Review by VF5SS
So far the Transformers Masterpiece line has focused primarily on updating and re-imagining characters who are known for having standard sized toys. The Autobot cars of the original 1984 line are what we today would consider deluxe class Transformers. With the announcement of a possible Masterpiece Bumblebee, there has been some debate over how a designer could tackle the Minibot derived characters. Since Minibots were meant to be transformable Pennyracer (Choro-Q) style vehicles, their cutesy proportions didn't quite fit in next to the relatively realistic cars represented by the larger toys. So far our only hint to what a potential Masterpiece Minibot would look like is a concept drawing for a Masterpiece Huffer.
The up and coming "Third Party" company called X-Transbots has invested itself into making Masterpiece style Minibots with the first two being tandem releases based on Minibots Huffer and Pipes. In the original Transformers toy line, Huffer was a re-purposed Microman toy called Minicar 07 Semi Truck. Later Huffer would be remolded to make the 1986 Minibot, Pipes. The X-Transbots interpretations, Krank and Stax, also share a lot of the same parts and engineering. Today we are looking at the first one they released: Stax.
In vehicle mode Stax is a mostly blue semi truck. He is an all plastic figure with no rubber tires and measures about five and a half inches long from end to end. Overall the plastic quality on the figure is decent with some minor fit issues. The surface of the toy has a rough texture to it and is not on the level of an official Masterpiece Transformer.
The rear view mirrors on either side of the cab come separate from the figure and must be plugged in. When installing the mirrors please note that they are keyed to go in one way and should be pegged in by slowly pushing on either end of the mirror until they are flush against the cab. Once they are attached they should not be removed lest you risk damaging the pegs that hold them in. Stax's twin chromed smokestacks were a little hard to attach on my figure and I tried to widen the holes a bit to make them fit better.
Stax is a surprisingly authentic looking vehicle who manages to avoid the common problem a lot of Optimus Prime toys have which is a back end that's too tall. Little touches like a big chromed gas tank, tail lights, and a pair of chromed rear view mirrors help complete the ensemble. Even some of his clearly visible robot parts are so inconspicuous they are hard to notice unless pointed out.
For example, his waist is completely visible in the middle of the truck but keeps a low profile due to its dark gray back and even has a little wrench molded onto the back for a little trucker's delight.
Sadly his subtly hidden hips do not lock in place for truck mode so it is possible knock Stax out of whack and make him look more like a semi imitating an inchworm.
The front of the truck mode features a huge chromed grill. His windows are also done in tinted clear plastic like many of the current Masterpiece Transformers.
I've been told Stax's vehicle mode is based on a Dodge truck and while it lacks an obvious branding, it still has "Turbo" molded on the lower corner of the grill.
As a nod to the Microman line, Stax even has a tiny "M 100" embossed near the front fenders.
It's definitely interesting to see how such a humble little toy like Pipes managed to inspire such an elaborate update. Check out my review of Pipes to for a closer look at him.
Despite Huffer and Pipes being very similar toys, the cartoon and comic attempt to differentiate them by making Pipes more of a utility flatbed instead of a semi-truck. Neither G1 toy seemed to be based on a specific real vehicle so there was some room for interpretation. I see the X-Transbots version of being the Masterpiece rendition of a Pipes that was a deluxe sized toy rather than a Minibot.
Speaking of Masterpiece Transformers, Stax is definitely sized to go with the official TakaraTomy figures. He is reasonably larger than a regular Autobot car and has a realistic vehicle mode that won't look out of place next to a classic Datsun.
Stax also looks right at home next to MP-10 Masterpiece Optimus Prime.
I believe Stax is meant to be a small sized semi-truck designed for hauling trailers a short distance.
Both Stax and Krank have slots in their trailer hitch for attaching Optimus Prime's trailer. This feature is one of the things that attracted me to the X-Transbots trucks as the 10 year old in me thinks it's awesome that different trucks can be linked up to the same trailer.
It's a simple but effective gimmick and Stax looks great with the trailer. This feature originated from an episode of the cartoon where Huffer took Optimus's trailer back to base. Both X-Transbots trucks have this gimmick.
