THE VINTAGE VIEW #6: Generation 1 Sixshot (part 1)

After the giddy highs we’ve been through whilst focusing on that rather wonderful set of vintage G1 Dinobots, it was always going to take something a little special for a suitable follow up. Well, rest assured I think I’ve found it in the form of the “one-robot army” that is Sixshot! This is by no means a rare or little-known toy, but it is a relatively new one on me after I only picked it up for the first time a few years ago. Oh and hey, it’s an absolute gem too.

Sixshot of course has the infamy of being a “sixchanger”, in that he was the very first Transformers toy capable of going beyond just two or three distinct modes. Much was made of how challenging this aspect of the toy’s design was on its release in 1987, with the advertising at the time all attempting to hype him up as the ultimate test for Transformers fans, and even the instructions featuring a sticker seal which dared you to try and figure out all of the various conversions without their help.

Sadly, I never got to take up that particular challenge in my youth as although Sixshot doubtless would have been an object of desire, the toy never saw release in the UK (along with numerous other characters, for shame). I was certainly aware of his presence mind you, as although he never even so much as appeared in my beloved G1 Marvel comic, he more than made enough of an impression during his one-and-done moment in the equivalent Sunbow cartoon. He crops up in the first part of the notorious finale episode, The Rebirth, where he makes quick work of the Aerialbots by cycling through all six of his modes before uttering his one line of dialogue. It’s an epic moment and one that definitely sticks in the memory, even if he is only on screen for a mere 27 seconds in total! Of course he featured a lot more prominently in the Japanese series, The Headmasters, but that wasn’t something I would discover until much later.

So it was with great delight that I finally picked up a copy of this beautiful brute as one of the first milestones upon my return to Generation 1 collecting, and I’ve been enamoured with him ever since. He’s just a truly magnificent thing, holding up surprisingly well in *just about* every mode despite how bloated and ridiculous the inherent gimmick has the potential to become. Of the options available, I opted for the 2002 Takara reissue, back from a time before the likes of the Encore line when the company put out a couple of re-released Generation 1 toys in packaging that looked almost identical to that of the original versions at a cursory glance (also including the likes of Rodimus Prime and Hot Rod).

For me, this reissue was an absolute no-brainer over the vintage original, which can fetch inordinately prices on the aftermarket for a copy in mint condition, although sadly is all-too-often discoloured or featuring worn stickers. By comparison the 2002 reissue can still be found MISB for a comparative song, and makes for a simply amazing experience. The box might have Japanese logos on it, but It genuinely is like opening a Transformers toys in the 1980s all over again. Wonderful.

It’s worth mentioning quickly that this hasn’t been the only reissue, mind. There was a subsequent version put out by Takara in 2012 which came in an all-new leather-embossed book-style box and had several significant changes to the toy itself, not least that the decals had now been pre-applied as tampos. The paint job received what I’m sure many might regard as an upgrade too, with metallic paint on areas such as the tank treads and eyes, a chromed chest plate and silver chromed weapons (instead of the normal off-white plastic). This release can be found extremely cheaply (on account of having hugely shelf-warmed at the time) but ultimately I decided I’d rather stick closer to the original for my own collection.

So let’s kick things off by going through those modes, shall we? Although it might seem like you’re spoilt for choice with where to start, Sixshot does feature a fairly logical transformation order in terms of moving from one form to the next, and given he comes packaged as a jet that seems like the optimum place to begin. It may not be the most aerodynamic flight form I’ve ever seen, but I still think this looks pretty swish!

Transformers has a long history of Decepticon characters turning into jets, so it feels entirely right that Sixshot would opt to have at least one of his forms taking up that banner. It’s a chunky thing with long, protruding grey wings which can accommodate his twins blasters on the top of the tips, in a strange move. The front end of it looks a bit more like a boat to me and it’s perhaps hard not to notice the fairly obvious pair of robot arms dangling out the back, but overall I think this form works well enough.

Like all of the configurations on offer, the jet has at least a couple of details that are there purely for its benefit, with the cockpit and the rear fins helping to sell the look tremendously. There’s also a couple of small wheels, found on the bottom of the chromed part of the wings and on the underside of what will become the legs, in order to effectively work as landing gear. It may be kind of silly, but there’s been some noticeable thought gone in.

Line him up next to any of the large number of other Decepticon jets on offer and you’ll see he’s a little more conceptual than most, but given there’re at least five more modes to be wrung out of this thing, I think it stacks up quite well. Oh, and it’s the first comparison we’ll make where you’ll no doubt notice that Sixshot is MASSIVE next to most of his comrades.

Next up is car mode, which is a bit more of a stretch to my eye. He essentially flips over to reveal a large windshield section made out of some very shiny stickers, before the arms and wings both flip inward to tidy things up a bit, with the guns being mounted on top. Perhaps my biggest eyebrow-raise in the general direction of this mode is the way the jet’s nosecone splits open to become a… no, I don’t think you can legitimately describe it as a car bumper so much as a hollow front end. It’s a weird one as it looks distinctly unfinished and feels like the one genuine compromise out of everything else going on with this toy in all its various modes.

