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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Hubcap

Name: Hubcap
Allegiance: Autobot

Hubcap never liked the way that Brimstone pushed other robots around, and he never made any effort to hide his disapproval. Brimstone may consider himself king of the road, but Hubcap won't give up until this so-called king is just another wreck.

Hubcap is a name with a long history in the Transformers franchise. However, the characters who've borne that name have never been what you'd call memorable. The original Hubcap, who featured in both the Generation 1 and Generation 2 toylines, has the questionable distinction of being the only Minibot who never appeared in the original cartoon or comic. He didn't make his first appearance until he had a one-page cameo in a Dreamwave comic in 2004. He finally got a speaking role in Megatron: Origins in 2007, but the bulk of his appearances have been in fan club exclusive comics that probably have a circulation numbering in the hundreds. Of course, this still places him head and shoulders above Machine Wars Hubcap (who has never appeared in anything) and Animated Hubcap (who has one crowd scene to his credit).

This new Hubcap is a part of the Transformers 2010 line. That line is Movie-based, but also features characters like Seaspray who are intended to be a the same person as previous incarnations. Because of that, and because this Hubcap has followed his illustrious predecessors' example by not showing up in any fiction, it's hard to say exactly where he's supposed to fit in. A lot of fans have assumed based on his old-timey alternate mode that he's one of the Seekers that were introduced in Revenge of the Fallen, like Jetfire and Ransack. There's no evidence to support that, though, and it's just as likely that he's meant to be a new version of one of the previous Hubcaps or a completely separate character in his own right. His biography (above) is completely useless in figuring out who he is or what universe he belongs to, since the only thing it establishes about him is that he thinks Brimstone (buy his toy so that they can fight, kids!) is a dick.

The toy itself generated some buzz in the fandom when pictures of it were first leaked, both because of his alternate mode -- something we haven't seen very often since the Laser Rods in the Generation 2 line -- and because he has a very interesting robot mode. He was one of the few movie-style TF2010 toys that really caught my eye, but when he first showed up I ended up buying some of the equally-new Power Core Combiners instead. In retrospect, that wasn't the best call I've ever made.

Robot Mode: Hubcap's robot mode is simple but effective. It makes good use of alternate-mode parts, with fenders on his shoulders and feet, doors on his arms and his grille and headlights on his chest. His roof and hood end up on his back and the backs of his legs, but blend in smoothly so that he avoids being labelled a shellformer. Because of that, Hubcap's arms and legs are made up of fairly slender robot parts that, along with the archaic chestplate, makes him look old and weathered without making him look weak or frail like ROTF Ransack does. In fact, he comes off looking fairly strong and powerful.

Hubcap's main colours in this mode are red and grey. His upper arms and thighs are light grey while his forearms, shins and helmet are dark grey. Both of these shades contrast nicely with the silver (not chromed, thankfully, but painted) headlights, grille, exhaust pipes and foot decorations that Hubcap can boast in this mode. Meanwhile, most of his visible alternate mode parts are light red, and so are his feet. The colours work really well together, and they really support the overwhelming feeling of "old" that this guy gives off.

Quite a few people have commented that Hubcap's legs remind them of a Gundam design. I can sort of see that, but they actually remind me a lot more of G1 Jazz. The way his wheels and rear window kibble are arranged on the back of his legs is virtually identical, and I can't help but think of Jazz every time I look at Hubcap.

In terms of articulation and posability, Hubcap really shines. He has universal joints at his shoulders, hips and knees and ball-jointed elbows and neck. None of his alt-mode kibble gets in the way of posing him to any significant degree, and a low centre of mass makes him exceptionally well-balanced. It's a bit of a shame that his ankles aren't ball-jointed (they can swivel forward and back as part of his transformation, but nothing else) because that would have been the final bit of icing on the cake. But as it is, Hubcap is a fun little toy to pose and play with.

My Hubcap, however, had three notable flaws right out of the package. The first and most obvious is some sloppy paintwork. The silver paint on his exhaust pipes spread onto the bottom of his doors, leaving several ugly globs of silver on what's supposed to be clear red plastic. Normally this wouldn't be very noticeable but since the bottom of his doors are attached to Hubcap's forearms in robot mode, it really jumps out. The silver paint on his feet has the opposite problem -- some of the area that should be covered with paint isn't, either because it scratched off or because it wasn't applied properly to start with.

The second issue is with the ball joint that his head is attached to. The joint was so tight when I first got the toy that at first I thought his head was supposed to be fixed in place. It took several hours of fiddling before I could convince the joint to swivel around from side to side smoothly, and even now it's still very tight. The last issue is also head-related. His head is on a small platform that swings up and down. When you put him in robot mode, a small tab attached to the platform snaps into place and keeps the head from moving too far up and down. However, it's very easy for the tab to go too far, getting stuck in place. When that happens you need to apply excessive force to get it out, bending the tab all to hell in the process. It's hard to avoid unless you're being very careful, and if it happens too often that tab is going to snap clean off.

None of these are killer issues though, and even put together they're not enough to dampen my enthusiasm for the toy.

Alternate Mode: Hubcap transforms into a generic 1930s hot rod. He's mostly red, with a silver grille, exhaust pipes, bumpers and lights. His windows are painted black and he has black tires with grey hubcaps. In a nice touch, a small black Autobot symbol is placed discreetly just above the grille where a hood ornament would usually sit.

Hubcap has a nice amount of detail for a scout-class toy. He has clearly-molded doors as well as a hood and a trunk, although sadly none of these can open. He also has molded mirrors, a gas cap, door handles and a handle for the trunk. He's got silver exhaust pipes running from under his hood all the way along each door (judging by the piping he's got a V8 engine under the hood, so he's probably packing a lot of power). His front end is very nicely designed, especially the v-shaped grille and the headlights that just hang off the side of the car rather than being built into it like on modern cars. All of his design cues scream "old-timey car", so much so that even someone who doesn't know the first thing about cars would be able to tell that he's a vintage piece of machinery.

Beyond that there's really not much to say. Like pretty much any Transformer car, he'll roll around on his wheels and that's all he'll do.

Transformation Design: Hubcap transforms smoothly and intuitively, with no instructions required. On an even more fundamental level, transforming him is fun and not just a way to get him from one mode to the other. 10/10

Durability: The tab in his neck could be a problem, and I could see paint wear becoming an issue on his silver parts. His overall construction is pretty tough though, and he looks like he could survive a lot of rough play. 8/10

Fun: In my book, a scout-class toys is meant to be simple, straightforward and fun to play with while I'm watching TV or working on the computer. Hubcap meets my expectations and then some. You'd be hard-pressed to find another Scout who's as fun to fiddle around with. 10/10

Aesthetics: Hubcap looks a like a movie character, but he's also got a lot of little touches that would fit in alongside more traditional designs. His robot mode looks great whether you decide to display him alongside Classics or ROTF toys, and his vehicle mode is gorgeously rendered. 10/10

Articulation: If his transformation allowed for a moving waist, he would be perfect. As it is, he's head and shoulders all but the best scouts of the last few years. 9/10

Price: This is one hell of a good Transformer considering it only costs $10 in Canada ($8 or so in the US). 10/10

Overall: For such a small toy, Hubcap isn't far short of perfect. If they'd been a tad more careful designing his neck he would be a perfect 10. As it is, he's still a fantastic hunk of plastic. 9.5/10
 
 
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