Stax can be stored in the trailer but it's a very snug fit that requires you to pop his smokestacks off before inserting him. Even then, his fog lamps can scrape against the insides of the trailer.
The trailer hitch has one last feature as it can be used to store one of Stax's twin chromed laser pistols. Simply separate Stax's rear half and tab the handle of the gun right in the middle of the fifth wheel.
The other pistol can be sandwiched between a pair of slots on his lower legs. Unfortunately the thick chrome and shallow slots makes it so putting a gun there forces Stax's legs apart. I wasn't really enamored with this feature to begin with so it's no big loss for me.
Before I convert Stax into robot mode, I would be remiss not have a shot of him next to Staks from Gobots. Both toys have pretty authentic looking truck modes and can haul a trailer around. There was also an obscure Transformer named Staxx who was never released in North America. Seems like it's a pretty popular name for robots of the trucking profession!
Stax's transformation is simple but effective and has some interesting little touches along the way. You start by extending his legs out and unfurling the back of the truck into a pair of feet with long heel struts. The instructions advise you to remove his smokestacks before continuing but you can leave them on once you get a feel for the conversion process. The gas tank and compressor fold up to rest behind his waist.
On my Stax, the legs take a fair bit of effort to slide in and out to the point where I somewhat wary of breaking his hips in the process. I don't know if this is a common issue with these toys. For me it almost ruins the experience of transforming the toy, which I otherwise found to be quite fun and intuitive.
Once you stand Stax up it's easy to see where most of the magic happens.
His rear wheels slide up a bit and then rotate around for robot mode. The instructions and box show the wheels with the fenders facing upward but it is also possible to have them this way. Some people prefer the wheels to be as hidden as possible from the front.
His shiny chromed arms are neatly tucked away inside the hollow cab.
The cab folds back as Stax's upper torso hinges forward to allow enough room for his arms to unfurl.
The cab starts to spin 180 degrees into its robot mode orientation.
Along the way his front wheels get folding up inside the cab. Be sure to disengage the small peg that holds the front fenders in place before flipping the wheel assembly inward.
Finally these two tabs clamp around the fenders to help lock the cab in place.
I found the tabs to be slightly too thick when I tried to transform Stax the first time. Shaving them down a bit and engaging them one at a time while twisting the cab on its movable swing arm seemed to work a lot better than trying to snap in both tabs at once. Once the cab is in place you simply hinge his torso back in place. His upper body doesn't really lock together so you just massage things until they are where you want them. Whereas I've found some Masterpiece Transformers to have too many locking tabs, this Masterpiece imitator seems to have too few.
In robot mode, Stax stands about six inches tall. He looks good and feels reasonably solid despite his bare bones construction.
His long heel struts keep Stax upright despite his large (mostly hollow) backpack.
From the side, Stax can look a little unfinished as the only thing keeping you from looking straight through his torso are his shiny chromed arms.
Stax's brazenly chromed appendages are a direct nod to the original G1 Pipes whose smokestacks directly transformed into arms. Since Stax opted for a more realistic vehicle mode, his exhaust pipes would be too small to become his arms so they went with hiding his real arms inside the cab. You may have noticed that Stax even has a pair of fake wheels on his shoulders so that he can better emulate Pipes despite not transforming exactly the same way. This is is similar to how Masterpiece Red Alert has false shoulder wheels to better match his cartoon design.
Unfortunately Stax lacks a good place to stick a giant oversized Autobot symbol and that is damn near unforgivable.
Some people wince at the thought of Stax having the entire truck cab on his back but I know he's just trying to be as faithful to Pipes as possible. It's just that scaling that design up to Masterpiece size mean the backpack is just that much bigger. Honestly I find it to be quite charming.
Stax is appropriately detailed for a figure his size although some of it gets lost in all the unpainted blue plastic. Design wise he seems to be inspired by Pipes's brief appearance in the Transformers manga and lacks the "seat nipples" the toy and cartoon design had.
