Who is Tigertrack and why does he deserve a Transformers Masterpiece release? That’s the question we asked last week, and we saw that yellow was the colour we could originally have gotten “Sideswipe” in for Transformers. Had this plan gone two steps further – stock art and photography – before being changed, we’d have another Blue Bluestreak on our hands. A prestigious Diaclone origin and a tricky reissue exclusive gave the ‘Yellow Sideswipe’ a mysterious aura, but “Tigertrack” has finally achieved deserved recognition as part of Takara Tomy’s flagship Masterpiece line.
In the first installment of this article series we looked at the history of the transforming yellow Lamborghini Countach LP500S as a Diaclone Car Robot, and how he nearly became Transformers Autobot car “Sideswipe” before having his colour (and tech spec) switched with Sunstreaker, along with how he finally made it into the Transformers universe as the 2003 reissue exclusive “Tigertrack”. In 2013, Takara Tomy have seized the opportunity to release a yellow repaint of the popular MP-12 Lambor (Sideswipe) Masterpiece figure, and having examined the significance of that decision together with why it should mean more to collectors than just the creation of a hollow repaint, this week we examine the execution of the figure designated MP-12T Cybertron Sentry “Tigertrack”.
MP-12T comes in the same type of packaging as the previous Lamborghini-licensed Masterpiece releases Lambor and Alert. The main difference between the releases is that Tigertrack’s box features artwork on the front instead of just photography, and is generally black and white, which is great in that it enhances what would otherwise be a very dull package but a slight shame for those who were looking forward to a more uniform Masterpiece display shelf. The silhouetted figure on the back of the box is also a new addition to Tigertrack’s box compared to the stock photography that you’d find on Alert and Lambor’s packaging.
Despite the slight lack of uniformity, and my own personal desire to have basically had another Lambor box but in yellow, Tigertrack has always been a bit different. His 2003 Figure Oh exclusive mail-away packaging was reminiscent of the monochromatic vintage Takara Transformers mail-away boxes which featured cartoon-style character artwork, and his Masterpiece box is the only one so far – excepting MP-08X King Grimlock – to feature character artwork instead of figure photography only. A lack of colour may never be perceived as special treatment or extra effort, but exclusive artwork is a privilege and the MP-12T release is more special for it.
The exclusive artwork created for MP Tigertrack is not restricted to the packaging, it can be seen in its entirety on the black and white fold-out instructions/bio sheet and on the full colour collector’s card. The other intriguing piece of paperwork that comes with MP-12T Tigertrack is the optional set of Autobot insignia stickers that can be applied to the hood, or anywhere the owner wishes. MP-12 Lambor had his massive Autobot logo tampographed onto the toy, but for Tigertrack Takara Tomy have allowed the collector to choose whether or not they wish to preserve the item’s authentic automotive look (and Diaclone-style heritage) or display him as a full-fat Autobot.
The instruction sheet has the character bio as well as a history of the Tigertrack toy in the bottom left section which translates roughly (subject to future revision and improved accuracy!) as “In 2003 Tigertrack was released using the reissue ‘TF Collection’ series Sideswipe. Originally Tigertrack was created from the Diaclone Car Robot New Countach 500 color version, and was released as a limited edition Transformers character. Tigertrack was only available as a mail order item form from Figure Magazine. If you talk about Sideswipe’s Lamborghini Countach many people have this yellow version, and despite being a limited edition Tigertrack is well established all over the world. Although Tigertrack did not exist in the G1 world of characters, he is a new Cybertron (Autobot) warrior that joins the ranks!“
Comparing the Masterpiece Tigertrack collector’s card with the reissue exclusive card from 10 years earlier, we can see that the tech spec is mostly unchanged. In both he is described as something of an expert tracker with hyper-sensitive sensors capable of detecting threats in most environments including spotting enemies in darkness and storms. While the reissue spec describes him as a ferocious and unrelenting hunter, this sentence appears to have been left off the end of the Masterpiece version’s bio. The Masterpiece card also doesn’t list Tigertrack’s weapons, they are instead described in detail in the fold-out instruction/bio sheet. The Masterpiece card also contains a quote/motto that very roughly translates as “Even if you can’t see it, I see everything”. The attribute stats are of course the same for both cards.
