Thanks to my friend Battle Armor Dad for contributing to this review!
You asked your mom for an Optimus Prime, but you got a Bumblebee instead. This happened for 2 reasons:
- You’re a little shit
- Despite working two jobs, it’s much easier for your mom to afford a Bumblebee than an Optimus Prime
The year was 1984. Or was it 1993?
The phenomenon of getting “the little ones” (or Minibots, or Mini-Vehicles) as gifts is something that unites both 80s kids and 90s kids. Even if the older generation is still mad about smokestack sizes and newer Megatron toys being allowed inside of airports, it’s hard for them to not empathize with our shared plight.
If you were into Transformers in the 80s and 90s, chances are you had the Minibots. They were cool, charming, and affordable, which made them appeal to our overworked, underpaid parents.
Unless you were a rich kid. If so, this post is not for you. Go invest in a failing brick and mortar video game store, waste your money on some poser-ass Kings of Leon adult contemporary crypto MP3s, enjoy your inherited success, and come back for the next review.
This Transformers Generation 2 Minibots review is for the real ones.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Minibots, Affordable Excellence
Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were the first toys I remember ever having. As a toddler, I loved cars, construction equipment, and tractors. I would delight in climbing up on farm equipment and sitting behind the wheel each time we went to the county fair. I asked my mom (a gifted visual artist) and my grandparents (not artists, but loving and patient) to draw cars for me all the time. I’d cut them out with safety scissors and race the paper cars all over the house.
These drawings were eventually supplanted by Hot Wheels and Matchbox. My early childhood love of cars eventually got me to notice the Transformers– cars who became an ancient race of warring robots!
But, since we were on a tight budget, and because I was only 5 or 6 years old when I received my first Transformers, they were all “the small ones.”
Around 1989 or 1990, I got Swerve, Tailgate, Cosmos, Outback, Hubcap, Pipes, and some of the Throttlebots. These were followed up a bit later by some Micromasters and other tiny murder robots.
I liked these Minibots because they reflected what you saw in the cartoon (older kids had the actual characters from the cartoon, like Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Huffer, and Brawn) and seemed like real Transformers. Because they were. These were the little guys that hung out with Optimus Prime, Jazz, and Ironhide. They were also relatively cheap, sturdy, and easy to transform. Perfect for a little kid from a low income family.
Once my mom married my stepfather, we became solidly lower middle class, and I started getting some larger Transformers. They were all late 80s releases, so I’m not exactly sure how my mom found them, but she did. As the likes of Apeface, Needlenose, Powermaster Optimus Prime, and Pretender Bumblebee joined my ranks, the Minibots were still a big part of the adventure.
With Minibots, there were no frustrating transformations or pieces to lose. They could endure a trip down the basement stairs or a roll down the driveway. They could try to fight off the Decepticons until the larger heroes arrived. They were small and simple, but they were reliable companions and lifelong friends. Some of them have survived since my childhood.
I’ve gathered from recent social media conversations that the Minibots are almost universally beloved by Transformers fans for all of the reasons I mentioned, but their affordability sticks out as the one thing that propels them to the top. The Minibots were toys that virtually every kid could have one or two of, and propelled the joy of Transformers across the Class Divide.
This brings us to the 1993 Transformers Generation 2 Minibots. In 1993, I was in awe seeing new Transformers on shelves and seeing the brilliantly corny commercials on TV. Finally, I saw series stalwarts like Jazz, Starscream, Megatron, and Optimus Prime in stores. There were also all new characters and concepts to take in.
By the time I received a G2 Slag upon my mother’s college graduation, the Minibots lost a bit of their luster. Why would I choose those when I could wait for a holiday or birthday and receive Drench, Powerdive, Sizzle, Windrazor, Terradive, or Afterburner? Those toys weren’t much bigger than Minibots, but they seemed more interesting.
Within the past couple years, I’ve seen the folly of my childhood thought process– the G2 Minibots are actually really cool. With their shiny, vac metal plastic and bold colors, they’re great reinterpretations of our childhood favorites.
They aren’t perfect, though, which you’ve probably noticed so far from my photos.
