Transformers Authentics Alpha-Class Figure
Item No.: Asst. E0694 No. F3743 Manufacturer:Hasbro Includes:n/a Action Feature:Transforms from Robot to Car Retail:$10.99 Availability: Spring 2022 (I think) Other: Voyager Robot at Core Prices
Hasbro doesn't promote its Authentics toys much, and people rarely find talk about them when they find them in the USA. I scored Wheeljack in late May, and he's sort of the idea of how I wish toys were released now. Hasbro tends to only release 1-2 Authentics toys per assortment per year, if that. They're big and cheap. They're for kids. With a few refinements these could be serious competition for the collector line, but I assume (slash believe) they're hobbled a bit on purpose so collectors pay $35 for similarly sized, but significantly more complex, toys. Considering this big Wheeljack is $11 and the last deluxe one was about $23 ($25 at current prices), it's easy to see why someone might rather have a collection of simpler, bigger, cheaper toys.
Back in the early 2000s, a Hasbro designer wrote that he found the toys the most interesting to design were the $10 ones - you had a fixed price point and finite resources, and had to make the best toy you could. Hasbro seemingly tossed all that out the window in favor of super-articulated heavily-painted figures for teenagers and adults, so I find things like this Wheeljack to be nifty because this is the biggest you can get for $10.
The 7-inch tall robot puts him at (or above) most Voyager and Leader-sized Transformers, with articulation that is roughly what you would expect from an above-average Legion/Legends-class toy from a few years ago. Ball-jointed hips and ankles are very welcome, as are the ball-jointed elbows and shoulders. You get a lot of movement for very little cost. You also get knee joints that bend, and aren't required for the transformation - they're just here to make the toy more fun. Sculpting is pretty basic, with mostly clean surfaces with a few special panel details here and there. The designers put enough in here to give you a surprisingly good figure given that they could've done something much less interesting - take a look at the much less impressive Authentics Bumblebee [FOTD #2,012] and the below-par but still notable Authentics Optimus Prime [FOTD #1,995]. Both were pretty good, but had elements that a little more time in the design stages could have fixed without adding to the toy's production cost. Wheeljack clearly took note, and the result is a much better toy.
Deco and the accessory are also pretty good. Wheeljack's forearms are painted - and did not need to be - plus they painted his eyes and face mask, both of which were essential. Everything else is painted because it was necessary to have a decent car mode. The figure's blaster weapon can be mounted on either shoulder or in the fist, but for whatever reason isn't a 5mm peg - it's smaller, so you can't use it with your other toys. I have to assume this is intentional, because older fans may be buying these toys to swipe/use/share accessories. These are closer to 4mm, so there's not a lot of sharing to be done. I would rather have a bigger blaster, but it looks like the designer decided to keep the entire toy's aesthetic as close to Earthrise Wheeljack as possible.
I know most people won't look at it this way, but if you're old like me, consider this: in 1996 we got some pretty good Beast Wars deluxe toys for $9.99 in 1996 money. They weren't huge, they weren't heavily painted, but you'd get a squirt gun or spring-loaded weapon in there with a robot roughly as well articulated as this 2022 Wheeljack - but you rarely/never got ball-jointed ankles. This Wheeljack is closer in size to the Leader-clsas robots, and even with inflation is a lot cheaper. Sure, there are gaps. Yes, it's not as beefy. But if someone handed you this very Wheeljack in 1996, even at $15, you'd probably be pretty excited to have it.
Transformation is easy, similar to the Earthrise/Kingdom toy but without as may weird bits. There are no knee windshield pieces to pop off, so it's a lot more fun to not have to reassemble the toy if you don't do it exactly as the intended. The panels require a little massaging to get just right, though, so you might see a couple of gaps.
The car is a car - it has wheels, and you can plug the blaster on the roof. The back wheels spin freely and the front ones are a little rougher. You can still roll it around your desk, and it's still an off-white car with black, gray, green, and red markings. Nothing about it is going to impress you too much - it's glossy, it seems like something you'd probably get for (and leave in) the sandbox if you were a kid in the 1980s. But it feels durable, and would likely survive being shuffled around in a big toybox with minimal wear or tear. It's the kind of thing I'd probably have loved to get as a kid, mostly because I didn't get a "real" Wheeljack toy until Energon Downshift - which was $10 in 2003, and a lot smaller. Other than missing rally marks, Authentics gives us a perfectly good car.
This is not a toy that'll knock your socks off, but it's another neat example of what you can do for $10. Compare this to 3 1/2-inch Core Class toys, 4-inch 1-step Transformers, and tiny 2-ishinch Star Wars figures with a backpack accessory. It may not have the ornate rally marks of the Deluxe-class Wheeljack, but it's big, the articulation is decent, and it's pretty easy to enjoy if you're a kid or an adult who dislikes to squint at instructions. I doubt I can convince you to try these guys, but they're an impressive exercise in what a budget can do for you. But having said that, it's 2022 and I can't assume children in grocery/food/value stores are looking for a G1 Wheeljack for any reason. Dads might get a kick out of it, though, and as a collector who likes actual toys I find this to be a delight.
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