The Transformers Masterpiece line by Takara Tomy has, to my eternal happiness, continued with the Diaclone homages and MP-14C Clampdown is the latest in that sub-line. This police car version of the Lamborghini New Countach LP500S Autobot Sideswipe was originally a Takara Diaclone figure from 1983, the original inspiration for what would later become the Autobot Fire Chief "Red Alert". Coming full circle after all this time, Clampdown is in fact designated MP-14C, meaning it is a direct repaint of MP-14 Red Alert. The first time the Diaclone New Countach was given Transformers form as "Clampdown" was the E-Hobby exclusive reissue repaint, alongside "Deep Cover". Let's have a look at how the recently released Masterpiece version stacks up.
|Italian GiG release of N.14 Diaclone New Countach LP500S Police Car|
|Japanese Takara release of No.19 Diaclone New Countach LP500S Police Car|
For years the original Diaclone - released in both Japan and Italy - was labelled "Police Sideswipe" whereas some claimed it should be "Diaclone Red Alert". It just didn't make sense to me because upon release there was no such thing as a Red Alert toy, and although "Sideswipe" as a concept didn't exist either, that's the name I felt most comfortable giving this figure. The Japanese release had firing missiles and a black-body Diaclone pilot, whereas the Italian release had rubber bopper safety missiles and no driver. For the E-Hobby G1 Clampdown reissue, the "Diaclone" text on the police badge was replaced with "Cybertron" (The Japanese name for Autobot), and the "P" in the yellow police star was replaced with an Autobot symbol. The Masterpiece release recreates the look of the E-Hobby Clampdown.
Along with the now standard and uniform Masterpiece Autobot car packaging, the Takara Tomy Mall exclusive MP-14C Clampdown comes with rocket launcher and handgun as well as two brand-new-mould hand attachments like Sideswipe's pile drivers, but the square head on them is now ridged and smaller than the Sideswipe mould standard pile driver (not to be confused with the pointy ones seen with the Amazon exclusive or Tigertrack). If you weren't fortunate enough to grab this off Takara Tomy Mall, then Hasbro Asia had you covered and threw in a collector's coin as well. Being a repaint of Alert, his collector's card features the old style art and grid layout.
Just like the Diaclone, Masterpiece Clampdown is enormously striking and instantly stunning. There was no warming to this, because the highly contrasting white and black deco on the talismanic Lamborghini Countach mould captures the eye and heart straight away. Thankfully everything is painted so no more peeling Police stickers on the side of the car like the Diaclone. This is a gorgeously well-reproduced scheme on the Lambor/Alert Masterpiece mould. It also gives one hope that MP-12D Deep Cover will see release soon too. I was very happy with the painting and panel alignment on my Clampdown, because on my Tigertrack and TF Expo Lambor the alignment is weaker. Interesting how much more incognito the black undercarriage 'kibble' in vehicle mode is thanks to the black paint that surrounds the bottom section of the vehicle mode.
Released at almost the same time as MP-21 Bumble Red Body (or "Boby") and MP-26 Road Rage, it represented a very distinct pre-Transformers flavour to the end of 2015 which of course, I lapped up. Expecting new colours on an oft-used mould to surprise me was unwise, the sixth iteration (if you count the show exclusive faction-less Lambor) of the MP-12 mould could hardly be more uninteresting at this point, but somehow Clampdown and Red Bumble shocked me with their exceptional good looks and pretty finish. I'm all for Diaclone repaints, and I had most of these as vintage specimens, but bravo to TakTom for making Clampdown so appealing despite rinsing the mould for all it's worth. It ought to be said, now that TakTom have the Lamborghini licence, should they release Deep Cover, I fully expect it to have a gigantic gold Lamborghini raging bull logo on the doors like the original Diaclone did.
Surely that's all there is to say? The history, the relevance, the new colours and a new accessory? Well, no, for better or for worse, Clampdown continues to deviate from the bloodline. For a start, everything seems much tighter on transformation, and when you have transformed so many versions of this mould repeatedly, everything becomes second nature, including the tolerances. Clampdown seems different, and previously easy things like snapping the side windows flush against the roof suddenly require a slightly different technique. Maybe its just the paint on my specimen. This is of course a derivative of the Alert sculpt, so it has the different helmet and the faux wheels on the shoulder, as well as the lights/pegs on the collarbone. The helmet is now actually painted black instead of just moulded black, and the skull-cap piece snaps into place instead of just friction holding it down.
The gun grip on this mould was always bad, but with Clampdown it is the worst it has ever been, just zero firm connection between tab and groove in the hand. I really struggled to get him holding it convincingly for photos. You can see him above with the new pile driver mould attached, and a very snug connection it is too. See how TakaraTomy have coloured his shins a very light blue referencing the original Diaclone's shin stickers? It's touches like that which instill faith in me that Diaclone remains important to TakaraTomy, and the reboot in 2016 will further reinforce that. The Red Alert ear attachments fit Clampdown too, naturally, and on Clampdown they can be used not to signify mental imbalance but rather a police alert.
So, how does Clampdown look next to the other Masterpiece Lambor moulds/releases?
Pretty lovely, of course, but surely once Deep Cover is released as an inevitable Takara Tomy Mall/Hasbro Asia exclusive, we can put this sculpt to bed? Having said that, of all the Masterpiece cars apart from Bumblebee, MP-12/14 has the most intuitive and short transformation with some of the most delicious and satisfying simplicity imaginable while achieving a heroic robot mode and accurate, visually spectacular vehicle mode. The more Masterpiece cars and 3P MP-style cars get released, the more I have come to appreciate MP-12/14 for the resounding success as a fun transforming toy of increased accuracy it is. Clampdown has a lot of red in robot mode which some didn't like thanks to Red Alert having that covered, but keep in mind that when Clampdown was originally released as a Diaclone, there was no Red Alert in existence. This, then, was the first and original Countach to have the red innards and legs and deserved to hold onto that scheme for MP revival.
MP-14C Clampdown signifies the fifth of the big ticket Diaclone-based Masterpiece releases, two of which have had their own MP number (MP-23 Exhaust and MP-26 Road Rage). It is becoming harder for Masterpiece collectors to ignore this burgeoning tribute to the history and origin of the flagship toys thrilling a majority of the TF collecting crowds right now. Just like how people showing off their MP-10 Convoys with repaints like Year Of The Horse, Evangelion, A Bathing Ape and Black Convoy begin to make one think they've missed a trick and a legitimate avenue of significant variants, the gang of Diaclone Masterpieces are making a run at being the most beautiful of all the intra-Masterpiece groups. Clampdown, Exhaust, Bluestreak, Tigertrack and Road Rage - like their Diaclone predecessors - are every bit as magnificent in their appearance as anything Transformers and mainstream Masterpiece has ever given us. These figures are lessening the pain and regret of all my vintage Diaclone sales down the years. What's that you say, proof is required?
All the best