Our first proper look at the car in its insert packaging reveals what could be considered new accessories for Tigertrack. Lambor (Sideswipe) had its square piledrivers and Alert had its flashing blue ears from Auto Berserk. The Amazon Japan exclusive version of MP-12 also had two longer piledriver accessories which have been repainted black for Tigertrack and called “Screw Driver”. They may have no historical significance to Tigertrack, they may be a dull all-black colour and hollow, but I like them and am grateful for their inclusion. You’ll see later they can add nicely to the display and posing options. We can also see that Tigertrack’s missile launcher – or “Lazer Homing SAM Launcher” is not all white like Lambor’s, it is instead black and white – more reminiscent of the G1 New Countach toy scheme. Here’s a closer look:
It would have been the simplest choice in the world for Takara Tomy to just include the exact same accessories with Tigertrack as they did with Lambor, and while no new moulds have actually been created, just the unique combination of colours and items sets the release apart from Lambor and Alert, much like the artwork, paperwork and lack of Autobot tampographs. They’ve made the effort to distinguish him, we should make the effort to appreciate that. Interesting that “Electron Pulse Gun” was a phrase being used for this mould’s hand-weapon even back when the toy was called “Spin-Out” in the Marvel Age comic from 1984 that was published before the naming of the characters (or indeed colour) was finalised.
How’s that for eye-catching and attention grabbing? The photos show the Tigertrack toy as slightly more fluorescent than he really is, he’s a bit more mustard in the flesh, but they are not embellishments, the figure truly is this beautiful. The whole issue of paint application I find is extremely subjective to people’s own expectations and tolerances. While I look at my specimen above and feel that it is virtually perfect, another collector may become irked with some of the paint detailing along certain edges. It also varies from specimen to specimen, some are good, some are unacceptable. I had no alignment or panel-fit issues with this piece, it is every bit as good as my Lambor and better than my Alert. I see no evidence of mould degradation in my specimen.
The lack of Autobot insignias on this item pre-stickering means you can pass this off as a Masterpiece Diaclone or even just a scale model car in your collection, that’s how faithful the mould is to a real Lamborghini Countach LP500S. This is precisely how I will always keep my Tigertrack, as a modern tribute to a Diaclone deity instead of another Autobot soldier. It just means more to me this way, and I much prefer the real-life vehicle appearance without a massive Autobot symbol on the hood – Robots in disguise, indeed. The photos should also show that this specimen had no issues with spoiler-half alignment, the fit all over was good and repeatable on every transformation.
Vintage and modern Italian supercars are very commonly seen in red and yellow, standout colours for standout cars. The desire for many collectors to display a yellow Countach next to Sideswipe as a stand-in for the as-yet unannounced Masterpiece Sunstreaker has undoubtedly accounted for a number of sales of MP-12T Tigertrack. Having spent most of last week trying to get people to think of Tigertrack as his own entity, not just a variant or a faux-Sunstreaker, let’s focus on just how brilliant all three Masterpiece Countaches look together in vehicle mode. Is it possible that once you see them together, you couldn’t imagine owning one without the other? Well, purists aside, sometimes our budget will make that decision for us.
The top photograph in this set shows MP Tigertrack with his combined accessories attached to the roof, and seemingly this is more acceptable to me as an alternative attack mode than it is on Sideswipe or Red Alert, having never seen the latter characters wear the weapons on the roof in the cartoon. With Tigertrack being a ferocious hunter, tracker and sentry, it seems more plausible to me that he should have such a mode originally.
He can also be seen alongside the vintage Diaclone and 2003 reissue Tigertrack releases, reminding us just how far modern toy technology has come along in the last 30 years. We are not talking about how capable the MP Countach design is in imitating the artistic cartoon interpretation of the Sideswipe/Red Alert character, but simply how much more faithful a transforming robot can be made to its original automotive inspiration.
Tigertrack’s robot mode is every bit as impressive as his vehicle mode, and that’s not just the mould doing all the work. The contrast of yellow, black and white works supremely well on most toys (Bumblebee, Sunstreaker etc). We can see him standing idle and sporting his ‘Screw Drivers’ above. The colours on him are all very predictable, except maybe the red shins. Remember when we looked at the Diaclone, TF and reissue sticker sheets for Sideswipe/Tigertrack last week? Well the shin stickers for this mould (red and yellow versions) were red in the 80s, and that has been reproduced faithfully on Tigertrack instead of going with Lambor’s silver shin detailing.
