Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Hasbro Walmart Exclusive G1 Hot Rod

Talk about a welcome surprise. Here we have the brand new, Walmart (and Hasbro Asia?) exclusive reissue of Generation 1 Hot Rod. Completely out of the blue, a surprise listing seen from an Asian retailer, and certainly not the first time he has been reissued. Takara first reissued “Hot Rodimus” for the Japanese market in 2000 with vintage-style G1 Takara Packaging. Hasbro then released it as "Rodimus Major" for Western markets in the Commemorative Series packaging. Takara then reissued a Targetmaster version for the TF Collection reissue series in 2004. There was no Encore reissue for Hot Rod, so although fans feel like we are constantly getting Hot Rod reissues, it’s actually been fourteen years since we got the last reissue G1 Hot Rod – the exact same amount of time from Hot Rod’s vintage 1986 release to the first reissue in 2000. Fourteen years.

There's something quite magical about seeing a brand new Hasbro Generation 1 Transformers-style box, especially for a toy I've always adored. I still think Hot Rod ranks as the best G1 toy I've owned, and although I have a boxed vintage Targetmaster version, I still haven't re-purchased a vintage first release Hot Rod box. So this is ace! There are obvious differences just looking at the box front, such as the lack of "Transforms" phrasing, replaced by "Converts", which as someone explained to me the other day relates to avoiding a situation where Hasbro have an indefensible trademark due to "Transformer" being a descriptive term for any toy (by any company) that changes modes. It's also English/French bilingual in that spot. The material of the box feels a bit different too, most noticeably the top flap where the cardboard is folded over at the very top, instead of being two printed cardboard surfaces attached together. The "Age 8+" sets it apart from the original too. Don't fret, this is a good thing.

The box back contains the iconic 1986 artwork of Metroplex, Trypticon and the gang, as well as a new bilingual tech spec, copyright text, logos etc. No robot points either, so no, there's no new Reflector mailaway promotion! I have so many vintage G1 boxes in my collection, and Hot Rod is not a rare one by any stretch (nor are Hot Rod toys or reissues), but something about this release, and the degree to which the vintage packaging has been re-created just makes my heart sing. I am hoping that we get many more reissues in this style.

The insert packaging for the new Hot Rod is more indicative of modern Transformers packaging. There is no cardback or glued plastic bubble. This is more reminiscent of the reissue stuff from Takara and Hasbro where a plastic tray holds the toy and accessories in place with elastic or plastic swift tacks. There is no paperwork baggie, just a bagged stickersheet (no longer containing the "Transformers" logo) and a much less elaborate or even interesting instruction sheet. There's no tech spec decoder, either. In actual fact, my Hot Rod here was inserted into the box backwards, so it looked a bit ridiculous. Even if I wasn't going to remove the toy from the insert, I'd still advocate opening the box and turning the insert around!

Looking at the top, bottom and sides of the box, there are some differences to the vintage packaging. For a start, the old 1986 stock photography is not being used. It appears to be stock imagery of the first reissue Hot Rod with the red side flame sticker background. Also, the "Change" text in the arrows showing transformation steps is gone, replaced purely with numbers. While I don't think it's a big issue with Hot Rod, should we ever get a Bluestreak reissue, it will definitely feel different to not have stock photography of the blue Diaclone, for example. There will be people in support of and against that trend, for sure.

Here's a closer look at the stickersheet for the new Hot Rod (left) versus the vintage sheet (right). You can already see colour differences on virtually every label, especially the much more muted yellow. The material for the new stickers also reminds me of current label stock used on Titans Return figures, and that's not necessarily a good thing at all. The corners and edges of the vintage labels seem more substantial and thick, whereas the new labels seem really thin and flimsy, quite different from even the reissue Hot Rodimus and Rodimus Major stickersheets. 

Taking Hot Rod out, he certainly feels the same as other versions of the toy overall. No immediate quality shocker or noticeable drop in weight, density etc. My initial feeling was that the colour of the maroon plastic differed from the vintage and reissue, we can see that comparison a little later. There are no tampos like the most recent TFCollection Targetmaster Hot Rodimus reissue from Takara, instead we have a chest/hood sticker and side stickers.

The outline of the shield on the rubsign is slightly different to previous versions. The base mould is that of the TFCollection Targetmaster release, hence the larger peg hole on the chrome engine. So far, I've had no issue with the chrome on this release, and that's a good direction for modern Transformers! 

This is a first for Hot Rod in that the side stickers are now foil. They have either been tampos (TFC version) or just matte stickers. The regular Hot Rod hand guns fit onto the engine block because they are also the same mould as the TFCollection reissue from 2004; this means that the handguns can be held by a Targetmaster Hot Rod and a regular one. It also means that this new Hot Rod can hold a Targetmaster Firebolt, should you have one to hand.

