Saturday, April 18, 2020

Keeping Tracks

In 1985, Hasbro released their second wave of Transformers toys. Due to the overwhelming success of the first wave of Transformers toys , the second wave was definitely more robust and diverse. Hasbro was basically grabbing whatever robots they could find in Japan and re-releasing them in the US with a new Autobot or Decepticon logo.

Despite all the new kinds of Transformers introduced, they still managed to release a number of characters similar to those in 1984. And for the Autobots this meant more car robots. Unlike the first wave though, as a group, I thought that the new car robots were less exciting than their predecessors. A couple of them were basically repaints of previous molds. And the rest were mostly less interesting utility vehicles. Definitely nothing to write home about.

Fortunately, there was one new car robot in the bunch that stood out. The Autobot Tracks was the instant star of the group in my opinion. He was an all new original mold. From a well proportioned robot he transformed into a cool and sleek shiny blue corvette with a fiery red Autobot logo plastered on his hood. And that wasn’t all, tracks actually had a third mode which was a flying car hybrid.

Unfortunately I never actually owned the original Tracks toy, I did get the next best thing though. Back when I was a kid, I had a friend who had too many toys that he cared for to keep in his house so he left a bunch of them with me for safe keeping. This included a lot of original Diaclone robots, which were basically the Japanese precursors to the Transformers. So while I didn’t have Tracks per se, I had Car Robot No.21 Corvette Stingray at my disposal, which was basically the same thing except colored red.

It took some time before I got my first official Tracks toy in 2004. At this point, I was just getting back into collecting toys and when the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance of getting myself a more modern version of Tracks from the Alternators line. Just like his original vintage toy, this one also transformed into a blue corvette, albeit a more updated model. The “toy” also had considerably more advanced engineering as the line was geared more towards older collectors and car enthusiasts.

A couple years later, Hasbro eventually released a more mainstream version of Tracks as part of their 2010 Reveal the Shield line. While I was excited to see another new Tracks toy, I wasn’t quite thrilled at what we actually got. I found the toy a little short and stocky which for me didn’t quite fit his character. Once I got the toy, I took it upon myself to do a little modification on the toy to give him a little more height in robot mode. To be honest, it was a rather crude mod, which required an extra piece (a discarded piece of rubber) to keep him from shrinking back to his original height.

Anyway finally in 2015, we finally got what was meant to be the ultimate version of Tracks for Takara’s Masterpiece line. Unfortunately, it didn’t get many rave reviews and is widely considered to be one of the weakest releases for the line.

I myself don’t mind it and I actually think it’s a pretty good toy...or maybe I’m just biased. I actually have an interesting story of how I acquired my MP Tracks. At the time I was a regular at this one store in Greenhills aka Manila toy central. I was pretty happy with the store as they would always alert me when new products would arrive and would always knock off a few hundred pesos from their “store” price for regular customers like myself. Anyway when I went to Greenhills to get my newly arrived Tracks from them, I decided to take my time and see how much Tracks was selling in other stores. To my surprise and shock, I found out that my “special price” at the original store was almost a thousand pesos ($20) more expensive than the going rate in the other stores!

But here’s the kicker, so I decided to go to this hole in the wall store instead that had the lowest price for Tracks. The store was so small that only 2 customers could actually stand inside at the same time. So there I was next to another customer and I asked for a recheck on the price for Tracks from the shop owner. When the owner confirmed the price, the other customer turned to me and said, “hey I’ve got an extra Tracks right here….I’ll sell it to you for an even better price!”. So at the end of the day, I ended up getting a brand new Tracks for almost 1.5 thousand pesos cheaper than what I had originally planned to spend for it at the original store. Needless to say I never bought anything else from that store again.

Anyway, like I said, despite mostly negative reviews I do like this MP Tracks, so much so that I eventually bought two more versions. As is the case with most Masterpiece toys, Takara often re-releases them in different colors as different characters to help recoup their investment in the toy mold. The second version of Tracks was a black recolor which was released in 2016 as a Decepticon named Loudpedal. It was really just a case of the right price at the right time during a trip to Japan. What I do like about this figure (aside from the fact that he’s colored black) was that Loudpedal actually had the same face sculpt and weapon from the original vintage Tracks toy. So there’s some extra points for nostalgia.

And speaking of nostalgia, the third version of MP Tracks that I got was a red version which was rebranded as another Autobot named Road Rage. What was special about this version was that Road Rage was actually a female Autobot and so Takara went the extra mile and resculpted a few new parts to give the toy a more feminine look. Of course, the main reason that she appealed to me was that she was red, just like the only version of the vintage toy that I ever had.

So there you have it. While he wasn’t quite my favorite Autobot, Tracks will always have a special place in my collection as the star of that 1985 Autobot car lineup.