Still, it’s by no means a dealbreaker and there’s enough charm to be had even in spite of such oddities. I particularly like the chromed wheels (even if I always worry about them, despite mine having yet to scuff or scratch at all), which, coupled with the windshield decals catch the light really nicely at just the right angle. What is weird is that both the Hasbro and Takara instructions feature a huge mistake at this point, in that they miss telling you to rotate the arm sections forward at the shoulder, thus leaving the arms sticking out a lot further at the back of the car (as shown in the photo above) as opposed to being more compact at the sides, as you’d expect. It definitely looks better in the correct configuration.

I think overall this is probably my least favourite of all Sixshot’s offerings, although it still manages to provide a bit of amusement and indeed looks terrific when stacked next to other Decepticon vehicles of a similar style.

Now we come to Sixshot’s rather memorable winged wolf form, which in many ways has the most distinct presence outside of the robot mode but also requires the a bit more transformation to get to than most. The rear legs are formed of the front half of the car folding back on itself, whilst the robot arms flip up at the shoulders and rotate round in several spots to become the front legs and the wolf’s head emerges from what will become the robot’s back. It’s probably at this point that you suddenly notice that there are little moulded wolf toes in the robot arms, in a cute touch.

All-in-all this beast form is as silly as it looks and deserves just about every bit of mockery you can sling at it, but that doesn’t stop it being both a load of fun and still somehow inherently awesome all the same. The proportions work fairly well and despite the obvious lack of elements such as a tail, it’s clear what this is meant to be aiming for.

I’m a big fan of that wolf head too. It’s sporting some killer red eyes and has a truly adorable pair of little ears. You can sort of open the mouth, as his chin flips out to reveal the tank mode’s cockpit section, in a clever twist. I have no idea if this was intended or just a happy accident but it just about works either way.

Once again it’s hard not to notice how humongous Sixshot is overall in this form, especially when you place him next to toys like Wingspan and Pounce. It’s also interesting to me to note how almost uniform so many of the Decepticon colour schemes are from this era of toys. Teal, purple and hot pink FTW.

But wait, there’s a twist in store! As if having six distinct modes wasn’t already enough on a toy like this, the Headmasters cartoon only went and invented another one! Yep, the show very briefly featured a quasi-mid-transformation effort that appeared to be a mix of his tank and jet modes with the wolf’s head in prominent position. It’s become known as “wingwolf” online, and as it turns out the toy can make a pretty decent stab at it too!

OK, this one really is utterly absurd in every way, but still you have to chuckle in acknowledgement. Wolf head, tank treads, wings, guns. It’s a look, alright. Does this count as seven modes? I’ll let you decide.

Getting back onto the official track we now come to tank mode, which by my estimation is a definite highlight. It looks completely separate form the wolf mode despite being in the same overall orientation, and requires little more than flipping the rear legs over, moving the robot arms and wings out of the way and popping the wolf’s head back in place.

Again this form has a number of particular features that exist purely to enhance its look – perhaps more than any other. The most obvious example is the set of tank treads, which look decent despite only being bare moulded plastic. There’s also an additional set of guns which fold out from the bottom of the robot mode legs to accompany the main set of blasters and bolster the tank’s firepower. Then there’s the flip-out cockpit section which is almost superfluous but still entirely appreciated. Oh, and as a final thought this is the one mode where we get a good look at those triangular stickers on the green sections atop the robot mode shoulders (assuming you orientate them the “correct” way in robot mode, of course!).

All-in, the tank mode is a real delight and looks suitably imposing. I really like that you can position the robot legs a little in order to manoeuvre the cannons up and down, and even the wings manage to look quite tidy here in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps my only minor grumble is that the tank treads are positioned quite high off the ground, with this mode instead rolling along on a number of small wheels instead. It doesn’t take away too much from the overall look but it is a little jarring once you spot it.

Overall though there’s very little to quibble, and the tank mode stands out to me as one of the most solid and cohesive options on offer. It may be unusual in its way, but there’s something almost functional about the way its built, meaning that you can just about imagine this being a legitimate Cybertronian-style battle mode.

Which brings us to another rather unexpected highlight on this toy – the gun mode. Like jets, Decepticons have a long history of transforming into guns, so again it feels entirely appropriate that Sixshot should adopt this form as well. I’ll be honest though and say that I thoroughly expected it to be a complete afterthought in the design, imagining it to be a hodgepodge of different bits all questionably positioned to try and look vaguely like something purposeful. Whilst there’s still a sting of truth in that, I also have to marvel at how well the overall result comes together! It’s a fairly neat and tidy form and looks quite convincing given a dollop of imagination. It’s good fun in hand, too!

I have to admit that if I had ever managed to procure a copy of Sixshot during my youth, I would no doubt have gone nuts for this mode. Everything about it that I thought would be dubious just works way better than it has any business to. Even the wings being used as a handle is something that I never thought would be so plausible, and I really love that there is even a little flip-down trigger button. It’s a little touch but one that really sells the gun mode nicely as a thing of play value.

Interestingly there is another possible set-up for the twin blasters in this form, as the insides of the robot mode legs have a pair of peg holes to accommodate them in what you would think is a much more logical position. Still, the side holes also used for the tank mode are what the instructions require (and indeed it’s more animation-accurate), but really I think it’s up to you to choose which you think looks best.

Right then, five (or arguably six) modes down, and we’ve not even reached the main event yet. How much joy can there be in just one toy? Join us next time when we’ll be checking out that rather spiffing robot form.

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers photographer & blogger from the UK with quite a well-known carpet. Collects both vintage G1/G2 and Masterpiece/3P.

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