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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Blackjack's review: Crankcase

Name: Crankcase
Allegiance: Decepticon
Size Class: Deluxe Class
Accessories: Cyber Key

”Things are never as good as they seem.”

When I bought Crankcase’s toy, I never really cared for G1 Triggercon Crankcase as a character. Of course I was young then and had not been introduced to the wild world of fanfiction, and Crankcase recently saw an upsurge of popularity due to being one of the few late-run G1 Decepticons to be featured as part of the Scavengers team in the ever-awesome MTMTE comic. Crankcase is a Decepticon who’s an ever-complaining bitch. And unlike past me, I am now quite fond of Crankcase.

In the 2007 Movie line, a repaint of Cybertron-era Red Alert as Crankcase (plus Getaway Breakaway and Crasher Fracture) were supposed to be a group of repaints slated for the Classics line, but the Movie’s popularity meant that retailers wanted more exclusives for the Movie line instead of Classics. So the three were shunted into the Movie line as exclusives and were subsequently integrated into IDW’s Movie comics as cannon fodder. (He didn’t even get killed by Autobots, he was chosen arbitrarily by Starscream to complete a set of sacrifices or something.) The name Crankcase would later be reused a couple of times, for a random evil repaint in the Power Core Combiners line and for one of the three Dreads that appeared in the Dark of the Moon movie.

Now back then I didn’t have any attachment whatsoever to Crankcase, I just bought him on a whim for the mould and simply because, hey, G1 homage, why not? Fairly glad I bought him seven years ago at the time of writing since I ended up liking Crankcase the character, but the toy, on the other hand…

Alternate Mode:
Crankcase is a repaint of Cybertron Red Alert, and transforms into an emergency SUV that is apparently based on a Dodge Magnum. He is primarily blue instead of primarily black like the original G1 toy, and it seems like they’re putting more priority on homaging the (blue) robot mode. He’s got a nice paint scheme here, with the emergency lights on the roof being cast in clear orange plastic while the windows are cast in clear yellow. Two shades of silver pick out a lot of the details in the SUV, and I particularly like the ‘Haz-Mat Operations’ shield they made up to slap on his doors. It’s very fitting and is in the style of the mock-emblems incorporating the Autobot or Decepticon shields seen in Movie versions Ratchet and Barricade.

It’s a pretty nice-looking alternate mode, although casting the windows in clear plastic does make all the robot kibble inside visible and ending up being messy. I’m not a big fan of using orangey-yellow as a secondary colour either. But other than that his SUV mode is pretty decently done.

What I hate, though is the fact that his head just sits right there on the middle of the roof. Granted only half of the head is visible and between the visor and the circular shape I think the designers are trying to be funny and pass it off as part of the emergency light ensemble, but guess what? It doesn’t work. It looks stupid and mars Crankcase’s otherwise nice-looking alternate mode. Ugly.

The Cyber Key port or plug or whatever you call it ends up on the rear of the roof, but unlike the toy from which Crankcase was repainted from, it isn’t coloured to look distinct and grab attention and is cast in the same blue plastic as his main body, making it kind of blend in. Inserting a Cyber Key (I have no idea which one of the two dozen damned things in the box belongs to Crankcase) will cause two panels on either side of his rear halves to pop sideways and reveal two tiny flip-out guns, emulating G1 Crankcase’s Triggercon gimmick. However, Movie Crankcase’s guns are relatively pitifully small and kind of get lost amongst all the silver that he already has as part of his deco. The springs used for the gimmick are kind of stiff and a bit of a fiddle to manipulate, causing it to be a bit tricky to push the guns and panels back.

Overall, ugly head aside it’s a decent alternate mode. It’s a Cybertron toy, but it looks generic yet detailed enough to nicely blend with most Classics displays. The gimmick is serviceable – nowhere near spectacular, but not obstructive either.

Robot Mode:
Crankcase transformation is weird. His hood splits into legs, which combine with parts of the rear of his vehicle to form the complete robot legs, causing him to have really thick lower legs with feet jutting both front and back. It’s kind of awkward all around. In robot mode he works far better as a homage, sporting more black on his nicely-sculpted chest armour, as well as his hands and feet. Aqua blue, silver and yellow are used sparingly to pick out other details in robot mode. Overall it’s not a perfect homage, but for a repaint of a Unicron Trilogy-era toy, it’s one of the better ones.

I’ve always liked Crankcase’s head sculpt, and thought it worked far better with Crankcase than it was with Red Alert. The neutral expression looks like a permanent scowl, and his visor eyes kind of emulates the visor-separated-by-a-nose he has in the comics.

He’s fairly short and stocky, even by Cybertron era standards. His transformation scheme features a lot of overlapping parts which hurts posability by a huge margin. The doors that hang from his shoulders limit his shoulder posability very much, and the backpack (plus the rigid plastic that holds the spring-loaded guns in place) also hampers arm posability. The fact that the arms are kinda stumpy and blocky doesn’t help either. His lower legs are, as mentioned above, massively thick and impractical affairs that makes posing anything with his feet beyond static poses near impossible. It’s a shame since he’s got a fair bit of articulation – his head rotates, he’s got ball-jointed shoulders and thighs and hinged elbows, wrists and knees, but there are so few of these joints that he can use. No wonder he’s so grumpy.

You can plug in the Cyber Key in robot mode and make the cannons flip up over his shoulders as well, again homaging G1 Crankcase’s Triggercon cannons. And again the cannons are pitifully tiny and get lost in the sea of details and everything else.

Crankcase’s left arm has been replaced with a gun and included with him are attachments which can plug into the gun and turn it into a hammer or an awkward-looking gray grabber claw. These attachments can store on compartments on his legs (or car hood) when not in use.

Overall it’s kind of a sucky and very block robot. Granted that’s a fairly accurate description of the original Crankcase toy so it’s a somewhat unintentional homage. I do quite like him despite his faults though.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 2/10 With the feet and the obstructive shoulder-pads being the main offenders. I think his transformation was sacrificed in favour of incorporating the ‘hide hammer attachment in car hood’ and the spring-loaded gun gimmicks. I remembered finding his transformation hard as a kid, in no small part due to the rigid plastic used in some of his parts more than because he’s a complex toy.

Durability: 8/10 He’s had a lot of falls since his time, but he’s a very durable toy.

Aesthetics: 7/10 I wished they used a darker shade of blue to make Crankcase a nicer homage, but the light blue they used for Crankcase does make him stand out a fair bit from other blue Decepticons in my collection. I wished they hadn’t gone with clear yellow with so much of him, though. And there’s the problem with the head sticking out in robot mode as well.

Articulation: 3/10 Just horrid. Even for a mould designed in the Cybertron-era, Crankcase’s kibble and general design prevents him from utilizing a lot of the articulation points bequeathed to him, basically only allowing him to point his guns at the enemy or scowl a little.

Fun: 6/10 I do like Crankcase and fiddling around with him, but sooner or later one of his many problems hits me in the face.

Price/Value: 5/10 He’s not one of the best Deluxe class toys out there, although on the brighter side if you’re considering a Crankcase purchase you wouldn’t have to pay too much.

Overall: 4/10 I do like Crankcase enough not to sell him off and allow him to stand around Universe toys, but make no mistake, this is a horrible mould design-wise. It’s not a particularly good homage either. What it is, though, is a pretty-looking figure that looks great as one among many. It’s a nice addition to my collection but he’ll never win any toy-of-the-year awards or anything.
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