(Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from my good friend Video Dracula, whose work you can find on Instagram and Twitter. His writing about Transformers from many eras, and the accompany photographs, are quite stunning and brilliantly formatted. Give him a follow on Instagram if you like this review!)
Review and Photos by Video Dracula
Hi, I’m Dracula! You may remember me from such films as The Monster Squad and Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man. These days I mostly post on Instagram about Transformers.
Table of Contents:
So let’s talk about Transformers. Specifically, let’s talk about Transformers: Generation 2, the grungy younger brother of the original Transformers line (which only got its G1 moniker thanks to the titling of the second generation, believe or don’t). Now Mr. The Dragon Fortress and I both grew up around the same time, experiencing a little bit of the 1980s and all of the 1990s. The 90s was a lean time to be a budding Transformers fan. All of the characters I loved from my scavenged comic books and rented VHS tapes were long off the shelves, only accessible via luck of the draw at yard sales and thrift shops.
But come 1993, that changed. The launch of G2 introduced me to many of the G1 figures I missed (although in wacky color schemes and paired with new, gaudy accessories), and gave me a new comic to hunt down at the bookstore. It also gradually introduced a handful of new characters, which felt like a natural continuation of the design sense of the 1980s Transformers. Among them were two sub-groups, who went unnamed in the U.S., but in other regions were known as the Autobot Axelerators and the Decepticon Skyscorchers.
These figures occupied a space between the tiniest, cheapest Transformers and the mid-range figures like Sideswipe, Starscream, and the Dinobots. They were simplistic, but they all came with accessories and sticker sheets, making them feel a little bit more “deluxe” than the mini-vehicles.
They also shared a common gimmick: incorporated weapons. The Axelerators each had an exposed, chrome engine piece which detached in robot mode to become a weapon. The Skyscorchers, meanwhile, could stow their weapons underneath their jet mode fuselage, disguising them as, I guess, bombs or something. It’s vague.
As a kid, I had all four of the Skyscorchers and one of the Axelerators. Today, I don’t have any of my childhood G2 figures, although I still have all of their bio cards. Only recently have I started re-obtaining some G2 figures, and that included Terradive of the Skyscorchers, as well as the three Axelerators I didn’t own as a kid. We’re gonna talk about all of them today!
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Skram Review
Let’s start off with Skram. Now I don’t usually engage in “reviewing” older toys like this, because I’d rather discuss what a toy does than how “good” it is, especially since it’s not like you can roll up to Wal-Mart and pick this guy off the shelf. (Although, if you can, call me, because I want to visit your Wal-Mart.)
Anyway, one of my favorite things about Transformers, and really, toys in general, were the lore they came with. Since I didn’t always have access to tie-in cartoons or comics, the biographies on the package were often my window into a character’s identity, and a springboard for the adventures I’d have with them.
Unfortunately, G2 wasn’t a great time for the package bios. Let’s look.
Function: Crack Patrol
“Hey, loosen up, guys! Saving the universe can’t be that big of a deal!”
Bio: An easygoing daredevil. Out for kicks and in it for the glory. Speeds to the rescue at the merest sniff of trouble and turns it to Autobot advantage! In sleek vehicle Mode, his engine doubles as a powerful weapon. As a robot, he creates havoc in the enemy ranks.
Through most of the original 80s line, the bios were written by a single person: Bob Budiansky, who flavored them with real-sounding techno-babble and lots of juicy concrete details. For the new characters in G2, you can really feel the absence of a copywriter who gave a flip. Sure, you can get some mileage out of “easygoing daredevil,” but the other details are basically empty fluff. I didn’t relate his tech spec numbers, but suffice it to say, all of these figures suffer from “power creep.” Basically it reads like a transparent effort on the copywriters’ part to make small, cheap toys feel like the most amazing characters in the universe. I don’t think it works very well.
Skram hasn’t been used in much fiction. Like many obscure TF characters, his role is often to show up in the background and maybe die to demonstrate the coolness of a less obscure character. That’s one reason I like the Axelerators. Their blank slate nature just means they have many new adventures ahead of them.
But bios aren’t everything. Fortunately, as a toy, Skram is amazing. He transforms into the eternally sexy Corvette Stingray, evoking the classic G1 Autobot Tracks (who did not appear in G2). He’s blue like Tracks, but instead of flames on his hood, he’s got some wild pink detailing. In robot mode, the pink is broken up with orange. His head, like all of the Axelerators, is painted silver and has light piping (another feature introduced in G2).
