Sunday, 15 June 2014

FansProject CA-13 Causality: Diesel & Military Multiplexer Kit

I teased this a good couple of months ago and really can't think why I didn't write it up closer to the time I received it... other than the 100-odd post backlog I have, many of which include photos still hosted on PhotoBucket... But, still, here we are - just over a year after I picked up the first component - with the final component of FansProjects' homage to the Stunticons, and the means by which they become Menasor Intimidator.

While FansProject are no strangers to gestalt components, this Causality set (comprising this model plus CA-09, -10, -11 and -12) was their first attempt at a full team comprised of four interchangeable 'limbs' and a central 'torso'. Considering that the Stunticons were the first G1 gestalt team I managed to complete until only a few years ago, I felt compelled to pick this guy up to complete my Stunticon homage set... and, thankfully, his availability to buy coincided with an improvement in my cashflow...

Vehicle Mode:
In many ways, this couldn't possibly be a better homage to Generation 1 Motormaster. The vehicle mode takes the general design of the original, enlarges it, throws in a load more detail and adds a few extra features. Weirdly, though, it also takes away a few things and sacrifices some of the original's slightly more true-to-life elements. The front end is based on the Kenwood K100 Aerodyne and seems to be a very accurate representation of the truck, even down to the apparent lack of gap between the truck and the trailer. Aside from the overall level of detail, one thing this model has which the original didn't is a pair of smokestacks, albeit molded as part of the trailer rather than the truck.

Like the G1 model, Diesel is a black truck with purple windows and a slightly metallic grey trailer. FansProject haven't gone over the top on their paintwork for this mode, but he does have a nice silver bumper and grille, and his headlights are picked out in a metallic yellow. The transformation seams in his main cab windows are a little distracting - one might think the molding could have been fudged so that the entire window could be kept intact, with wider frames, but FP seem to like their accuracy. Naturally, and just like the G1 model, there's no articulation between truck and trailer - the position and nature of the joints in there just wouldn't permit it, even if there was clearance between the back of the cab and the front of the trailer. The sides of the truck feature some silver paint highlighting some pipework (handholds, I guess) and what could be a vent, then there's a little dash of red... for whatever reason...

Right at the back of the trailer, attached to the doors, is something which could have been an air conditioning unit had it been attached to the front of the trailer... as it is, it could be an elaborate locking mechanism, or it could just be folded up giant alien gun parts...

While the original had a great long sticker as a purple and silver stripe (including the Decepticon insignia), Diesel's trailer has a set of molded thin (vertically asymmetrical) purple stripes which angle apart about a third of the way down the trailer. The amount of molded detail all over the trailer is quite staggering, though it doesn't quite disguise the harsh seams where the parts of the trailer separate for their alternate modes... yes, that's right, the back end of the trailer isn't really part of Diesel... it's the 'Military Multiplexer Kit'. Even aside from this, there's a huge amount of extraneous detail on the roof of the trailer, hinting at all kinds of complex machinations within. This entire unit can separate from the rest of the trailer and the doors can be removed and reattached to the back of the truncated trailer. The wheels on the rear trailer section are Diesel's 'Roller' unit... though it's not especially interesting in its own right.

All of Diesel's wheels are fully mobile, which is yet another massive improvement on the G1 model, which only had six out of ten freely-rolling wheels, while the other four were fixed moldings which were slightly raised versus the rest. Diesel rolls pretty well, too...

Robot Mode:
My first impression of robot mode was that it's rather weird. In overall appearance, the top half references the G1 animation model pretty well (aside from the 'cape/wings' made out of trailer panels) while the legs improve on Motormaster's whole 'split cab feet' thing by wrapping the shell of the cab around the whole lower leg... upside down. It all pegs together very well in this mode and, despite the complexity of his shins, his feet are actually on ball joints, so they're fully mobile.

Considering how much molded detail there is to Diesel's alternate mode, one could be forgiven for expecting FansProject to be more subtle with robot mode yet, again, there's a vast amount of detail. It's all pretty generic 'robot panel' stuff harking back to Generation 1 and outperforming even the most recent entries in the Classics line, rather than going for the almost organic details of the movie lines. As a result, Diesel looks pretty boxy, but there's a lot more to him than the right angles of the original G1 Motormaster.

As one might expect, there's a lot of grey to Diesel... but there are plenty of different shades and most of it looks metallic. To break up the monotony, though, he has plenty of silver, dashes of purple and a couple of bits of yellow to liven things up. He does look a little disappointing from behind - not just because of the large panels hanging off, but because he's largely hollow... and inside that gaping chasm in his back, you can just about make out Intimidator's head.

As the 'Military Multiplexer' moniker might suggest, Diesel is replete with weapons. The trailer doors fold up to become a pair of handguns, but these two can also combine - along with the weird jumble of parts that attached to the rear of the trailer in vehicle more - to form one enormous rifle, similar in some ways to Motormaster's 'Cyclone Gun'... only not purple. The rear section of the trailer separates into four pieces which mount on his shoulders and turn him into a walking barrage of lasers and missiles featuring additional touches of purple and red paint to highlight the missile pods, etc.

The remaining pieces combine to form a sword, but Diesel can't hold it as the handle is designed solely for Intimidator's use. This is a bit of a shame, considering Motormaster could wield a sword but, unlike the G1 original, the sword included with this model is more in scale with the gestalt than the team leader.
Diesel's 'Roller' unit is equipped with a fold-out handle which is supposed to turn him into a shield, but it's very low down given its orientation, so it looks rather weird held in his hands.

