Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Transformers G1 - Menasor

The toy reviews on this site are probably going to be a bit untraditional. I'm far more concerned with nostalgic value and modern appeal than I am technical aspects of the toy. I'll spend most of my talking about what made the toy special in the past, and how well it adapts to modern sensibilities than specific paint applications or posing issues. That all being said, let's kick off our inaugural review with Menasor, one of the Scramble City Transformers from 1986. Sherman, fire up the WayWayBack Machine!

Combiners. To a ten year old, those words sent a chill down the spine. It was a promise of the ultimate Transformers experience. The opportunity to get not just one, but six robots (or five depending on the robot) and then putting them together to get a bigger robot!

OK, yeah, it was basically Transformers Voltron. I seriously loved Voltron, though!

Don't judge me.

So for my 37th birthday, you can imagine my squee when I opened a package and found that my mother had gotten me several Transformers. As I looked through them, they looked awfully familiar to m. One car, two cars.. both with Decepticon logos. Then two more and a semi truck. Wait a minute..

Mom got me Menasor!

Five bots with various forms of neuroses that go together to form a giant robot with even more neurotic issues. The story goes that Menasor is most useful when you put him on the battlefield and get away as quickly as possible. Great at destruction, not so much at discretion.

The first bot I'm looking at is Dead End. A red sports car (specifically a Porsche 928), he traditionally forms the left arm of Menasor, as well as being able to turn into a robot of his own. The thing with Scramble City bots is that all of them can be used in any combination on any of the other combiners in the line, with the exception of those that form the torsos. There are "canon" representations of each of the Combiners, but really you can go whatever way you want. He is a great looking car with a smooth transformation. Despite his age, he still works very well, with rolling wheels and a very nice silhouette.

His robot mode becomes one of the taller bots, with his legs pulling down from the body of the car, and then swiveling to either side to come down as the feet. The head is tiny, the articulation is non-existent, and he is a work of sheer beauty. It should be stated that these were some questionable times for robot creation. Some of the Transformers were lacking heads, and kind of attempt at proportion, or even basic transformation. That this bot gets all of those is a huge win in my book!

Next up, we have Wild Rider, who is much more of a traditional sports car from the mid-80s, sporting the body of a Ferrari 308 GTB. Traditionally, he forms the left leg of Menasor in media.

As a robot, his legs are shorter, making his arms look longer, although the head is still appropriately tiny! I guess that would explain a lot of their insecurity issues and mental problems. Actually, to be serious, those heads are used as the connectors to the central torso body, which is why they are so small. They have to be universal between the various Combiner bots, so they can really only be so large without looking weird on other bots. Compromises just have to be made for greatness.

Ah, Breakdown. He's my favorite of the Stunticons. I honestly don't know if it is the body of a Lamborghini Countache or the off-white color, but it just stands out to me. It might actually be the blue highlights around the rims. It does make it pop. Either way, it's a solid body sculpt that takes me back to friends in high school flipping through muscle car magazines. Speed cars changed in the 80s, without a doubt, and I don't know a damned thing about any of it!

Breakdown transforms like Dead End, with legs that extend to give him a bit more height and longer legs than arms. It really serves to accentuate his tiny, little red face. Traditionally, Breakdown forms the right leg of Menasor.

Drag Strip is the last of the typical bots, and has the body of a Tyrrell P34 in bright yellow. This Formula racer style is very different from the others, but also lets it have a great deal of personality in the midst of several other vehicles. One thing to note - the chromed engine block flips back and forth, and in my photos is actually set the wrong way in car mode. Oops!

His robot mode is insanely easy to figure out. Pull down the legs and flip back the front of the car. Done. That said, it still works pretty well... with one exception. Those large wheels on his feet make sure he can't stand up in damned near any circumstance. In any of the photos in his robot mode other than the one above, I had to go through various tricks to keep him upright, which is why the background changes. Honestly, best to keep this one in car mode. Sigh. Traditionally, this guy forms the right arm of Menasor.

Finally, we come to the central piece, Motormaster! This figure, without a doubt, is a thing of beauty. Despite its relatively small size, he is actually a triple changer.. something that was still pretty rare back in 1986. He can go from robot, to robot torso, to vehicle, to mobile base. (I'm counting the robot torso and robot mode once since they are so similar) His vehicle mode is a black Kenworth K100 Aerodyne and a long trailer. Despite all of the moving parts, it's a nice, solid form and really manages to get the form right.

The mobile base mode is surprisingly awesome. I really didn't expect much from it. Shift the parts on the back end of the trailer, add in the car-like piece that doubles as a chest plate for Menasor, and you get a base that is stable and physically impressive. The sides of the trailer actually fold down to stabilize the base and keep it a bit off the ground, with the back-end creating a ramp up. It's pretty sweet, really.

Robot mode is interesting. It takes a bit of flipping and switching, but you end up with a bit of a boxy bot with a truck cab for feet. Typically, the front of the vehicle translates to the upper body, so Motormaster switching that makes him more interesting, as far as I'm concerned. What I love, however, is the face. The rest of the bot is pretty standard, but the face really does rock. Here, let me show you.
See what I mean? Anyway, if you take those arms and press them back up against the body, spread the hips to a 90 degree angle, and pull back the cab of the truck, you get Motormaster ready to attach the other bots to. The car that is included for Motormaster's base mode attaches to the chest, there is a second piece that becomes the hips, a "mask" that plugs over Motormaster's rocking face, and then you can start plugging in the various other robots, until you get..
Menasor! This is easily one of the most impressive looking of the Combiner bots. There are hands that plug into the arms, pads that attach to the feet for stability, and what you're left with is a robot with solid, ratchet joints, appealing color combinations, and an air of menace throughout. He isn't giant by any means, probably about eight inches or so tall I'd estimate (but I stink at estimating sizes, to be fair) but he is solid, heavy, and impressive.

And so we've reached the pay off.

So that's Menasor, and our first toy review! For being almost thirty years old, I can safely say that you would still be pleased to have Menasor on display on your shelf. There are reproduction labels that can be used to help restore the luster of the appearance, and the individual parts can be gotten cheaply for anything that is missing (each of the vehicles comes with smaller guns that I will need to pick up eventually, for example, as well as a chrome sword) but even without those it's a great display piece. I can definitely say that it was well built in the 80s and is still well worth the purchase price today! If you want to dip your toe in Combiner waters, I'd start with Voltron. That said, if you want to dip your toes in Transformers Combiners, Menasor is a fantastic place to start. (Feel free to scroll below for additional pictures, and click to enlarge them)


Eric Stettmeier on October 29, 2013 at 10:05 PM said...

I only ever owned Dragstrip of all these guys, but I always liked him.

Wes Grogan on October 29, 2013 at 11:10 PM said...

That's something I really like about this guy. All of the bots are great bots on their own, and don't require the other four in order to make sense. Motormaster in particular is a great solo figure, but Dragstrip is awesome as well! They all have their individual personalities. These days, they would just all copy the same body, change the paint, and call it a day.

Colbey Hopper on November 7, 2013 at 10:36 PM said...

First of all you've got a very cool mom! I only had 2 Stunticons as a kid, so when I started really collecting again Menasor was one of the gestalts I wanted to finish building.

Wes Grogan on November 7, 2013 at 10:40 PM said...

I really do. She saved a few of my toys from when I was a wee little thing as well, which I'll be getting to later. I absolutely love this figure. I'll be reviewing the Big Bad Toy Store exclusive Piranacon very soon, which I'm excited to be getting delivered to me soon!

John Gaither on January 19, 2014 at 12:03 PM said...

My favorite of the TF Combinding robots!

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