Author’s Note: Battle Armor Dad (Twitter, Instagram) did me a huge favor by collaborating with me on this review. He took a ton of nice photos of G2 Seaspray, as I couldn’t find mine when I started working on this review. There was no guarantee I’d ever figure out where that dang toy was– I found him late last night in a weird box, but I could not have finished this review on time without Battle Armor Dad’s generosity.
In his honor, let’s start with G2 Seaspray.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Seaspray Review
Seaspray and the other G2 Minibots are straight up redecos of their Generation 1 counterparts. Regular paint and plastic is replaced with a chrome coating, and some of the figures’ other plastic colors were changed, as well. But, basically, they’re just a shiner, gaudier version of what came before. But that’s what Generation 2 is all about!
Released in 1993, Seaspray is a naval hovercraft that turns into a cute little robot. G2 Seaspray is probably the closest in look and color to his G1 version, and why not? It’s hard to top Seaspray’s blue, white, and yellow color scheme. The only way you can improve it is by making it shiny, obviously.
Here’s his robot mode:
Seaspray is a basic little robot who only moves at the arms. Still, the shoulder articulation makes him a fun little toy. For the kids and adults who actually play with these things, moving arms makes all the difference in the world. You can actually get some pretty fun expressions out of him.
His hovercraft mode is sleek and retro-futuristic. I’m sure it’s based on some sort of real hovercraft, but I don’t know anything beyond that. All I know is that it looks cool and fast. The Autobots never had too much of a naval presence, so Seaspray is a welcome addition to any team of heroic Cybertronians, regardless of generation.
Seaspray has the most unique look out of all of the G2 Minibots. He transforms much like the others do, but the propellers and their mounting system flanking his head give him a cool silhouette. His head has always looked cool to me– I love the black visor and masked mouth. He just looks like a rough and tumble cyber sailor. I would have loved this toy as a kid, but I never experienced the mold until I bought my G2 version about a year ago.
Here he is next to his G1 counterpart, which I also acquired somewhat recently:
As much as I’m gushing about the toy, though, it isn’t without a couple of flaws.
From Battle Armor Dad:
“I’ve loved Transformers since 1984. I was one of the kids who cried in the movie theater when Optimus Prime died. Generation 2 came out when I was in high school and deemed too old for toys by the conventions of society. I’d sneak into the toy aisles looking for GIJOES and find G2 hanging next to them on the pegs. I was excited to see Transformers again but the color choices on some of the reissues were initially bewildering. The four Minibots had some of the best new decos and instantly drew my attention. With his metallic blue Seaspray seemed like the most appropriate upgrade, like merely a deluxe version of his original G1 color scheme. All four look fantastic on card but they are nearly impossible to find loose in mint condition. The vac metal is just too prone to chipping.”
And, you’ll notice on my copy of the toy, that the vac metal is most definitely chipped. I have no idea who owned this figure before I did, but it was played with at least a little bit. I decided a while ago that I wanted the 1993 Transformers Generation 2 Minibots, but that I didn’t need them to be perfect. That decision is probably the only reason my hair isn’t grey because, as Battle Armor Dad said, you’re not going to find unchipped examples unless you buy them carded.
Because Seaspray’s transformation is slightly more complex than the others, you may notice that the sliders his legs and feet are based around can get stuck or do weird things, too. You can work around it, but it’s something to watch out for.
Overall: There’s no Autobot Navy without Seaspray! He’s essential for any vintage Transformers collection. He looks cool, has a novel vehicle mode, and is just an adorable little seaman. More importantly, he’s a fun and sturdy toy that’s good for both kids and adults. The Generation 2 Seaspray, though, suffers from serious chrome chipping issues. The vac metal is gorgeous but delicate. If you’re willing to invest in a carded or mint version, then he’s Highly Recommended. But, if you’re worried about imperfections, just grab the Generation 1 version. It’s still affordable and the differences are minimal.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Hubcap Review
Unlike Seaspray, the differences between G1 and G2 Hubcap are stark. It’s like sunny yellow day and blood red night. Kind of like a Castlevania 2 thing, honestly.
