The Reverend's Review: Prowl
Autobot Cars, 1984
"Logic is the ultimate weapon."
Prowl will keep at a task for as long as it takes. Strives to find reason and logic in everything. A listener, not a talker. Has most sophisticated logic center of all Autobots. Able to analyze and advise on complex combat situations almost instantaneously. Fires wire-guided missiles and high-corrosive acid pellets. The unexpected can often scramble his circuits.
The name "Prowl" is familiar across a wide range of Transformers fans, since a character bearing that name has been present in so many of the various toylines and continuities. This review covers the original G1 Prowl, who (in terms of character) may or may not be the same as or similar to subsequent Prowls.
Prowl's function as Military Strategist places him squarely within Optimus Prime's inner circle of advisors and deputy commanders. With his Tech Specs' Rank score of 9, Prowl would have been the second-in-command of the Autobots for the 1984 line. (The next year, Grimlock was released with a 9 Rank score and Jetfire with a 10, which muddies the pecking order a little bit just by the numbers.)
Prowl's alternate mode is meant to be a police car, although it is a strange little version of a patrol vehicle. He appears to be a Nissan Fairlady Z (or Datsun 240Z) bearing "Police" markings and rooftop lights. In other words, this is a police hatchback with only two doors. A brief bit of internet research did turn up a Nissan Fairlady Z patrol car from Kanagawa Prefecture (circa 1973?), which actually does bear a very strong resemblance to Prowl's alt mode. He has black rubber tires on chrome wheel hubs, black bumpers, a mainly white body with black running around the side of the car, multiple "Police" labels on the bumpers and doors, and the aforementioned red rooftop lights. Sharing a mold type with Bluestreak, he has the "T-top" panels on his roof and the recessed headlights that you have to mark with blue stickers. His side windows are apparently open (they're nonexistent). Despite his strangeness in light of what patrol cars usually look like, he's really not that bad looking. He also bears a "Highway Patrol" sticker on his rear hatch. The instruction manual that came with my Prowl back then shows a sticker sheet with all sorts of Japanese city names on it (theoretically, I guess, you could customize your Prowl to have its home turf be any one of those), but I do not recall whether the actual Hasbro sticker sheet that came with the toy had those or not. He did, however, come with a very small sticker version of the Imperial Seal of Japan that was meant to go on the front of his hood/bonnet. An Autobot insignia is meant to be placed to one side of the hood/bonnet, although mine had a rubsign in the same position on the opposite side of the car.
The car itself features a lot of die-cast metal, but also uses large labels on the doors and the middle of the hood to create all the trim and detail. Frankly, I really liked this toy as a kid, and it shows - mine's quite banged up. The rooftop snapped off its stem some time ago (you have to place it in position while it's in car mode, the hatch windows broke as well (which was actually OK with me because then I could nestle Prowl's missile launchers there for an "attack" mode), and it appears that I tried to tint the front window by smearing magic marker ink on it (which turned red over the years). The car still rolls well, and the large rear bumper meant you could gently press down at that spot to make Prowl pop a wheelie. His scale is quite close to the other Autobot cars of that year, although looking inside the car reveals no seats or other detail you might expect (the car actually houses Prowl's legs). And of course, if you look at it from underneath you can see Prowl's arms at the front, though they don't interfere with the rolling if you tuck them in well - they have pegs for each fist to grasp so even the loosest arms won't fall out easily. All in all, a sharp and solid design, even if its not quite the form and shape you would expect.
