The Alternators line made its debut in 2006, and featured something new for the world of Transformers: figures based on officially licensed vehicles. It managed a respectable outing, initially running from 2003 - 2006. The vehciles were 1:24 scale models and of a comparable quality to Burago's similar sized toy cars (sorry, 'model cars'). Except for the die-cast, something excised for the western market from the line's Japanese progenitor, Binaltech.
Skids was originally released as part of the Binaltech line and came in a brighter metallic shade of blue. For his US release, Hasbro gave him a slightly darker colourscheme and some crazy flame decals (which I think are quite nice). The windows are also tinted slightly and have a red/yellow stipe running around the top and te front window bears the vehicle's name 'Scion'.
Now. The Scion is one of those funny little Japanese vehicles that doesn't make sense anywhere but Japan. See also ; The Qube and the vehicle Skids original 1980s figure utilised - The Honda City Turbo. These are peculiar little vehicles. They look like people carriers, but are in reality not much bigger than a modern Mini Cooper. They're the sort of vehicles that you see iPad owning new-media types with funny little beards and flat caps swaning about in. In short, they are small, slightly impractical city vehicles. They are also quite ugly little things. Whilst the charms of Skids' alt mode aren't lost on me, you can't ignore what a horrific boxy lump it is. It's not a sexy vehicle and it's a suprising inclusion for a line largely comprised of sleek, muscular sports cars.
One of the signature traits of the Alternators line is the complexity. Engineered with older fans / collectors in mind, the range had a true Rubiks Cube appraoch to getting a robot out of a car. For the most part, in figures like Smokescreen and Hound, the approch was sensible - complex without being irritating and pleasantly suprising and challenging. Some figures like Grimlock and Shockblast, though, went through a horrific number of unncessary twists and turns - often with parts falling off in the process- which left you with a frustrating and confusing mess. Happily, Skids falls into the former catagory.
Everything just moves the way it should, there's no parts working against each other or placing undue stress on any fragile points and it all just nicely clicks into place. The legs fold out of the back of the vehicle with the minimum of fuss and the arms are easily unravelled from underneath the bonnet. Only a bit of fiddling with the roof/ shoulders comes close to being annoying and even that sequence becomes easily mastered with repeated play. Best of all, the robot mode doesn't feel like it's all going to drop to pieces when you pick him up.
In robot mode, Skids is quite hefty in both looks and weight. He does have a slightly unflattering appearance, with most of the vehicles front end hanging off his chest. This does have the unfortunate effect of making him look a bit of a porker - doubly so when you notice his arms can barely reach past this chunk of car parts. The shins are also quite odd looking. The amount of kibble just above the ankle gives him the look of a chav whom thinks it is the height of fashion to tuck his tracksuit bottoms into his socks. To add insult to injury, Skids also has quite a small head and the most pathetic looking weapon to grace the entire line. And yet, despite these flaws, Skids still looks pretty good. His bulky appearance instantly conjures up the look of a particularly portly knight and the doors behind the shoulders look is still a design classic. The weight of him means that he's more solid and dense and feels more 'together' than the likes of Smokescreen. He also succesfully reimagines his 1980s counterpart - amusingly so, in fact. It's like he's succumbed to the inevitable middle-aged spread.
Whether you find Skids worth the bother depends on how much you have invested in the character. He was never one of the 'A-list' stars of the original Transformers line, despite some decent appearences in both the US and UK comic. His appeal lies in offering something different to the parade of generic looking sports cars that formed the core of the Alternators line. As part of something of a fan favourite line , he does tend to go for slightly more money than is justifiable and as one of the later shipping Alternators does tend to be slightly harder to track down than your Swindle, Dead End or Smokescreen figures.
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