The detailing extends all the way down inside his legs. Even the peg and hole that hold his shins together for truck mode are style like a mechanical lock.
His head is a tasteful update of the original design. Stax has a neat gimmick regarding his face. You can either have this solid red visor like the G1 toy or...
Simply flip down this switch on the back of his head and you get...
A pair of eyes with nose! This is based on his cartoon and comic appearance. I actually found myself really digging the two-eyed look a lot more than I thought I would. The only tiny flaw with this feature is that you can see a little bit of each look on both eye types. For example, the bottom of the solid visor forms a bit of a unibrow for the separate eye face. This only shows up if you look at it from certain angles though.
While Stax's exhaust pipes are far too small to become his arms, you can still get the effect by mounting them on the forearms. The smokestacks can be attached either on the sides of his arms or underneath. I find that the side slots are a little shallow and don't hole the exhaust pipes quite as well as the underside mount.
He has an extra hole in his wrists for orientating that smokestacks like mini-tonfas.
There is also enough room to keep Stax's exhaust pipes attached to his cab in robot mode. Just be aware that the shoulders can knock into them like this.
Articulation wise, Stax is roughly on par with the current Masterpiece Transformers. A lot of his joints are a necessary part of his transformation which I quite like. Stax is the kind of figure where very little is wasted between modes and as a result feels neatly engineered.
He has a fully functional waist and hips that employ a set of universal joints styled like a Masterpiece figure. A lot of work was done to make Stax fit in with the official toys. My only issue with his articulation is the joint for swinging his legs out is somewhat loose. Still I was able to get Stax to deliver a high kick, which is always the true test.
Stax's twin pistols tab into the palms of his hands which also feature opening fingers.
Since most of the Minibots lacked a proper weapon, the Transformers cartoon often showed them wielding a generic pistol similar to this one. The overall styling combined with the chrome finish gives it a real classic Transformers vibe.
Both pistols have the ability to combine with the smokestacks to form a super weapon. There's two sets of tabs in the gun so you either make a triple-barreled blaster.
Or a hot rodded engine style gun.
Getting into more Masterpiece comparisons, here is Stax with Smokescreen. In the comics and cartoon, the Minibots were usually just a head shorter than the Autobot cars so Stax seems appropriately sized.
Stax is somewhere between a Deluxe and a Voyager class Transformer, size wise.
He seems about right when placed alongside Optimus.
Stax makes a pretty good Masterpiece companion.
And looks right at home inside Prime's repair bay.
Before we go, let's take a look at his box which hides some interesting tidbits. First off, the overall style is intentionally similar to a Masterpiece Transformer. Officially these are Mini Masterpiece toys or "MM." The number 86 appears on the box as a reference to when Transformers Pipes came out.
The back has a CG illustration featuring the other truck, Krank, and some more potential figures.
Looks like they want to tackle a Cosmos and Beachcomber at some point.
Stax even has a Tech Spec just like the old Transformers toys.
His bio is even written in fairly good English! All of this is also on a collectible card I neglected to take a picture of.
The bottom shows a pair of upcoming figures.
"Hoss" here is quite clearly based on the Gobot named Road Ranger who is similar to the Minibots Huffer and Pipes.
Staks and Stax are truck bros.
Overall I think there is a lot to like about X-Transbots Stax. I really like the look of his vehicle mode and its ability to pull Optimus Prime's trailer is a fun gimmick. The transformation to robot mode is smartly engineered and the resulting figure is an enjoyable Masterpiece style toy. Stax's major issues all seem to stem for the spotty tolerances in his construction. Super tight leg sliders and holes that are too snug for the intended pegs sour what should be a fully enjoyable experience. Combined with his relatively high price of around $69.99 (at most retailers), I feel like X-Transbots needs to up their quality before releasing more figures like this. If you can get Stax at a lower price or have a chance to handle the figure before buying I would say he is worth owning. Without these issues he is a pretty fun toy and a suitable companion for your Masterpiece Transformers.
|Posted 26 January, 2014 - 19:33 by VF5SS|