For articulation, Skram can move at the elbows and knees. This is about what you’d expect for a transforming robot toy of his vintage. Better articulation would come around later in G2. In terms of design flaws, his chest/hood is attached by a friction joint which feels like it will wear down over time. On mine, it is fairly loose, and sometimes pops off when I transform him. But it clicks into place in car mode, so there’s no structural issue.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Rapido Review
Function: Platoon Commander
“The deadliest weapon you can have is a sharp mind.”
Bio: Masterminds and executes battle plans of mind-boggling complexity. His brilliance at planning down to the last detail makes him one of the most respected Autobot platoon leaders. As a smooth, sleek vehicle, his rear-mounted engine is also a powerful weapon. Converts to a mighty fighting robot!
“Platoon commander” is interesting to me. What’s his platoon? I guess we can assume it’s the other Axelerators. Anyway, you’d almost believe this guy wrote his own bio. None of his tech specs numbers are below 8, and he has several 10s, including rank. Actually, he outranks Optimus Prime, whose rank in G2 was only a 9.
Rapido is the only of the four Axelerators to have significant fictional exposure, and the only to have multiple figures of himself. He showed up in some Botcon-exclusive fiction, where the writers even lampooned his absurd tech specs numbers, and gave him a very memorable personality based on that Dos Equis guy.
As a toy, Rapido is probably my second-favorite of the Axelerators. If the wiki is to be believed, he turns into an abstracted version of a concept car known as a Peugeot Quasar. The teal and cherry red strike a gorgeous contrast, and along with the black trace deco and hot pink decals, Rapido’s got a very memorable look. His head sculpt has a cool ninja-esque look, and his gigantic engine piece becomes the largest of the four Axelerator weapons. Like Skram, he’s articulated at the elbows and knees.
He has no specific flaws that I can discern, other than those inherent to old robot toys like this. His car hood does kinda half-obscure his face, though.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Turbofire Review
Function: Supplies and transport
“Never give an inch!”
Bio: Utterly dependable and stolid. Not quick-witted, but works away at a problem until he finds a logical answer. As a vehicle, his engine block converts to a powerful weapon. As a robot, uses it to defend with Super-Autobot courage!
“There when you need him” is enough kernel of personality to give me some ideas of what Turbofire might be up to, but the rest of it is just the same fluff as ever. “Super-Autobot courage” is making my head itch a little. I’d like a little bit of detail of what supplies Turbofire is responsible for, maybe. Am I critiquing a 28-year-old bit of package copy? Maybe I should move on.
Turbofire’s exposure in fiction is much the same as Skram’s. It’s worth noting, too, that none of these guys appeared in the actual G2 tie-in media material, the revived-and-quickly-recanceled U.S. Marvel comic.
Okay, personality quibbles aside, Turbofire is absolutely my favorite of all these guys. I’ve always had a soft spot for the chunky truck Autobots, and here we have a chunky truck that’s all teal and covered in goopy pink decals. It gives me the best 90s nostalgia feeling, and it transforms into a cool robot. I just love this figure, and it honestly feels like it encapsulates exactly what it felt like to be a toy-loving kid in the early 90s. If you look at it, and it gives you a warm feeling you can’t quite pin down, then you probably grew up the same time I did. Or you just share a common soul.
Strangely, Turbofire’s truck mode bed seems to be filled with some sort of technological equipment, like he has generators permanently installed there. Or maybe it’s a Cybertronian hardtop. Of course these details are present because they add interest to his robot mode legs, but I like to imagine what they might represent in-universe.
In robot mode, Turbofire shares the same articulation as his buddies. He’s gang-molded with Rapido, so he has the same plastic colors, but the decals help differentiate them. I also love the strange targeting reticles inside his shoulders. What are those for? Maybe they’re infrared sensors or something. Little details like this are what always keep me coming back to vintage robot toys.
Turbofire has no flaws nor weaknesses. He is perfection in plastic form.
Now as we close the Axelerators portion of this post, pour one out for Windbreaker, the lone member of the group I owned as a kid. He was orange and had a terrible name. I eventually transformed him so many times that his head joint became loose, and the head tumbled out of his car mode and away to oblivion. The rest of the toy is also long gone. I will someday add a new copy to the collection, though.
1993 Transformers Generation 2 Terradive Review
Function: Advance Fighter
“Why waste good fighting time thinking? Just BLAST your way in!”