One of the reasons this mould is so celebrated is the successful fusion of a stunning alternate mode, animation accuracy, excellent proportions, repeatable and enjoyable transformation together with brilliant and functional posability. The above images show Tigertrack posed with his Screw Drivers or his more conventional handgun and launcher set. Again, as with his vehicle mode, the lack of an Autobot insignia is very noticeable and reminiscent of not just the Diaclone, but also the reissue where the rubsign was always hidden from view.
Even though the colour of the MP Tigertrack has come out a little brighter than intended in the photography, you can see he is not precisely the same colour as the Diaclone/reissue, but let’s face it, there’s absolutely no doubt who it’s meant to be and the two look terrific alongside one another. There are a few options here for themed collections – Diaclone lineage, extended Transformers universe or none of the above. If one chooses to display toys like this simply as a beautiful yellow transforming Lamborghini Countach, then they can. The fact that there are earlier and vintage versions just expands that mini-universe. The above pictures also show on just how many levels this mould is able to score points; anime accuracy, Diaclone accuracy, toy accuracy and automotive accuracy.
Continuing their efforts to set Tigertrack apart from the Masterpiece Lambor and Alert, MP-12T features a combination of the aforementioned toys’ head sculpts. Tigertrack has Lambor’s black helmet mould and Alert’s facial sculpt. Some of these have bad paint application on the face (as have a number of Masterpiece toys) but this specimen was perfect. I will admit that this level of detail is good, but I must also confess that I may not have noticed this difference myself had I not been informed of it before receipt of my Tigertrack. Just another nice touch – although it might have been more interesting to see him with Red Alert’s helmet sculpt in black.
Even more evidence of extra detailing and yet another nice touch on MP Tigertrack can be seen in the above image. While the application of the paint is not perfect, Takara Tomy have added blue paint to Tigertrack’s feet in recognition of the G1 foot stickers that came with the Diaclone, Transformers and reissue Sideswipe toys. The first difference between the MP foot paint and the vintage sticker is that the blue triangle is below the three circles here, where the original stickers had the circles below the triangle originally, but since the circles are actually moulded into the MP Countach feet this would have been impossible to replicate perfectly. The other difference is that the vintage stickers had a blue triangle with a red arrow beneath it, the MP just has a blue arrow underneath the blue triangle. I prefer the lack of red on the feet, and it’s just one more example of extra effort that nobody asked for, but should be appreciated.
While last week’s part 1 was all about facts, history and undeniable significance, the actual execution of Masterpiece Tigertrack that we have examined this week will always be subject to opinion and preference. Some are very strict about how they perceive the purpose and ethos of the new Masterpiece Transformers line by Takara Tomy, and so find no place available for a character such as Tigertrack in their display, regardless of history or original Takara/Hasbro intention. If he wasn’t in the cartoon or comic, he doesn’t deserve to be a Masterpiece – that’ll be a common thing you’ll hear. That or “Why not Sunstreaker?”.
While I completely understand that people will not want to fork out for a third Countach Masterpiece as a character they don’t know or recognise, I will continue to argue the fact that Tigertrack deserves a Masterpiece figure. The 30th anniversary of Diaclone came and went without a peep, and those toys came before the stories, before The Transformers. I love the fact that Masterpiece pays tribute to how most of us experienced Transformers originally, through the cartoon, and messing with people’s nostalgia is a dangerous business. However, Transformers are more than just stories and characters, they are toys – toys that captured our imaginations and bought our devotion for life. Masterpiece pays tribute to those toys through Hasbro releases occasionally, so why not devote a flagship release to the original Diaclone toys as Takara Tomy have done with MP-12T Tigertrack?
So much more than just a ‘Yellow Sideswipe’, Tigertrack is very much its own entity. When you take into account all of the history and facts behind the ‘Yellow Sideswipe’ – Diaclone heritage, a one-time yellow TF Sideswipe being mooted, potential tech spec mix-ups and related character and packaging errors in Europe, MP-12T serves as a tribute and monument to this particular toy’s place in the grand scheme of things – and as a tribute to all of those things it is a roaring success. This is the beautifully crafted Masterpiece Diaclone dedication to the yellow Countach that could very easily have come to be known as the toy we now love as “Sideswipe” – or even “Sunstreaker”.
So what would that have made this guy?
Well, he would simply have been a Red Tigertrack.
All the best