to own him again. Fansproject brought Code along at just the right time and this figure does that character justice in every conceivable way. I absolutely adore this figure and I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to pick him up without getting killed on the price!

Causality: CA-12 Last Chance by Fansproject

FFZ has never attempted to be a site for bleeding edge, “you’ve seen it here first!” reviews, but I do try to be topical from time to time. Nonetheless, poor Last Chance has been sitting unopened on my shelf for two weeks now and his feature is well past due. It’s not because I’m not anxious to get to him, but I really have been getting a ton of stuff in over the last week or so. Anyway, if you haven’t been following along, Last Chance is the penultimate release in Fansproject’s “Not-Stunticon” combiner team and their homage to Dead End. This has been a fantastic set of figures from day one, so I can’t wait to check him out!

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If you own any of these releases, you’ll know just what to expect from the package. Last Chance comes in a really nice little box with a window that shows off the toy in his robot mode. There’s a grid-pattern that is certainly reminiscent of the old G1 package and the box is sort of color coded to match the figure. You get some great character art and pictures of the toy in both modes.

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Inside the box, the figure rests in a plastic tray beside his weapon. You also get a plastic baggie with the color folded instruction sheet and a color profile card. As always, the box is totally collector friendly and they all look really nice lined up on the shelf. Let’s start with the alt mode.

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While obviously not the same make and model of car as Dead End, Last Chance really follows through nicely with the homage. It’s sexy looking car with sleek contours and some distinctive looking cut outs in the hood. The deep maroon plastic is a good match and he has the same gold and silver stripe running off center from the hood to the roof. The windows are painted in a charcoal grey with a little speckling. Last Chance’s alt mode locks together quite nicely and the seams are tight. As always, the plastic has a quality feel on this piece and his weapon can break down and be stored in the undercarriage.

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Transforming Last Chance is a lot easier to me than any of the others in the series. He uses some common Hasbro elements like folding the arms up under the hood and folding the back half of the car out to form the legs. His torso does get a little bit fiddly as you need to shift it forward and back when going from one mode to the other. There aren’t any scary parts where I was afraid I would stress the plastic, and while I did have a leg pop out at the hip ball joint, it goes right back in just fine. As has been the case with the other figures, the instructions aren’t all that helpful, but once I figured out what’s happening, I found it to be a pretty intuitive process and the result delivers what is quite possibly my favorite robot mode on this team.

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Last Chance reuses some design elements from Down Force, but it’s so cleverly done that it’s almost impossible to tell, not like T-Bone and Car Crash. He’s also the only one on the team to wear his hood as his chest in what is a rather traditional Transformer style. The rear bumper makes for a nice set of knees, and there are heel stabilizers that can swing out from his feet if necessary, but I find them to be optional and the figure can stand just fine without them.

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Last Chance features a classic Decepticon looking head sculpt with a black helmet and a snazzy looking gold painted face. Again, this is my favorite head sculpt of the entire team and the black and gold deco just makes it pop so well.

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One common theme to the Causality line has been useful and fun articulation and Last Chance keeps that trend rolling along. Ball joints in the neck, shoulders, hips, wrists, and ankles, offer a great range of motion. Add to that the double hinges in the elbows, hinges in the knees, and swivels in the biceps and thighs and you have a very poseable robot. Dead End is hard to put down once I start playing around with him.

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And so with Last Chance on the shelf, all that’s left is Diesel (aka Not Motormaster) to finish off the team. We’ve finally seen more finalized pictures of the figure and the combined mode and they both look quite amazing. Fansproject has yet to solicit him to retailers for pre-order, so now we get to play the waiting game. I’m hoping he’ll be turning up soon, but then Fansproject is running well behind on their other figures, like their versions of Headmasters Weirdwolf and Brainstorm, so when Diesel may be showing up is anybody’s guess. In any event, the figures on this team have been quality efforts at every release. They may not be as big and impressive as some of the other third-party figures, but they certainly show that Fansproject is still among the top tier producers on the third-party Transformer market.