The head sculpt is very firmly based upon Motormaster's appearance in the G1 cartoon, but with the external framework brought in tighter to the head. It's fairly plain compared to the other team members, but retains Motormaster's characteristic pale purple face and gains a ball jointed neck over the G1 original. The face itself is quite bland, and has the same non-expression of each of the other team members.

One thing I was a little worried about on this model was the knees. Each one is basically a large ratchet on the end of what seems to be a very thin arm (to accomodate the movements necessary to reveal the gestalt leg connectors) but they seem up to the task.

The main event, now this Causality team is complete, is the gestalt mode. Just like the G1 original, FansProject has designed the team members to be completely interchangeable... but, being a bit of a purist, I've only photographed Intimidator in his 'canonical' configuration.

I must admit to feeling somewhat disappointed that, while Intimidator's arms are only supplemented by shoulder joints and the gestalt's hands, the leg-bots are rendered almost redundant by the fact that they're mounted - barely transformed - on the front of transformed parts of the Military Multiplexer kit. Granted, that's almost exactly as they appeared in the TV show and the old Marvel comics, just with the cars on the fronts rather than the backs. The minimal transformation involved allows the weapons of each component to stay connected. While it feels like cheating, it does make the legs significantly more stable than they would have been had the lower legs been made entirely out of transformed team members.

Intimidator's sword is created from two parts of trailer side clipped together, tipped with a separate piece stored inside the trailer, and then plugged into the hilt, which is stored underneath the trailer. It's a bit thick as swords go but, given the scale, something of that size, travelling at speed, is likely to cut through whatever it hits, and it's unlikely any Decepticon would mind if it wasn't a clean cut.

The gun is basically the same combined weapon that Diesel can wield, but with a new grip which folds out of the back end. I'm not sure if this is true of every model, but I cannot get the gun to connect to his hand adequately. It almost goes on, then just pops off. Either the peg in the hand is too large (or too close to the thumb/wrist block) or the slot in the grip is too small. It's also intended to plug in to the panels on Intimidator's back for storage, but the design of the peg and slot for this purpose isn't especially clever. They're triangular, pointing upward, and the peg isn't nearly long enough to offer enough grip inside the gun's slot, given the weight of the gun.

As with Diesel, Intimidator has a ball-jointed head though, given it's position - set back between two large shoulder protrusions - freedom of movement is rendered less effective by reduced visibility. The face has an expression of grim determination, and the design of the head is a very effective homage to the G1 model.

Before stumping up the cash for this model, I forced myself to watch a couple of video reviews, to get a better idea of his quality and overall sturdiness. Not that I had doubts about FansProjects' quality control, just that this model in particular seemed to have a few parts that looked to have the potential to break easily.

If you've watched any of these videos and been put off Diesel for that reason, or because he looked too complicated, I'd say don't worry: transformation is complicated - infuriating, at times - but he's not in any way brittle and, once you get the feel of him in your own hands he becomes a lot easier to transform. The most annoying part is the waist, because it's not immediately obvious - even with the instructions in front of you - which way round things are supposed to be for each mode, not least because Intimidator's groin plates are on a separately rotatable piece sandwiched between the waist and the groin. Additionally, the little arm that connects the upper body to the lower body has an incredibly stiff rotation joint - so stiff, in fact, that for a while I wasn't sure it hadn't been accidentally glued in place. It squeals in a somewhat alarming way when it finally turns, but that will hopefully loosen up over time. Also, just for fun, it can be ridiculously difficult to get the waist to connect to the groin, and there are no easy places to grip when trying. The way the truck cab shell attaches to the legs on little arms looks fragile, but it works very well in practice as long as everything else is pegged in well.

The most annoying aspect of the transformation to Intimidator's torso is getting his head in place - it's mounted on a hollow frame on little runners, and the frame has to hook in to pegs on what were Diesel's arms. Fitting one side is easy... fitting both is a pain. Connecting or disconnecting the limbs is an interesting challenge in itself as they have to be oriented a particular way before they can slot together, and the spring-loaded pins in the joints are very stiff and often reluctant to move aside to allow connection or disconnection.

But the end results speak for themselves. Intimidator is more-or-less as poseable as Diesel thanks to FansProjects' clever design, not only of Diesel and the additional connectors (which will be familiar to anyone who picked up their Crossfire figures (02A and 02B) to build the upgraded Superlink/Energon Bruticus) but also of the other team members, who transform into very convincing arms. The hands and feet are well-designed and offer mostly excellent ranges of motion, and I'm particularly impressed with Intimidator's ball jointed ankles and the stability of his feet (assisted by foamy pads on the heels). Perhaps more impressive are the hands, which offer wrist rotation, individually ball-jointed knuckles and hinges-jointed fingers.

The difference between Diesel and Motormaster is about as vast as one can imagine given there's over 25 years between them. FansProject have made the most of the freedom they have as a third party maker of transforming robot models and created something at once very different and yet recognisable as a homage to the G1 brick whose feet were each half of the entire truck cab. Likewise, the difference between Intimidator and Menasor is incredible. I find it baffling that a third party has become so adept at crafting transforming robots that are parts of a gestalt, when Hasbro/TakaraTomy seem to have lost the knack almost entirely, most recently producing a set of Combaticons that ended up less effective than a set of models that came out ten years ago.

Standing at a pretty colossal (for a 3rd party figure) 11", Intimidator dwarfs Menasor (about 8") and actually lives up to his name. Granted, I may attach some significance to the Stunticons as my first TransFormers gestalt, but FansProject have done an astounding job, both with the five components and the final combined figure. It's not perfect, and it's rather annoying that I can't have Intimidator wielding his gun, but it's not as if Hasbro or TakaraTomy have ever given us complete perfection.

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