The original Hubcap was released in 1986. He was a slight retool of Cliffjumper, featuring a new head, a new spoiler in car mode, and a marigold paint job. I had G1 Hubcap as a kid, and he was one of my favorite Minibots. If you also grew up with Hubcap and have never encountered the Generation 2 version, you might be surprised.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Hubcap is a pretty good encapsulation of the G2 design philosophy– take an old toy and release it in shocking, violent colors. G2 Hubcap features shiny, candy red chrome instead of a chilled-out yellow. You’d be forgiven for not realizing these are the same toy or character. G2 Hubcap, at first glance, looks like Cliffjumper. But more on that later.
Here’s Hubcap’s robot mode:
As you can see, he’s very Cliffjumper-like. And Bumblebee-like. He’s short and a bit chubby, but has powerful limbs and chunky feet. The tires hanging off of his arms kind of make him look like he has bulging biceps and forearms, which I’ve always enjoyed. The orange face is a nice sculpt, but it’s possible that another color might have worked better against the shiny red.
As with all of the Minibots in this set, G2 Hubcap moves at the shoulders. This is good for punching, emoting, or grifting his fellow Autobots out of their hard-earned energon rations.
Here’s his vehicle mode:
As a cute, chibi Porsche, Hubcap is rather dashing. It’s a slick car mode that’s perfect for racing around the kitchen table or throwing at your sibling who’s hogging the Game Boy. In 1993, Hasbro was still equipping the Autobot Mini Vehicles with rubber tires and partially die cast metal bodies, so he feels high quality, too. My Hubcap has a Generation 1 Autobot logo on the back panel (where his head hides), which seems odd but not unprecedented for a G2 release. I’m not sure if that’s standard for this toy, but it probably is.
Here’s Hubcap with his G1 Ancestor:
So, it’s pretty easy to see why Hubcap got recolored for Generation 2. Bumblebee was also included in the assortment, and you can’t release two yellow-adjacent Minibots in the same series. Why choose Hubcap at all? And why make him red instead of just releasing Cliffjumper, who’s a much more popular character?
Here’s the theory posted on TFWiki:
“Hubcap was re-released as part of the first batch of Generation 2 toys in the US, this time in shiny chrome red. There’s speculation that this was because Hasbro had intended to release Cliffjumper instead but didn’t have the mold, but it seems more likely it was simply to keep him from looking too much like his assortment partner Bumblebee. Likely due to the figure’s production process, it’s basically impossible to find a copy of him that doesn’t have a pair of chips in the chrome on his front bumper/robot mode feet, as pictured here.”
The Cliffjumper mold did go to South America in 1985 or so, and was released in several different colors by Estrela. No other versions of Cliffjumper were released in the United States until Fun4All released a keychain version in 2001, so it’s quite possible that Hasbro just didn’t have the Cliffjumper mold when they were putting out the early Generation 2 toys.
Likewise, it’s possible they lost the trademark for a while, too. After G1 Cliffjumper’s 1985 release, there wasn’t a mainline Transformers toy named Cliffjumper until the Armada Minicon came out in 2003.
Or maybe someone on Hasbro’s early 90s team just loved Hubcap and the color red– we’ll never know. But making wild assumptions based on loosely correlated information is much more fun than having a definitive answer, anyway.
Like Seaspray, Cliffjumper is prone to chrome chipping. You can see that my copy’s shiny exterior has crumbled to reveal the ugly, grey plastic beneath in several places. Let it be a metaphor for fashion or fitting in or being an Instagram influencer or something– time eventually reveals cracks in all of our shiny chrome exteriors.
On my copy, the extending leg mechanisms are also finicky. I’ve never had that problem with the G1 version, so it’s possible that Generation 2 Hubcap is just more susceptible to quality control issues over the years.
