The Reverend's review of: Trailbreaker
First Cartoon Appearance:
More Than Meets The Eye
"An Autobot's as good as the fuel in his tank."
Trailbreaker makes light of any situation, no matter how serious. Practical joker and cheerleader, but considers himself a liability to Autobots since he consumes the most fuel. Lacks self-esteem and often asks to be left behind. Projects nearly impenetrable invisible force-field. Can jam radio transmissions. Very slow. Often mopes about his handicaps, but his bravery and defensive prowess is unquestioned.
When Transformers (G1) first hit the US in the mid-eighties, one of the few possibly-legit complaints (aside from the "war toys" crowd and some other silly folks) kids had on them was that the Autobot cars by and large didn't look like cars they were familiar with. We saw 18-wheelers similar to Optimus Prime on the highways, and the occasional car resembling Bumblebee or Bluestreak or Windcharger, but that was about it. Rarely did our parents own one, and most of us didn't see Lamborghinis and Lancias and indy racers on the road very often.
(Strangely enough, its only in the past few years I'm seeing lots of 80's Toyota minivans resembling Ironhide, although none of them have been red.)
Trailbreaker, despite his largely sidelined role in the cartoon (if anything, he just showed up by virtue of his force field here and there), was one of the few Autobots with alternate modes of types we saw regularly.
A black full-size 4 wheel drive pickup truck bearing a camper top, Trailbreaker aims to please with what I don't mind telling you I feel is one of the best G1 vehicle modes out there. With his hood and hood-vents clearly molded, big treaded rubber tires, chrome grill, red taillights, camper windows, door handles, semi-transparent windshield, and even a tailgate represented, Trailbreaker is a fine ambassador for the concept of "robots in disguise". The truck's chrome undercarriage (actually his legs, but we'll get to that) is even designed so that the rear end of the vehicle sits slightly higher than the front. Labels on his sides bear the "4WD" notation and a red, orange and yellow pattern that looks oddly familiar to me, but I can't place it. A small panel on the roof of the truck's cab (leading to a single seat in the cab) is evidently a holdover from Diaclone days, and a large Autobot symbol splays across the hood. The camper has rear as well as side windows. This design is to be commended in an era when designers could (and did) get away with a lot less.
Now here's where things get really interesting. Turn the truck upside down and pull out the chrome legs that form the undercarriage. They'll hinge forward towards the front of the truck and the black feet at the end of each leg should be obvious, so rotate these upwards. There's a long tab under the front bumper of the truck which you can fit the legs to for stability. Now, flip out the sides out of the truck (be careful here, its a tight fit), and rotate them 180 degrees to reveal the arms. Fold down the camper top. Now, a joint between the hood and the windshield should be apparent, bring the truck's cab section back so that its windshield now faces forwards instead of down the hood and adjust the arms to match this configuration. Finally, you'll see Trailbreaker's head nestled behind the truck cab now, so move it on its pivot so that it rests atop the truck cab.
Trailbreaker comes with five loose parts - two chrome cannon-like objects, two black fists, and a squarish "radio-jamming broadcaster". The broadcaster fits neatly behind his head. The fists or cannons can be placed into each wrist and launched with red triggers on the forearms as missiles. Whichever parts you are not using of these two pairs can be put in holes on his backpack (the box art shows the cannons here, which I presume is intended to represent his "forcefield projecters").
The completed Trailbreaker's primary color is still black, with chrome on his headgear, forearms and legs and red highlights on his stickers, knees and visor. He has a very mechanical form - there's little attempt to emulate humans, unlike some later G1 Autobots that looked more like ballet dancers in armor than actual robots. He's got a wide, stocky chest, long arms, and an inhuman, masked face. The combination of the broadcaster and cannons atop his shoulders makes him look like he actually is carrying some kind of generator rig. While I think this is pretty cool, I can also see where some would say it makes him look <i>too</i> much like an automaton. You'll have to let your personal taste make the call on that one. As far as articulation goes, average for a G1 - Trailbreaker can move 360 degrees at the shoulders and also shrug somewhat to his sides, and his forearms have a 90 degree range at the elbow. At least he can deliver uppercuts. Against his first-wave G1 Autobot comrades, he definitely stands out, even if its just because he's taller than most of the others. And that, coupled with his glossy black finish, gives him that "I'm a bad mutha (SHUT YOUR MOUF!)" effect.
I look at it this way. Of the first wave of U.S. Transformers toys, exactly which Autobots are able to handle things when the battle turns from firepower to fisticuffs, aside from Optimus Prime? The Mini-cars? No offense to Brawn and Huffer, but they're not tall enough to reach much beyond knees and toes. Wheeljack? Forget it, his arms are stuck pointing straight down because of his missile launchers. Ironhide? Too short when he gets off his battle platform. Hound? Bluestreak? Prowl? Jazz? Their arms barely reach beyond their chests. Sunstreaker? No shoulders. With skinny lightweights like Mirage and Sideswipe left for this, you can see where a relative behemoth like Trailbreaker can actually be pretty cool...
7 - Takes a couple of tries to get it right, but I doubt anyone would find it horribly frustrating. Just pay attention to the arms, especially, since they are meant to fit very tightly against the body of the truck in vehicle mode and can be difficult at first to get the hang of when putting them back in place for robot-to-vehicle transformation.
6 - He's a big imposing guy for the era, and pretty solid in vehicle mode, The shoulder joints in robot mode are plastic and I could see them snapping off.
8 - Trailbreaker is just underrated, and I say that partly because his later remold Hoist was so irritating a character in comic and cartoon. His vehicle mode is top-notch and his robot mode is much more fun to play with than many of his first-wave counterparts, if only for his better articulation.
You might be hurting here. Cost me $80, Ebay.
Toss-up. The design is distinctive and makes a great display piece. Against the whole of G1, though, Trailbreaker's going to look a little out of place in robot mode. Look closely before you buy.