Causality: CA-11 Down Force by Fansproject

Man, I have a crap-ton of third-party not-transformers on pre-order, most of which at this point are very, very late. I was sure I’d see the next Uranos figure from TFC before the end of June, or maybe one of Fansproject’s Headmasters, but nope, all of that shit has rolled over to July. Thankfully, I did get the next release in Fansproject’s (“Don’t call them Stunticons!”) series of Super-Evil-Deception-Robots- That-Transform-Into-Cars-And-Do-Stunts! Call me, Fansproject, I’m available to write your box copy! I’ll tap dance my way through all those legal loopholes! Anyway, this one bears a purely coincidental resemblance to a certain yellow Formula-1 racer named Dragstrip. Let’s check him out!

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I’m a big fan of the Causality packaging. The grid pattern is delightfully reminiscent of the package deco used for a line of transforming robots that I vaguely remember collecting in the 80’s. Was it ChangeFormers? No, that’s not right… but it was something like that. This package has a yellow tint to it, which gives the box a unique look while still being uniform enough with the others so that they all look great lined up on the shelf. You get a window that shows off the figure, which is boxed in his robot mode, along with some bitchin’ character art, and lots of actual photos that let the toy speak for itself.

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Inside, the figure rests in a plastic tray with his pistol beside him. Behind the tray you get a baggie with the folded color instruction sheet and his color profile card. There are no twisties or anything holding the figure in and the box is totally collector friendly.

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As usual, we’ll start with Down Force’s vehicle mode. While obviously inspired by G1 Dragstrip, this car is more at odds with the original G1 toy than either Car Crash or T-Bone. There are still some Formula-1 characteristics, to be sure, but the car is beefier and  rather more futuristic looking. I’m not a big fan of Formula-1 cars in my Transformers, particularly not Dragstrip’s’ six-wheeled model, so this was a good trade-off for me, but for others it may be too much of a deviation from the intended source material. The back of the car holds together really well, but the front assembly can unpeg rather easily when handled.

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The car is cast almost entirely in yellow plastic. There are a few red paint apps to spice things up, most notably the stripe on the spoiler, and there is some silver paintwork up front over the front axle. The headlamp covers and canopy are blue clear plastic and there’s some black paint around the canopy. All told, it’s an attractive car, although possibly a little bland. Maybe some actual racing numbers would have helped it out. The design also makes it rather challenging to find somewhere to place his Decepticon faction sticker.

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Transforming Down Force seemed like a nightmare the first time I did it. It’s not because he’s overly complex, but because the instructions aren’t at all helpful. Going from car to robot is somewhat logical, but going from robot to car didn’t feel intuitive until I did it a couple of times. Once I saw what was going on, I realized that this guy is by far the easiest of the three to work with.

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So, let’s talk robot mode. Aesthetically, Down Force fits in quite well with his chums, T-Bone and Car Crash. The torso and legs are pretty simple looking and straightforward. The spoiler makes for good knees, although I’m not terribly keen on the tiny feet, but they aren’t a dealbreaker for me. They just seem vestigial and almost pointless. I like the design of the chest, which is probably the biggest nod back to the original G1 concept. Alas, like his car mode, Down Force’s chest doesn’t offer a prime place to slap a Decepticon logo on him.

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The head sculpt is solid and fits the same style used for his brothers. I like the way the canopy on his back peeks up behind the head, and is actually connected to a nifty head reveal mechanic. I wasn’t sure at first about the purple and blue deco for the head, but it has grown on me a lot. It’s certainly distinctive!

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Down Force’s shoulders are splendidly complex for such a little figure and definitely one of the stand out elements of the design. The way his fenders make up his shoulder armor looks great, but they aren’t without their issues. The parts that form the shoulders all fold together rather well, including those pieces that are attached by an arm with a ball joint at either end. The forward facing prongs even look cool, although I wish FP had found a way to sculpt them to look like guns. The problem with the shoulders, however, is that nothing really pegs into anything. If you manipulate Down Force’s arms by grabbing the lower arm, everything is fine. If you try to move them around from the upper arm, the shoulder assembly’s tend to shift apart. It’s a little annoying, but not nearly the fatal flaw that plagued Hasbro’s recent Blitzwing design.