Overall: This is a striking and beautiful toy based on a very good mold. Hubcap is also a fun and obscure character to have in your collection. The G2 version will stand out in any display or photo. But, given how fragile the chrome is, you may not want to pay for a nice one. And, if you do, you’ll probably never want to touch it. This version of Hubcap is Mildly Recommended, but the original G1 version is a better bet.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Beachcomber Review
I’ve always passively enjoyed Beachcomber’s portrayal on the old Sunbow cartoon. He’s an affable hippie beach bum stuck in a brutal war that spans millions of years, yet he still shows up for work every day. He’s really good at identifying rocks, which is surely helpful to Optimus Prime’s ragtag rebel militia. He’s amusing, but he’s not a character I think about often.
That’s why I never sought out a Beachcomber toy until I was putting together the G2 Minibots. I’ve still never owned the G1 version, but the 1993 Transformers Generation 2 Beachcomber sure is a doozy.
Here’s his robot mode:
He trades in his G1 counterpart’s cool blues and greys for a dazzling emerald chrome, moody dark grey, and marvelous neon orange-red highlights. This figure is the platonic ideal of a G2 color scheme and it’s amazing.
Since I never owned a vintage Beachcomber before this one, I never realized how good the head sculpt is. The stoic, mouthless visage with cool shades sitting over his featureless mask is a great look, and is way more interesting than his cartoon or comic model. Looking at his robo-shades, though, you can see where Bob Budiansky came up with the character’s “peace and love” persona.
Like Seaspray and Hubcap before him, Beachcomber is articulated at the shoulders. You can also bend his knees, but I don’t imagine it will do you a lot of good. Though, come to think of it, I’d like to see someone put G2 Beachcomber in a drum circle diorama.
Our favorite Warrior Geologist transforms into a dune buggy with a couple quick flips and twists:
This is a cool vehicle mode, and the orangey-red headlights and suspension, along with the black roll cage, make for a compelling color scheme. A dune buggy is a bit more action oriented than a VW Beetle, so I bet a lot of kids had fun with this toy. Everything tabs together nicely, and the vehicle mode can roll along your hardwood floors without a care in the world.
Since I don’t have a G1 Beachcomber to compare him to, this gives me an opportunity to briefly talk about Generation 2’s spiritual successor to the Autobot Mini-Vehicles, the Go-Bots. These tiny warriors all transform into Automobiles, and featured through-axle construction for smooth rolling. They were also in 1:64-scale, so they’re exactly the same size as Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. They’re even compatible with Hot Wheels tracks and playsets. Neat!
All Go-Bots featured the same transformation scheme and moved only at the shoulders, but they did have one advantage over the Minibots of old– each one had a weapon. To my knowledge, no Minibot other than Outback actually came with a gun, so that’s a neat feature. The G2 Go-Bots would go on to see a lot of use in the original Robots in Disguise and Transformers Universe lines.
So here’s Beachcomber with High Beam, who compliments him nicely:
My Beachcomber doesn’t seem to have nearly the amount of chrome chips or other defects as my Seaspray or Hubcap. This copy was owned by someone else before I had it, but he looks good overall. Aside from some slightly loose arm joints, he’s a real gem.
I’m not sure if it’s the case with every G2 Beachcomber you’ll find on the secondary market, but a quick look on eBay tells me he’s a bit easier to keep in nice shape than the other three.
I’m sure Beachcomber is an essential Autobot to a lot of people who are older than me, but I’ve never considered him anything more than a guy that’s fine to have around. This 1993 Generation 2 Beachcomber might be changing my opinion on that, though. What a toy!
Overall: With magnificent dark green chrome and striking orange-red highlights, this is an offbeat toy that shines on any shelf or in any photo. It’s an unconventional look for Beachcomber, but I can’t help but love it. As a toy, it seems more durable than the other G2 Minibots. If you like Beachcomber and you appreciate a good Generation 2 color scheme, then this toy is Highly Recommended.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Bumblebee Review
In the 80s and 90s, Bumblebee was a flagship Transformers character for Hasbro. He fell out of popularity for a while when Hasbro lost the trademark, but Bumblebee’s been bigger than ever since 2007. Sure, he looks a bit different in some incarnations, but he’s almost always a scrappy little yellow car robot. Well, Hasbro took some wild chances in Generation 2 and allowed old Bumblebee to branch out beyond his yellow roots.
