Intended release date: 1995-96
In 1995 the last gasp of "Generation 2" was released, mostly going on discount at retailers such as Kay Bee Toys. While "Generation 2" had helped keep the Transformers brand on life support, Hasbro had decided to radically change the brand into what became known as "Beast Wars Transformers". However, in that transition there were several planned figures that never made it into mass production.
Among these unreleased figures were six "Go-Bots", small Hot Wheels sized vehicles that transformed into small robots with limited articulation. Years later, four of these figures would make it into mass release in two packs as Daytonus and Side Burn and Prowl 2 and Side Swipe. Two other sculpts never made it into production in any way (possibly due to the tooling being lost).
Over the years, early production samples of these figures made it onto the collector market via a former Kenner employee who sold them off many years before. In 2017 I was able to purchase a set of these figures at a (relatively) reasonable price so of course I had to be sure to write up reviews of these rare pieces. This review will take a look at one of the sculpts that did see release eventually as "Robots in Disguise" Spychanger Side Burn and "Spychanger" Jazz. This was one of the sculpts that did not have a clear cut identity. However during the Botcon 1996 auction where a set was sold, this figured was identified as "Black Viper" so that is how I will refer to it for the purposes of this review.
While the Dodge Viper is still in production, this vehicle is based on the "SR" generation of the Viper which was very popular at the time. It has a lot of that vehicle's design elements (licensing concerns were not quite as big of a deal back then when it came to Transformers design). This includes the curved front end, the tear shaped headlights and a distinct curve on each door. It's a beautiful design.
Most of the vehicle is black plastic with some dark blue peeking out via the exhaust pipes in the back. The windows are all painted gold. The sides of the wheels are vacuum metallized gold, which matches up nicely with the windows. Black is an interesting choice for this vehicle since at the time the red version was the most popular color seen in various media including television.
Go-Bots were created with "high speed axles" designed to allow the vehicles to roll super fast in smooth surfaces such as Hot Wheels tracks.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Flip the figure over and detach the blaster.
- Pull the back of the vehicle back to form the legs.
- Pull out the doors to the sides to form the robot arms.
- Swing the front of the vehicle down to form the torso.
- Attach the blaster to one of the hands.
Keep in mind that this is an early production sample that did not go through full quality control checks yet. As a consequence, there appears to be one aspect of the design that had not yet been perfected: the way the front of the vehicle swings down to form the torso. This relies on the torso piece being connected to the main body by two hinges. Unfortunately the way they fold down they are a bit tight, so there is a "snap" that occurs which skirts the edge of my comfort level when transforming figures. Compared to the other releases of this figure I have, the chest hinges are a lot tighter and I do not plan on transforming this figure a lot.
Aside from having the sleek robot parts showing in this form, the head design looks very distinctive. This includes a crest with distinct ridges on top that look almost like a mohawk. There are panels on the sides and wide visor eyes with a thin line in the middle. Under that is a visible area for the mouth.
Black Viper's robot form still has plent of black plastic on the arms and torso. However teal and dark blue also make an appearance via the head/chest/thigh piece and the lower legs respectively. The blaster is dark blue. The visor eyes are painted blue.
Go-Bots in general have two points of articulation: the arms. On my copy of this figure the weapon can fit in either fist without a problem. Sometimes early production models have some kinks that get worked out before final production. When compared to the other versions of this sculpt I own, the arms are very loose. Clearly this was worked out by the time this sculpt was put into mass release.
This is an unusual review in that I am not recommending anyone seek this figure out given how expensive and rare it is. Instead, I will say that had this figure been a mass release for only a few dollars I would definitely tell anyone who wanted to round out their "Generation 2" collection to add it to their army. I am very happy to own this odd piece of Transformers history. Since I do have other versions of this figure it is really cool to see the "original intent" of the sculpt. If you want to pick up any of the other versions, I'd recommend seeking out the "Robots in Disguise" based Side Burn figure which has a gorgeous deco and serves as a fun "pocket sized" version of a character who was a Deluxe Class figure.