This is where things become interesting, especially for me, as I have had every version of the G1 Hot Rod and do notice the differences in handling different releases from the various eras. This new release feels good to transform, the only spot that maybe spoke of current reductions in plastic quality being the rotating waist plate; the rotation not being as smooth as I remember it on other versions. 

I believe that of all the Hot Rod releases, be it vintage, first reissue, reissue exclusives, Western reissue, Targetmaster or reissue Targetmaster, it is the E-Hobby black and Crystal C-78B/C Hot Rodimus figures that have the best feel and quality throughout every single joint and part. The snapping into place and moving of all parts on those two toys was a joy, just the perfect amount of resistance everywhere. One of the best features they had was the spring-loaded roof that absolutely snapped into place when rotated. Amazingly, this new Hot Rod has that same spring-loaded roof, which is fantastic! The Hasbro Commemorative and Takara TFCollection (not to mention vintage) Hot Rods did not feature this.

I noticed in the (mistransformed) product shots used to promote this new reissue Hot Rod that the feet were shown as being black. All the previous reissues of this figure have had silver die-cast metal feet, like the very first run of vintage Hot Rods in 1986. Hasbro and Takara quickly transitioned to black, hollow plastic feet. In fact, nowadays, there are so many reissues on the market that it's a novelty for me to handle the vintage regular and Targetmaster Hot Rods and their plastic feet! This new Hasbro Asia/Walmart Hot Rod has - for the first time in the figure's history - black painted die-cast feet. You can tell from the glossy appearance of them compared to the more matte black plastic of the vintage versions.

Walmart Hot Rod - TFCollection TM Hot Rodimus

Walmart Hot Rod - TFCollection TM Hot Rodimus

In the above photos, I have placed the new Hot Rod reissue next to the version with which it shares the most mould-wise, and that's the 2004 TFCollection Targetmaster Hot Rodimus. Immediate differences are evident in the chest flames, we have a foil sticker versus a tampo. You can also see the different shade of orange used on the newer toy, and the darker yellow of the wing/spoiler. Even the maroon plastic is a darker shade, definitely containing a touch less red. The eyes are now a darker blue, as well. Even the grey of the weapons is a different shade, although I hesitate to call it 'metallic' because there's no hint of metal flake to it, just that shade. I also believe this new Hot Rod has the biggest Autobot symbol on the chest than any previous Hot Rod.

One shared feature between these two, thanks to being the same base mould, is that the thighs have the very faint outline of the smaller thigh stickers that Hasbro used with the vintage Targetmaster Hot Rod toy. Unlike the vintage TM Hot Rod, there is not much of a recess to house smaller stickers, originally intended to rescue those pesky thigh stickers from becoming scuffed with every transformation. That's understandable as neither the TFC Targetmaster nor the new reissue come with smaller thigh stickers, they both feature the regular large ones which will presumably suffer the same wear as they did 32 years ago.

Walmart Hot Rod - Commemorative Series Rodimus Major

Walmart Hot Rod - Commemorative Series Rodimus Major

Comparing new Rod to the Hasbro Commemorative Series Rodimus Major, the difference in main plastic colours is evident. Both have chest stickers and again you can probably spot how they differ. The less beige-y-grey is once more highlighted on the Walmart release's guns, but now that both have the flame stickers on the side of the car, the effect of the new foil material bringing consistency across car mode stickers can be felt. One other difference to note is that the inside of the wheels on the new Rod are black whereas they were grey for every previous version of Hot Rod released. This is because the rubber tyre is not the same as before, it now has an extra thinner section that covers more of the inside of the wheel than on previous versions.

You might also be interested to know that this Walmart Hot Rod is the first version of the toy to have the yellow spoiler connected to the roof with what appear to be smooth-topped pins instead of removable screws. Annoying for those who would have wanted to replace the darker yellow wing with a brighter one from earlier iterations.

Walmart Hot Rod - Vintage Targetmaster Hot Rod

Walmart Hot Rod - Vintage Targetmaster Hot Rod

Interesting differences between the new Rod and a vintage 1987 Targetmaster Hot Rod to note; plastic colour differences - there's less red in the vintage maroon than with the 2001 and 2004 reissue series. Look how the vintage Targetmaster has a much more matte appearance to the black feet, and see the smaller thigh stickers sitting in their mild recesses. I love how badly the flames are printed on the Targetmaster's chest sticker! What you are seeing there is of course the third release of the vintage Targetmaster Hot Rod that would have come from the print-corrected box.

