email thomas




By Thomas Wheeler

The newest of the superb and automotively-accurate TRANSFORMERS ALTERNATORS line come in revised packaging, for those of you keeping an eye out for such things. The new boxes are predominantly red, not blue, and have a grid pattern printed on them that evokes a resemblance to Generation One packages.

The first entry in this newest batch is AUTOBOT TRACKS, or, more simply, TRACKS. This Transformer is based on a Generation One character that, while not part of the initial assortment of Transformers in their first year, nonetheless became a popular and very distinctive character in the overall concept.

Tracks is an Autobot who transformed into a fancy sports car. This was rather in keeping with his somewhat pompous attitude. Tracks is a fancy piece of work and he knew it. He didn't quite have the ego or temper of Sunstreaker, but he took a fair amount of pride in his sleek lines, and he also enjoyed Earth culture.

So, for the Alternators version of this character, it's no great surprise that perhaps the best-known manufacturer of high-performance sports cars was chosen to represent Tracks -- Corvette.

Tracks is, specifically, a Chevrolet Corvette Z06. And as ever, one cannot help but be impressed by the amount of design and engineering -- not to mention assembly -- that must go into a toy that has to be TWO fairly complex entities -- an accurate 1:24 scale automobile with a fair number of moving parts, and a very well-articulated humanoid robot that has to bear at least some resemblance to a toy produced roughly 20 years ago that wasn't quite under such levels of qualifications. The original Tracks was neither an officially licensed sports car from any specific maker, nor were Transformers expected to be all that highly articulated in their robot forms.

Tracks, however, almost didn't resemble his ancestor as much as he ultimately did. The agreements between Takara and Hasbro and the various automotive manufacturers to use the likenesses of their cars within the Transformers Alternators line carried with it, as such agreements often do, a number of restrictions. One of those was that the car not be portrayed inaccurately. That included the basic color of the car.

One early casualty of that particular condition was Sunstreaker. Dodge apparently didn't like the idea of a yellow Viper toy, so he got turned black and renamed Dead End and became a Decepticon. Conversely, Chevrolet did like the idea of a yellow Corvette, so Tracks was originally envisioned as being bright yellow. There's even a photo of this particular version of Tracks on the box for Dead End. And indeed, in the Japanese version of this line, there's no shortage of yellow Tracks.

But for the bulk of the Transformers audience, especially in the United States, enough was enough, especially when it also looked like the next entry in the Alternators line would also be miscolored, red instead of his traditional white. The fans sent up a howl that Hasbro couldn't ignore, and they realized that ultimately, this was less a line of scale-model cars than it was a line of upgraded versions of popular Transformers characters that had become the stuff of pop culture legend for the better part of two decades. You don't mess with that. Not to this degree.

However it was done, the automotive companies, at least in these two instances, agreed to let Hasbro call the shots on the color of the cars. So Tracks was quickly restored to his traditional blue.

The toy is, as the Alternators have consistently been, excellent. In fact, the blue used is actually a metallic blue, infused with a metallic sheen right in the plastic. It's not too glaring. We're not talking chrome finish here, but neither is it a straight flat plastic color, either.

Tracks is an all-new model, unlike two of the recent releases, Dead End and Silverstreak, who were recasts. And his transformation is one of the tricker ones to come along recently, as well. Stretching the legs out from their placements in car mode is not a thing easily done. I'm all for good tight articulation joints, but not to the point where I'm worried about breaking the toy in order to get him to transform.

In robot mode, Tracks' only real problem is that he suffers from the rather non-anime-look of "little feet", which several Alternators have had. But, at least he stands up well, and the final resemblance to the original Tracks, including the shoulder-mounted missile launchers, is excellent.

I've said it with a lot of these Alternators reviews, but I'll say it again: This Alternators line may be the most impressive line of Transformers to ever come along. The combination of automotive accuracy, respect to the Generation One characters, and the detail and articulation level of the robot, makes for a sure winner every time you buy one. And I most definitely recommend adding AUTOBOT TRACKS to your Alternators collection!