Hasbro did release Goldbug in 1987, and people still argue about whether that toy was always intended to be Bumblebee or not. He does share the original Bumblebee’s head design and vehicle mode (albeit without the chibi Micro Change proportions), and according to Bob Budiansky, cited by TFWiki, “Goldbug was actually a preliminary name for Bumblebee during early treatments for the Marvel Comics!”
So, yeah, Bumblebee had been gold before. But he’d never been shiny gold. He’d never been Studio 54 gold. Generation 2 changed all that.
Here’s his robot mode:
If you only grew up with reruns of the Sunbow cartoon, the 1986 movie, the later Marvel Comics, and Bumblebee’s post-2007 toys, you might find this figure kind of jarring. He looks like the Autobots’ intrepid scout, but he’s covered in shiny gold chrome and his head looks much more menacing than the way we usually picture Bumblebee.
He’s a straight remold of the original G1 Bumblebee toy, who also featured this badass battle mask head sculpt. I’ve always loved this look for Bumblebee, even if it doesn’t match our collective image of him. The Goldbug toy used this basic design for the character’s head, too, which is why I always thought they were different characters as a kid– I never saw the original G1 toy until much later in life. But when Habsro re-released a few of the Minibots a couple years ago, they gave Bumblebee a new head that looked closer to how he appeared in the cartoon. Coincidentally, I never bought that toy.
Bumblebee moves at the shoulders and is a good, basic Minibot design. This mold and its engineering have been used countless times by Hasbro and many other companies over the years, so it’s obviously served them well.
Here he is in vehicle mode:
This is classic Bumblebee, before VW gave Hasbro the ol’ cold shoulder and the ol’ cease and desist. He’s a cutesy Volkswagen Bug kitted out in killer chrome, and he looks like he’d be what Marc Bolan and T. Rex would drive around if they ever had a Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon show.
The arms/wheels on mine have a tendency to droop down when you pick the car up,, but he rolls around just fine. He’s easy enough to get into either robot or car mode and he doesn’t seem to suffer from any real problems.
Bumblebee got more than one toy in Generation 2. His second figure was (you guessed it!) a Go-Bot, decked out in gold and black. Hasbro had a vision for Bumblebee in the 1990s, and that vision was Glam Robot Royalty.
Here’s G2 Bumblebee along with his Go-Bot counterpart, who uses the same mold as our friend High Beam from earlier:
I like these toys because they define Bumblebee’s look in the 90s, but I’m glad the gold color didn’t stay for too long. Goldbug is A-OK in my book, but I think Bumblebee looks much more fetching in yellow. Still, I’m glad Hasbro did something a bit different with the character for Generation 2. I like the look enough, especially with the G1 toy’s fierce face, that I even considered buying the G2 version of Bumblebee’s first Masterpiece release. I didn’t do it, but I considered it.
I can’t say if this is true of all G2 Bumblebees, but the vac metal on mine seems to scratch much more easily than it chips. Mine has several scratches across its chest/roof from previous owners. It’s a bit distracting, but it’s better than chrome flaking off all over the place. Just know that he’s probably as delicate as Seaspray and Hubcap are.
Overall: G2 Bumblebee is a fun toy with a glittery sense of theatricality, but I wouldn’t call him essential. This is kind of a flash-in-the-pan look for him, but it’s similar to enough other toys that it doesn’t quite stand out like Hubcap and Beachcomber do. He’s also easy to damage and he doesn’t come cheap, so I’m less enthusiastic about this one. There are plenty of other Bumblebee toys to choose from, so I can only say the Generation 2 version is Mildly Recommended.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Minibots, In Closing
Minibots are the great equalizer for robot fans of a certain age. Even if your family wasn’t well off, you could have a couple of Autobots to accompany you on every mission. I really respect that about them. They are the Working Class Heroes of Cybertron, and I salute them. Thanks for joining me and reading about them.
Phew! That was another long one. I need to get back to just reviewing one figure at a time again.
Big thanks again to Battle Armor Dad for helping me out!
Who’s your favorite Minibot? Did you ever own any of the G2 versions? Also, what’s your favorite “pocket money toy” of all time? Let me know in the comments!