The Reverend's review: Wheelie
First Cartoon Appearance:
Transformers: The Movie
"Only the fierce shall live."
WHEELIE is the sole survivor from a party of intergalactic colonists who crash landed on earth. He's a barbaric little savage who managed to stay alive by cunning, stealth, and fearlessness. Speaks in odd rhyming sentences and despises the Decepticons. Fights only when he's under attack and has to defend himself. Staunch friend to the Dinobots and a reliable ally for Hot Rod and Kup.
Quite possibly the most reviled character in all of G1 Transformerdom, and I certainly am not about to try to dispel that. Reading Wheelie's tech specs, one is reminded of (Uruguayan) Flight 571, or perhaps the Donner party. Interestingly, he has a Firepower ranking of 7 - higher than Kup and equal to Springer and Blurr. Of course, most of us are far more familiar with his animated characterization, in which he was just an annoying jester walking around making stupid remarks in rhyme and squealing for help at any given moment. (Being paired with Daniel didn't help.) Heck, just comparing the box art versus the cartoon/Dreamwave version is really kind of funny.
Wheelie takes the form of a small "futuristic" car, which looks like a one-seater "downhill racer" to me (or maybe a go-cart?). He's mainly a pastel-y orange in this mode, with a grey canopy, grey plastic tires, a little white trim around the canopy and some darker orange/red highlights on his fenders. Close inspection notes that these highlights are actually somewhat tastefully molded with sharp angles. Usually when G1 minicar colors changed, it was because another piece of plastic started at that point, but I don't see that on Wheelie. He also has some paneling and exhaust ports molded into the car, along with raised portions which I think are supposed to be taillights and a spot for a license plate. He does bear a passing resemblance to Blurr in this mode: although Blurr certainly looks more aerodynamic, the general shape is similar. There's an Autobot insignia just below the front of his canopy, and a rubsign on his hood. The front of the car is the same darker orange-red as the highlights on the fenders, with a notch molded into the front (and because this portion is Wheelie's separated feet, this notch isn't always straight to the eye). On my sample, the grey rear wheels are held securely in by pins, but the front wheels are a little looser - I don't know if this is wear, carelessness or design to make rolling him on the kitchen floor easier.
Most Mini-bots operate on the scheme of "pull here, rotate there", and Wheelie is somewhat similar, but the design has a few surprises. A swinging joint under the car allows you to expand his skinny little legs instead of pulling them out. The fenders are held in place by a rather large pin-and-hole design, so pulling out gently on the fronts of these frees you to rotate the fenders (Wheelie's arms) into position once you clear the pin. Once this is done you're free to rotate the back of the car downwards to give him slightly bulkier shoulders, and flipping the canopy up reveals his face. The result is tall for a Mini-bot, but also quite ungainly looking, with skinny little legs, big stomping feet, no hands (well, there are some etched fists on the insides of the fenders - as drawings of fists go they're okay, I guess), and a face level with his shoulders. The total visual effect, is, well, have you ever seen one of those human fetus exhibitions in the preservative jars? The canopy can either be flipped to point straight up (as in some toy catalogs) or pointing out for an exaggerated "ballcap" look. Wheelie's still mainly Push-Up orange in this mode, with a totally orange face (and it looks stupid, although it's a really detailed face if you look at it under magnification). He's got some limited articulation in that his shoulders, hips and ankles can all move, although the usefulness of any of them is disputable. His awkward feet and lanky legs make him a bit difficult to stand - once you've got him there, a breeze may blow him over.
If you're shopping for your own Wheelie (for whatever reason), there are some variations on this bugger out there. In 2005, a Japanese reissue showed up which appears to be exactly the same, except that the atrocious orange face was colored grey with blue eyes. It's a nice improvement and worth looking out for - the piece was originally included with a reissue of Targetmaster Kup if you're curious. Later the same model would show up as "Dion" in E-Hobby's repaint "Orion Pax & Dion" set, with the face detail retained but the rest of the body in different colors. Lastly, if you're really whimsical, Reprolabels still offers a "Wheelimus Prime" sticker upgrade. The usefulness of this is probably just as debatable as Wheelie's etched fists inside the fenders, but at least the sticker set will give you headlights, taillights, and some window detail on the canopy.
: 3 - Relatively obvious, but doesn't quite follow standard G1 Mini-bot design. So look before you yank.
: 7 - I actually inherited this from a friend who got it new in the 80s, and it's held up well by all appearances. I have seen several Wheelies with missing canopies, and I imagine the skinny legs, swinging joints and pin-and-hole traps might not last under a beating by many kids.
: 1 - Ugh. Even dismissing his terrible characterization, I hate it. I can gleefully see the fun of smashing Gears, Brawn, Pipes, and the rest into other TFs, but I just don't see Wheelie being that useful. Umm... he can ride on Ultra Magnus' trailer?
: The original is easily acquired at under ten US dollars.
: In terms of the Mini-bots, Wheelie is a standout in terms of unique design and appearance. In terms of general "why should I get him", I can't offer you a lot. Display value is iffy - he fits in well if you keep yours in vehicle mode.