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I’ve been very happy with this line so far, and Down Force doesn’t disappoint. From initial pictures, I was a little worried that this guy wouldn’t fit in with the others, but now that he’s in hand, I can set those worries aside. Sure, he does feel a little removed from the first two figures, but I think that’s mostly because Car Crash and T-Bone shared a lot of the same mold. Nonetheless, the three can definitely hang together as a team. At around $59.99, he’s definitely pricey for what is essentially a big Scout or a small Deluxe, but such it’s about right for a third-party Transformer these days. That’s three down and two to go… Next up is Last Chance, hopefully arriving sometime this month!

Causality: CA-10 T-Bone by Fansproject

Considering a portion of this week has already been taken up by another third-party Transformer, I was going to wait until next week to look at the next figure in Fansproject’s line of “Not-Stunticons.” But I was pretty excited to get this guy open and start checking him out, and my willpower sucks, and so here we are. T-Bone is FP’s homage to the Stunticon, Wildrider and he’s also something of a cousin to Car Crash as the two figures share the same core design, only with enough heavy remolding to make them stand as individuals. If you’ve already checked out my look at Car Crash a lot of this will be familiar to you.  

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I absolutely love Fansproject’s packaging. Once again, the grid-pattern is very reminiscent of the old G1 deco and the compact little window box delivers great presentation without needing to take up a lot of space on the shelf. Car Crash’s box was purple, whereas T-Bones is red, otherwise the two boxes share the same exact layout. The panels feature both character art and actual photos of the figure. The side panels are particularly cool with illustrations that make certain these boxes are going to look great lined up on a bookshelf. Well done!

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T-Bone comes in robot mode, wrapped in plastic, and nestled between two plastic trays and with his gun off to the side. Everything is totally collector friendly. Behind the silver backer card, there’s a baggie with his color profile card and color instruction sheet. As usual, I’m going to start with the alt mode! Last time, I used Classics Sideswipe as a size comparison, this time I’m using the Prime Robots in Disguise Vehicon to show that these guys scale pretty nicely with Hasbro’s current crop of Deluxes.

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The original G1 Wildrider was a Ferrari, while FP’s T-Bone is a Ferrari-ish concept car. The similarities to his G1 car mode aren’t as well-stated as Car Crash and Breakdown, but that’s ok because T-Bone’s alt mode is fantastic. Folks, this is what a Decepticon car should look like! He looks angry and dangerous! The angular plates manage to convey battle armor, and yet he still looks like a viable car design. Yes, T-Bone’s car parts are remolded from Car Crash, but it’s such a great and clever piece of work that, apart from maybe the rear engine area, succeeds in making the two cars look unique. The quality of the plastic is excellent, and everything locks together very well. The only issue I have here is that his weapon doesn’t store as exhaust pipes quite as well as Car Crash’s. One half pegs in fine, the other just doesn’t want to fit properly.

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And the colors! I’ve always loved Wildrider’s deco. The dark grey body with red windows looked great on the original toy and it looks amazing here as well. The lighter metallic silver on the hood adds a little variety. Like the actual mold, the colors just convey evil. Nothing against Car Crash, but T-Bone’s car deco is just a lot cooler to me, particularly for a Decepticon.

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Much like Car Crash, transforming T-Bone can be a real bitch. He transforms almost exactly the same as his cousin, with just a few minor differences. The leg panels can now hinge way up to give you a little more room to work, but there’s a treacherous peg on one of the plates that causes you to pull up on a another plate to get it to clear. I’ve been able to do it plenty of times without inducing any stress marks, but it’s still a little too tight for comfort. Also, T-Bone really demands that you get everything just right if he’s going to lock together in his car mode. But make no mistake, if you do everything correctly, he locks together just fine, possibly even a little better than Car Crash.