Walmart Hot Rod - Vintage Hot Rod

Walmart Hot Rod - Vintage Hot Rod

If you're going to put a reissue in a vintage-style box, then maybe sticking Walmart Rod next to the 1986 vintage Hot Rod is a relevant comparison! Notice how the vintage Hot Rods have a purple background for the side stickers, but all the newer releases from 2000 onward have red. No foil sticker on the original Hot Rod chest/hood, but instead a matte and richer orange background sticker. Also of interest to me was how the vintage Rod's colour was a shade closer to the Walmart Rod than the intervening reissues, but it still has a touch more red to the maroon than WalRod. Again you can see the darker yellow used on WalRod's wing and the different orange plastic. WalRod also has a lighter colour on the face paint, and the way it's painted makes the face seem a tiny bit longer. I don't think any of the above detracts from the new Hot Rod at all, it's all just different. I'm not sure I am a fan of the elongated Autobot insignia on the chest, though, as its nose seems long.

Walmart Hot Rod - Vintage Hot Rod - Commemorative Rodimus Major

Placing the Walmart Hot Rod, vintage 1986 Hot Rod and Commemorative Series Rodimus Major side by side should help you pick out the aforementioned differences across the three main iterations of the standard Hot Rod toy. You can see how the original's thigh stickers have suffered, even on an otherwise pristine specimen. It's a slight shame that the new Hot Rod's rubsign doesn't quite feel or act like the previous iterations in that it has a rougher feel to it. It also doesn't go green/blue, it just goes straight to a brown/orange/red shade.

Walmart - TFCollection Targetmaster - Commemorative - Vintage

The above picture of the four Hot Rods on their side is aimed at demonstrating how the side sticker has evolved across the many years and releases. We've gone from a purple background sticker to red background, then to a more detailed tampo and finally back to the original design sticker, but foil. You can also see how the new Rod's yellow and orange plastic colour stands apart from all other versions.

In terms of copyright stamping, like the other reissues, this is manufactured in China. The stamping has now moved to the underside of the hood instead of the standard location of the orange torso.

Walmart Hot Rod holding a Targetmaster (not included)

We've now looked at all the major differences between the various G1 Hot Rod toys, and what really stands out for me about this reissue is how there is no immediate reason to avoid it in favour of a different Hot Rod release if specific details about a particular release don't bother/attract you. If a collector wants a new G1 Hot Rod figure and would prefer to avoid vintage prices or wear, as well as often inflated reissue prices, this release absolutely does the job. There are no dealbreakers in terms of aesthetics or quality that I have experienced, although I initially didn't fancy applying the stickers on the sheet because that seems to be the place where quality has suffered.

But I did it anyway!

Walmart Hot Rod - Vintage Hot Rod

They were not as bad as I had feared, even with a slight misapplication with over 50% of the sticker attached, I was able to peel them off and re-apply with no visible damage or loss in adhesion. The best part? The thigh stickers being thinner means that you can retract and extend the legs for transformation and they don't scuff or get caught! That would count as an improvement over the original. The appearance of them I would say doesn't quite match the original, though, as they seem to be more reflective too.

In terms of presentation, Hasbro have finally given us vintage-style packaging to excellent effect. I love just looking at this thing on a shelf or holding it in my hands when boxed. From a distance, nothing jars with me as a vintage G1 enthusiast who knows what to look for on packaging. It is a shame that the paperwork is so terribly soulless and without frills, though. This is one of the best Transformers toys of all time and this reissue does it great justice in terms of looks and feel. It's still great to transform, even if they have not captured the exceptional feel of the black and crystal E-Hobby exclusives, but even the TFCollection and Commemorative Series releases failed to do that. Even the vintage doesn't capture that specific magic! 

I love that this new release has unique features, keeping up the tradition of allowing every Hot Rod iteration its own identifiable traits; painted black die-cast feet, unique plastic shades and foil side stickers accomplish this well. All in all, I am utterly thrilled to see this get reissued, however many of the buggers I've ended up with, because hopefully it will mean that other vintage G1 Transformers (as well as those that have not yet had a reissue) will see release in vintage style packaging. If Hot Rod is anything to go by, the quality will be good, and hopefully the good times will be back.

All the best


  1. Love it, again an informative article. You have convinced me to buy it. πŸ™‚

    1. Haha good to hear, Nic! And thank you, as always, really appreciate the kind words.

      All the best

  2. I loved this as a kid but never had it. I'm not starting now though, 2 big of a rabbit hole. Great read as always thanks Maz.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed that. You have convinced me to ask Nic to bring his to the pub so I can play with it. ��