Prowl's transformation is the same as G1 Bluestreak's, and similar to that of Jazz. The arms swing out and extend from under the front of the car, the doors are opened, and the rear of the car is pulled out and flipped over (with a small tab-lock to keep it in either position) and separated to make his feet while the front of the car swings down to make the upper torso. Prowl's a tad short, but his wide feet assemblies make him stand well. The car parts that form his chest and feet are quite visible here (in all their two-tone white and black glory), while he has a relatively tall black and grey midsection and upper legs. Prowl's head and face are very similar to what we saw in the cartoons and comics, with its grey humanesque face topped by a white helmet. The red crest on his helmet is present here, created by foil red stickers that don't quite match on my sample, like one tore in assembly or something. Because Prowl's chest is the front of the car, it does stick out a tad humorously, almost like breasts. His shoulders can be positioned along a near 180-degree range vertically and can rotate a full 360 degrees, while he also has elbow and wrist joints. The waist technically moves but due to the tab lock this isn't really a posing plus. Probably Prowl's most iconic feature is his car doors serving as "wings" in robot mode, these are present behind his shoulders and can be moved to any position you desire - radiating flat out to the sides or swept back somewhat, and they do not interfere with the shoulder motion. Prowl's head is set back a bit far from his shoulders (which is really noticeable from the side), but this doesn't look so strange when he's wearing his grey missile launchers, which fit into holes on his "ears". He also comes with a long silver acid-pellet rifle that fits into either fist. His arms are slightly thin and don't extend very far past his chest, so Prowl really depends on his weaponry to complement his appearance - I never thought he'd make much of a brawler. However, Prowl can hold his rifle in a variety of positions, and looks good in most of them.
The panel on the back of Prowl's head extends downward through his back and terminates in the car's windshield and roof, and this is an almost legendary weak spot on the toy - too much pressure in the wrong place and the panel will break right at the front of the windshield. Even as a kid I thought that two folding joints in that area would have been sturdier and enabled the car's rooftop to fold up onto his upper back, instead of dangling behind his butt. Also, the pieces of the rear hatch ride upward on the lower legs during transformation to create "shinguards" of a sort for Prowl, and both of these broke off on mine during the 80s as well. Prowl's feet slide apart during transformation - avoiding the big, flat unifoot look. They can't move independently of each other as they're still connected by small metal rods, and the wheels at his ankles kind of look like he's supposed to roll everywhere he goes, but the black trim that ran around the car mode does keep the tires and wheels from standing out too badly.
Despite it all, Prowl was one of my favorite robot-mode TFs as a kid. While he wasn't quite as tall or brawny looking as some of his fellows, I really liked his look. His design is suitably different from the "car pointing up" (Sideswipe) or "car pointing down" (Sunstreaker, Wheeljack) designs, so he doesn't get lost in a crowd easily. Because of his relatively narrower torso, the winged effect looks good on him (where it's not quite as prominent on Jazz). I also liked his very pose-able arms and his weaponry. Now as I write this, I'm looking at the poor beaten-up toy and I still think he's one of the better car-mode Autobots.
Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 7
. Although I guess he does suffer from a degree of the "wearing car parts as armor" syndrome (and I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing), the design is smooth and involved enough to be fun without being overly complex. I would have marked it 8
if not for the hanging car top in robot mode.
. Overall, Prowl's very solid and can take a bumping, but he does have the weak points I detailed above.
. Although, when looking at the entire G1 line of car robots, Prowl's just another in a large crowd, I think his eye-catching colors and his large, shiny weaponry gave him a degree of playability that later car-robots did not have.
. Prowl will stand well in robot mode, and enough of his car mode is visible in robot mode to make it obvious that he is a Transformer. He is a bit short in a crowd of other Transformers. Car mode hides the transforming aspect well, but may draw odd expressions due to its unconventional appearance. HOWEVER... Prowl came with a LOT of stickers to bring out details on his body in both modes. Losing some of these to wear and tear (or having never been applied in the first place) is not a big deal, but Prowl may look silly without some of the others, such as his headlights, door logos, and the "sheriff"-type shields on his upper arms.
. While Prowl's articulation is only in his arms, the designer made sure that very little hindered the arms' movement. Having four joints in each arm doesn't hurt either.
Prowl does not cost as much on the secondhand market as his mold partner Bluestreak. And you might be able to save a few bucks by skipping on the weaponry. The core figure still has some bang for the buck.
Out of the original Autobot cars, I still find Prowl to be one of the best despite the durability questions.