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In robot mode, T-Bone is a thing of beauty. The angular and jagged car parts give him a more vicious look than Car Crash. The head sculpt is excellent, although I really wish FP had added his horizontal horns to the sides of his head to improve the homage to the G1 character. That right there is my only real complaint about the figure. Yes, there are some similarities between him and Car Crash. The pelvis and upper legs are the same pieces, and they each have their wheels on their shoulders, but even the tires are uniquely sculpted on each figure. On the other hand, the torso and head are completely new sculpts and those combined with the resculpted car parts really make T-Bone a unique figure.

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T-Bone carries over most of his alt mode’s deco into his robot form. He’s mostly grey and dark grey with some red on his arms. The color scheme is everything I could want in a Decepticon and he makes for a really nice contrast when standing next to Car Crash.

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T-Bone shares all of Car Crash’s excellent articulation, making him lots of fun to play with. He’s got ball joints in the neck, shoulders, hips and ankles. He has swivels in the biceps, waist, and thighs. His elbows and knees are hinged. He’s just got a great action figure feel to him that begs me to fiddle about and pose him.

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Once again, $68 is a lot to pay for a little guy like this, but I still feel he’s well worth it. The quality of the plastic is great and while he can be a bit scary to transform sometimes, he’s still a pretty well engineered toy. I definitely dig him more than Car Crash, and that’s saying a lot because I thought Car Crash was excellent. For T-Bone it just comes down to me preferring his sculpt and deco. I’m anxious to get the third figure in this series, but alas, it looks like there’s going to be a wait. While official photos of final versions of the next two cars have been shown, there are no official release dates or pre-orders available. What’s more, photos of FP’s “Not-Motormaster” are scant at best. We’ve seen him unpainted in combined mode and a rough sculpt of the vehicle, but nothing solid as to his robot mode. But that’s ok, Fansproject. I’m ok waiting. It gives me a chance to buy a bunch of other stuff on my want list recoup my monies.

Causality: CA-09 Car Crash by Fansproject

Last year I started getting heavy into Legos. This year, I was bitten by the third-party Transformer bug. It seems like every year I adopt horrible new tortures for my bank account to endure. It all started with TFC’s Project Uranos and Mech Ideas’ Demolition Crue and since I’ve been thrilled with everything so far, it was only a matter of time before I branched out to buying the wares of third-party heavy hitter, Fansproject. And seeing as how I simply cannot resist Decepticon cars, it was a no-brainer that I would begin by jumping on board their set of “Not-Stunticons.” The fact that we haven’t seen final pictures of their combined mode [We have now, and it looks glorious! –FF] doesn’t bother me at all, because I’m picking up these guys primarily as individual figures. We’re kicking this team off with Car Crash (aka “Not-Breakdown”). Let’s take a look at the presentation…

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I’m always excited (and sometimes a little apprehensive) about getting my first product from a company, particularly where the packaging is concerned. TFC’s is awesome, Mech Ideas’ was underwhelming. Where does Fansproject’s Causality packaging fall? It’s awesome! They had me right away with the G1-style grid pattern on the box. Car Crash comes in a beautiful and compact little window box that shows off the figure in his robot mode. There’s a nice piece of character art on the front and on one side of the box, but other than that FP lets the images of the actual figure do the talking. The side, top and back of the box show Car Crash in all his awesome glory. The box is totally collector friendly, which is always a plus for me, especially when a toy is this expensive and you want to preserve it exactly as you got it.

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Open the box and Car Crash is wrapped in plastic and nestled in a clear plastic tray with another tray covering it. You get a collectible card, a color instruction sheet that shows you how to change him from either starting point, and he also comes with a handgun. What? No combiner parts? I’m sure those are all coming with “Not-Motormaster.” As usual, we’re going to start with his alt mode.

