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FLASHBACK REVIEW:
TRANSFORMERS GENERATION 2 MINI-CARS
By Thomas Wheeler


Transformers Generation 2 seems to get a mixed reaction among
Transformers fans. Some see it as the first "return" of their favorite
Autobots and Decepticons after a several-year absence that probably
shouldn't've taken place. Others see it as an aberration best swept under
the table.

That's not to say there wasn't some cool product to come out of it, in
any case.

Personally, I thought Megatron made a good tank. Bright green and purple
might not have been the best color choices, but Megatron as a tank, with
Optimus Prime as a truck -- it seemed like more of a fair and plausible
fight, really.

And then there were the mini-cars. Everybody knows these. Certainly the
best known among these is Bumblebee, the little yellow Volkswagen. Four
of these would become part of the GENERATION 2 Collection, but with a
twist -- they'd be very nicely color-chrome-plated!

Transformers had had chrome-plated trim before, certainly, but there
hadn't been any fully-chromed Transformers before. So this was a real
treat. The assortment included HUBCAP, SEASPRAY, BEACHCOMBER, and the aforementioned BUMBLEBEE, who looked even more "golden" then during the brief time when he was renamed "Goldbug".

Now, you might think this is an unusual assortment. Certainly there were
other names better known in the mini-vehicles series. Warpath, Gears,
Brawn, Cosmos. Where were they? I asked this question of a Hasbro
representative at BotCon '94, and he explained, suppressing a mild
shudder, that these were the only four sets of molds that were in decent
enough condition to use, and went on to say how delighted he was that at
least one major name, arguably the biggest name in the mini-cars,
Bumblebee, was in good enough condition to be brought into the line.

Alas, nothing lasts forever -- not even toy molds. And it's been a
problem that's plagued any number of toy lines over the years, especially
those resurrected after years of disuse. Needless to say, G.I.Joe and
Transformers have suffered especially because of this. Cracks can develop
in the molds, and they can even rust!

Fortunately, we still got four very cool little vehicles for Generation
2. A brief overview of them, then:

BUMBLEBEE is best known as the yellow Volkswagen that, in the original
animated series, befriended Spike Witwicky. He was a popular and
prominent character, often underestimated by both the Autobots and the
Decepticons because of his size, and sometimes seen as an annoyance
because of his overly jovial personality.

HUBCAP was a matte gold color in the original line, and not a lot is
known about this character from the standpoint of the animated series. I
tend to think that he was one of those toys that was brought into the
line just because they had the molds for one more car. He was a little
dull, and if I recall, somewhat scarce, in his original release. But in
chrome red, he's pretty cool.

Neither Hubcap nor Bumblebee have especially complicated transformations.
Pull out the front of the car, fold down the feet, extend the arms, and
flip up the head. Instant robot. But they're still cool.

Now let's turn to the others.

SEASPRAY is a small hovercraft. Done mostly in chrome blue with yellow
and white trim, and turning black propellers, this little fellow gave the
Autobots an aquatic presence on Earth, something they hadn't had much of
up until that point. As I recall, he had a voice that sounded like he was
perpetually gargling. You'd think Wheeljack could've fixed that.

BEACHCOMBER is a dune buggy, done for the Generation 2 line in a very
impressive chrome green. He gave the Autobots a certain off-road
capability, and if I recall, saw himself as one cool dude, sort of the
"surfer dude" of the Autobots. Probably liked listening to the Beach Boys
on his car radio.

The advantage to having Seaspray and Beachcomber in the line-up was that
it broke up the possibility of having an "all car" series here. As cool
as Bumblebee and Hubcap are, they're both just sort of squat little cars,
and if it weren't for their different colors, it'd be hard for a casual
observer to even tell them apart. Beachcomber is a very distinctive car-
like vehicle, and nobody's going to mistake a hovercraft like Seaspray
for an automobile of any sort.

Their transformations are fairly simple, but somewhat different from
Bumblebee or Hubcap. In Seaspray's case, you pull the front of the
vehicle forward and then fold it up, not too different from the cars. His
arms can then be posed forward. The entire propeller assembly folds back
to reveal his head.

Beachcomber's a little more different. Flip his entire hood over, and
this makes the lower legs and feet. The underside of the toy then becomes
the front of the robot. You can then pull the arms away a bit, and flip
the head up.

One word of warning. If you find these toys today, and never had them --
be very gentle in transforming them. The coating of chrome on them does
make moving their sections a little difficult, since it was not part of
the original toy, and tends to tighten the moving parts somewhat.

Transformers Generation 2 was fairly short-lived, and the reaction to it
among collectors today remains mixed. But there was still some cool stuff
to come out of it, that any Transformers collector would enjoy, and I
happen to think these gleaming, chrome-plated mini-cars fit into that
category. I'm glad that I still have them among my collection.