Bio: He’s the solid muscle of the team. Not much brain but tons of brute force. His only thought is to wipe the Autobots from the universe. As a plane, the undercarriage radar targeting system doubles as a powerful weapon. As a robot, he uses it to mow down his sworn enemies.
Now here’s where we get to the true, raw nostalgia part of this post. I vividly remember seeing the four Skyscorchers on the pegs at Wal-Mart, possibly the first or second time I went to our closest Wal-Mart (which was a 30-minute drive from our house) shortly after it opened. That Wal-Mart was a constant source of childhood joy for me. Exo Squad, Mighty Max, and Techno Zoids were just a few of the toylines I discovered by browsing the shelves. They had the X-Men arcade game in the lobby and I’d stand there transfixed by the demo screen. If I ever have a nice nostalgic thought for Wal-Mart, it’s probably because of that one.
Now back to airplanes. I owned all four of these fellas, along with the G2 reissue of Starscream. Since Starscream only had one fellow seeker in G2 (who I did not own), these planes served as the backbone of my Decepticon military. And Terradive’s bio was just enough to cement him as the brute of the team. Sure, I wished it would have defined what his “powerful weapon” actually did, but the idea of it disguising itself as a radar system was a bit of color that these bios often lacked.
At least three of the Skyscorchers make a cameo in the gatefold artwork of the first issue of the G2 comic (see first image in this post), flying above the battlefield. I always figured the guy getting his face plate busted off in the foreground was meant to be Terradive, but who knows. They barely showed up in any other stories.
Terradive’s name was always confusing to me. I always mis-read it as “Terrordive.” I’m still not exactly sure what “Terradive” means. Presumably a dive toward the ground. If you know, tell me in the comments.
As a toy, Terradive transforms into a black (checks wiki) Ling-Temco-Vought A-7E Corsair II. All four of the Skyscorchers have real-world jet modes, I think, which is another nice link to old-school G1 designs. When he transforms, he has the classic cockpit-chest look, and his lower fuselage splits open to become his arms, which results in some very tall shoulders. I always imagined his folded-up landing gear to be some sort of shoulder launcher. Whatever objects he’s carrying under his wings (bombs? engines?) transform into his legs, which is a cool conversion style that I rarely see. He has a foldout front landing gear, but his rear landing gear are just some inert pegs that stick out of his knees. The tall, wide shoulders give him a hulking posture which helps reinforce the brutish personality painted in his bio.
He has articulation at the elbows, and his hips can swing outward due to his transformation. Like all the Skyscorchers, his “radar system” can unpeg and becomes what looks like a Super Soaker that he holds in his hand. He has some smart gold deco on his helmet, and brilliant green light piping. The same translucent green is used on his canopy, which creates a striking contrast against the black and white of his body. Finally some foil stickers help break up his deco and provide some small details. The only design flaw I can think of is that his rear booster sometimes sticks lower than his feet, making it hard-ish to stand him up.
He’s a fun little jet guy, and looks very much at home with other Decepticons, even from the G1 era.
The other three Skyscorchers were Windrazor (a gray jet and the leader of the group), Eagle Eye (a green jet), and Afterburner (a blue jet). Someday I’ll probably re-obtain them.
For whatever reason, nobody seems to care about the Skyscorchers or the Axelerators. I purchased Terradive sealed a couple years ago for a whopping 20 dollars. The three Axelerators in this review were similarly cheap, though they weren’t packaged. It seems they lack the pedigree of the G1 reissues in the line, or the novelty of the highly articulated figures that came after, and they weren’t featured in media, so they couldn’t build a cult following.
But they’re perfectly cromulent little windows into the old school of robot toy design, and a good gateway into the wild world of 90s Transformers. If you’re wanting to get into G2 collecting, but you’re not sure where to start, look no further than these little cars and jets.
Thanks again to Drac for this awesome review! Please give him a follow, especially on Instagram.
I had three of the four Skysorchers when I was a kid and loved them dearly. I reacquired a Windrazor at Botcon 2002, but it’s the only one I currently have. Once in a while I look for them again– especially Terradive, who is my second favorite behind Windrazor. It helps that his jet mode is the same as the starting plane you get in the SNES (and maybe arcade) version of UN Squadron.
What are your favorite small-but-not-quite-mini-vehicle Transformers? Do you have any fond memories of these toys? Let us know in the comments!