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The original Breakdown was a white Lamborghini Countach with red trim on the hood. Car Crash’s alt mode serves the source material well. He’s not quite a Countach, but he’s a similar concept car that’s close enough to drive (“har har”) the homage home. He’s a solid little car, which in size falls somewhere between one of Hasbro’s standard Deluxe and Scout Class Transformers. I took some shots to compare him with Classics Sideswipe and you can see that he’s unfortunately not quite to scale. Still, with scale being what it is in the world of Transformers, it’s not impossible to squint and make it work. Afterall, the G1 Stunticon figures were a lot smaller than the regular Autobot cars.

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The deco is simple enough, and utilizes mostly the base white plastic, red paint on the hood and tail lights, a little silver for the head lights, and some blue for the running boards. The windows are also all painted black, with a little bit of sparkly finish. There are obviously some seams from his transformation, and a hinge back by the engine, but nothing too ugly and the whole car mode locks together in a tight and snug fashion. The wheels are nicely sculpted and he rolls along quite well, despite the fact that the inner parts of his back wheels are static. In this alt mode, Car Crash’s gun stores underneath to become exhaust pipes.

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Transforming Car Crash is a bit of a bitch. It’s not because he’s really complex, but because everything locks together so tight, and for some steps, you have to use a little too much force for my comfort level. Going from his robot mode to car utilizes telescoping arms and legs that fold into themselves, and getting everything in just the right spot and tabbed together is a pretty deliberate affair. When changing him to robot, it’s getting the feet split apart that I find really taxing.

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Now is as good a time as any to point out that the quality of the plastic here is excellent. I’ve changed Car Crash back and forth a bunch of times now and I’ve seen no sign of any stress marks. I did have one of the feet pop out once, but it’s on a ball joint and pops right back into place. Considering that you have to apply a good amount of force at a couple points in the transformation, I think that’s pretty remarkable. His joints are tight and the overall feel of this guy is absolutely fantastic, but that doesn’t change the fact that I get a little nervous sometimes when transforming him.

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As with the alt mode, the robot mode’s size places Car Crash somewhere between being a Deluxe and Scout. Even with his shoulder armor, he doesn’t quite come up to the shoulders of your average Classics Deluxe figure. If you’ve picked up any of the previous Causality figures, you should know what to expect. If not, this guy may seem rather small to you. But if you can get past his size (and believe me, you should try), he is an amazing looking robot. His legs consist of armor made out of the folded front end of the car, giving him some amazingly versatile ankles and feet. The subtle way the wheels fold in is very clever and looks great. His forearms are wearing the doors and his shoulders consist of his back tires and are crested by the rear quarter panels of the car. The shape of the torso gives him that great angular G1 style that I love so much and that head sculpt? Well that’s just pure win, Fansproject. Car Crash’s color scheme definitely pays its respects to the G1 Sunbow character, albeit with more white on the lower legs than blue. The mix of white and blue, two-tone grey, and metallic silver all look fabulous, but it’s the red painted face that really ties this figure together for me. I’ll admit that I find his car mode rather bland, but his robot mode exhibits some really beautiful coloring.

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As great as this figure looks, he’s just as much fun to play with because he has crazy articulation. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, hips and ankles. He has swivels in the biceps, waist, and thighs. His elbows and knees are hinged. I’ve had tons of fun fiddling around with him and putting him into poses.

Car Crash set me back $68 shipped. Yep, that’s a nice chunk of change to pay for a figure that isn’t quite a Deluxe. On the other hand, any time you can get a decent third-party Transformer figure for under $100 it seems like a treat. And Car Crash isn’t a decent figure, he’s an exceptional one. He features a solid car mode, but more importantly a gorgeous and wonderfully articulated robot mode. He’s also packed with quality and I find him to be well worth every penny. Sure, I would have preferred him to be more in scale with my Deluxes, and yeah I would have paid more. But I’m still happy with what we got and I’m really excited to see T-Bone show up on my stoop next week.