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Clay's review of: Black Convoy

Name: Black Convoy
Function: Dark Commander, Destroyer of Wallets
At what price beauty?

The Binaltech line, contrary to what many had presumed, isn't quite dead. It's just been cut back to an average of one release per year (zero in 2006, two slated for 2007). Unfortunately, Black Convoy is a convention and e-hobby exclusive, which means the secondary market price of the thing is so high that the average collector can only afford one release per year. (The other pending 2007 release is BT-18 Ligier/Mirage in clear colors, another e-hobby exclusive).

Anyway, Black Convoy was originally intended to be released as the fourth Binaltech Asterisk figure, sometime in the spring of 2006. That didn't happen, and there have not been any Binaltechs or Binaltech Asterisks released since late 2005 (Skids and Broadblast, if you're curious). Of course, there are the Kiss Players releases - Convoy as a RAM, Hot Rod as a GT, and police car drones called Autorooper remolded from Meister's version of the Mazda. The Kiss series isn't quite the same as Binaltech for three reasons -

1) Different back story
2) No die cast metal parts
3) Robots with penis tongues chasing after half-naked anime girls

So, for all intents and purposes, the fancy 1:24 scale vehicle Transformers from Japan that were marketed without all those disturbing extras were gone. What was left consisted of little more than prettier* versions of the plastic Alternators.

And then, out of nowhere, Black Convoy finally found a home as a joint exclusive between the Wonderfest 2007 convention in Japan and the Japanese toy site, This was a mixed blessing. Although it did, eventually, get released, it's damn expensive for anyone who didn't attend the festival or manage to get one from e-hobby. There are multiple problems with either scenario: it sold out at the Wonderfest in about an hour; e-hobby only sold it to Japanese residents, limit one per customer, and sold out almost as quickly.

The actual production numbers of the figure helped it to sell out so fast. The numbers I've seen vary slightly, but about 90% of the sources I've looked at say there are 1000 total - 300 went to the festival, the other 700 to e-hobby (others say 800 total - 300 to the festival, rest to e-hobby). Whatever the specific number is, it's low enough to drive the second-hand price to the range of $240-$300. What's scarier than a price tag like that on what should otherwise be a ~$60 figure? It moves at that price - right now, (April 2007) there are only a handful left on ebay and various online stores, compared to the relative deluge of a dozen simultaneously available on ebay just after the festival.

To put less elaborately, there are a lot more people that want this figure than there are pieces available, even at a wacky $250+ price. I assume it's driven by a variety of factors: it's prettier* than the Alternator counterpart, Nemesis Prime; it's die cast metal, which is better*, and there weren't any metal Binaltechs released for 15 months prior to Black Convoy; it's black, and black is sophisticated* and awesome*; a given collector may already have all the other Binaltechs and decided they were too heavily invested to back out now.

Anyway, the toy is Binaltech in every sense: another chapter of a bad story, no half naked anime girls, and made of die cast metal. The only thing missing from the total package is a character card with artwork and whatnot. It's very pretty in person, and is easily the best release of the RAM mold so far in terms of transformation - the doors don't fall off and legs don't require a moral conviction to pull down. But, I'm getting ahead of myself...

Vehicle mode:

Being a repaint of the Optimus/Convoy figure, Black Convoy is a Dodge RAM SRT10 pickup truck. And what a truck it is! Most of the vehicles in the Binaltech line are sports cars, so having the occasional Jeep or truck spices things up nicely. When I reviewed Alternators Optimus Prime a year before this, I was fairly smitten with the vehicle mode overall. My opinion of the vehicle mode hasn't changed much since then. It's nicely larger than all the other Binaltech vehicles, which is appropriate given Black Convoy's status as commander - he's the leader because he's big and can beat up everyone else and take their lunch money.

The big distinction between Black Convoy and Nemesis Prime in vehicle mode is the color of the windows. Nemesis Prime's windows are tinted red as a nod to Robots In Disguise Scourge, which started this whole mess of evil black Optimus repaints to begin with. Black Convoy, however, has clear windows. Personally, I like this choice more since it's more realistic, and that's the whole point of the line. The coloring of the tail lights also differs from NP - I'm honestly not sure which is colored accurately to a real RAM, so I'll claim no favor of one over the other.

Aside from those two tinting details, the wheels are chrome. Those three points account for almost all of the visible differences between Black Convoy and Nemesis Prime as trucks... except one that doesn't photograph well. Black Convoy is glossy. I can see my reflection in it well enough to very poorly comb my hair.

Robot mode:

The mold itself: The Alternator Optimus Prime came out almost a full year before Black Convoy, and it's taken about that long to get used to the robot mode. In that same span of time, I've become quite fond of modifying and repainting Alternators; so much so that I look at the unique vehicles as pieces of media now.

Given that perspective, I can honestly say that the blocky legs are a very poor design choice. Either making the knees visible (such as with my Megatron custom) or just extending the thighs farther (such as what I did with Kiss Convoy) makes the robot mode look much less daft without adding any stability problems. Why the designers opted to have the legs resemble massive, blocky pillars really defies explanation.

On the other hand, it's really not that bad. It's clunky, but familiarity has lead to acceptance. The mold is certainly well-articulated despite appearances. Even with all the extra weight afforded by the metal parts, it can still hold a pose.

Speaking of the metal components, this image from Fan2Fan details which parts are made of die cast metal (TFArchive mirror). Interestingly enough, most of the other Binaltechs don't have that many components of the vehicle made of metal (i.e., the Viper has its doors and forward body made of die cast metal, but not the rear). Since Black Convoy has proportionally more metal than most of the other BTs, and is a larger vehicle to begin with, he makes the rest of the line feel like featherweights. If the material construction of a figure is important to you, you'll definitely enjoy the heft Black Convoy affords.

The color scheme: The other major difference between Black Convoy and Nemesis Prime is the color scheme. In other words, Black Convoy actually has a color scheme. All of the colors used for the RID Scourge are present, but in different and more appropriate places. The whole arrangement is subtle, but it does look good even with a limited palette. My favorite use of color on this figure is on the shoulder pieces. They have teal chrome highlights. Teal chrome! You don't see that often.

Overall, the thought that went into the color scheme really excels the figure. Even if I still question the structure of the knees, Takara have managed to produce a very pretty and distinctive piece.

Durability: Impossible to say since to it's too expensive to gamble dropping it. It's painted metal, so that can always chip off with enough persuasion. I have mine standing on a piece of felt so as to not scuff the tailgates.
Transformation: 9. Perhaps it's the weight of the metal that helps with pulling the legs down, but Black Convoy is actually easier to transform that the plastic releases of the mold.
Fun: Again, this is impossible to gauge because of the pricing concerns. The RAM mold itself is durable and articulate enough to 'play' with as much as any other Alternator or Binaltech, but Black Convoy is a double whammy of expense and not necessarily being able to acquire another one in a year's time if you break one.
Price: X. As an individual figure, $250 to $300 is insane. As part of a collection of all the Binaltechs and variants (about 24 figures at $50 or so each), it's not that big of investment to keep the collection up to date. Takara can only pull this on me once, though...
Overall: Very well done figure overall, but the price and extremely limited availability means its appeal is restricted to completists. Pity.


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