This review will cover the Guardian’s strongman, Road Ranger.
Road Ranger (RR to his friends, or just ‘Ranger’) transforms into a suspiciously-familiar-looking blue and red flat-nosed truck. I’m sure that plenty of kids with cheap parents got this fellow instead of Optimus Prime, for whom he was then forced to stand in as. This is a terrible shame because he’s quite a good toy all by himself. I’m going to have a good go at reviewing the toy, then get down to the nitty-gritty of divining a personality and skills. At the end, I’ll put it all together into a G1-style Tech Spec that you can click on to enlarge.
Road Ranger’s got a pretty cool alt mode: An articulated low-loader truck. There’s something about trucks that really speaks to kids from the ‘80s. We were saturated with TV shows and movies that revolved around trucks. Smokey and the Bandit, BJ and Bear, Big Trouble in Little China…. It was all about the offbeat rebel dodging tolls, smokey, bad guys, and still haulin’ that load on time. What I’m trying to say is that it didn’t take much to sell a truck-based toy in the ‘80s. While he came out in Japan about the same time (and actually came out earlier in English-speaking countries than Transformers), I’m sure that his more-than-passing resemblance to Optimus Prime didn’t hurt sales one bit.
The truck body is not bad at all, being mostly die-cast. There are short stacks behind the cab, and moulding to indicate details such as indicators, door handles, headlights, and triple windscreen wipers. The windows are a tinted orange, which actually doesn’t look out of place, and there is some detail inside the cab. The lower half of the truck is blue plastic, with plastic wheels, silver hubcaps, moulded mudguards and fuel tanks. He also comes with a chromed plastic grille.
The trailer is non-detachable, but pivots nicely on the fifth wheel. It has neat little mouldings on it, such as an attachment for the airbrakes, winch housing, and a checker plate surface. It’s largely blue and chrome. I believe the rear half used to have a black-and-silver sticker mimicking the front half, but none that I’ve been able to find retain it.
Because most of the vehicle-styled toys were built in a similar scale (or thereabouts), Road Ranger can happily carry around one of his friends (or enemies) and looks good doing it. My favourite crossover display is to put G1 Cosmos on the back and make it look like he’s hauling him away from the Roswell crash site (given Cosmos’ history of landings in the G1 cartoon, crashing seems to be his preferred mode of coming down anywhere).
When I was a kid and collected Machine Men (which is what we called Gobots in Australia), I could never work out how they could make a truck that turned with an articulation into a robot (I never had this toy as a kid). Fast-forward thirty years and while it’s quite simple, I still think it’s cool.
The arms fold out from under the body of the truck, the rear half of the trailer flips on top of the front, becoming the legs. The body compresses down onto the trailer, locking it into position and simultaneously reveals the head. Simple but very effective.
Robot mode is pretty damn good. I think that Road Ranger is a very unique-looking individual. I’ll start at the top and work my way down.
While he suffers from head-in-a-box syndrome, he’s hardly the only transforming toy to get this, and for him it works. It makes an otherwise fairly dull head sculpt get a nice chrome framing that you don’t see in robot mode anywhere else. His v-shaped visor is terribly ‘80s but is also metallic gold in colour, which is used nowhere else on the toy. It gives him that ‘bald dude with muscles and mirror-shades’ vibe.
His chest and body sculpt is very nice indeed. There’s a defined chest and waist, with some stickers to break up the red as well as some little bits and pieces of sculpting. It highlights his heavy-looking arms. These have the wheels connected to them, and terminate in some pretty impressive fists. I’m sure that when stuff gets real, this guy is more than happy to get in and pound metal, rather than shoot the day away with energy weapons. The fuel tanks cleverly turn into his forearms and give him a nicely proportioned and strong appearance. His shoulders are set back from the chest and complete the humanoid design.
The legs and feet are chrome and blue plastic with some stickers, but that’s not a bad thing. Road Ranger is one of the very few Gobots that actually has his feet stuck together (similar to a great variety of the G1 Transformers minibots). The engineers at Bandai made sure that you never really notice it, though. There is a definite feel of heavy boots (for kicking Renegades?) about his legs, with just enough sculpting about the feet to define them. The blue is broken up by some silver decorative stickers, which the toy needs, and the final result is pretty good.
Movement is limited to the arms at the shoulders, but you don’t tend to expect much from a toy of this age.
Tech Specs and characterisation
Road Ranger is the muscle of the team. His hulking stance and bulging shoulders, along with powerful legs and fists all scream “Brawler”. His good (for Gobots) looks and facial visor indicates that he’s also the ‘cool’ guy. He likes a good time, and he might play a bit loose with the rules once in a while, but he loves two things: Heavy transport, and panelbeating Renegades into new and unusual shapes.
He comes across to me as a nice guy who just throws himself into whatever he wants to do. He’s a bit of a narcissist, but a pretty all-right kind of guy. His enthusiasm for things can be infectious and I’d say that he could also be a bit of a joker.
I think behind the façade lies the mind of an ex-bully, who no longer likes the idea of the weak being picked on, which is why he is one of the most stalwart supporters of Leader-1 and the Guardians. (On the other hand, it DID come as a shock to him that “Leader-1 and the Guardians” wasn’t a doo-wop band from the 1950s). He’s always going to be looking out for those weaker than he is (which is, pretty much, everyone).
So let’s see how he shapes up individually before going to the Tech Specs
This is Road Ranger’s domain. No other Gobot is as strong as he. For sheer brute force and power, he is unparalleled. (10)
While not the stereotypical dumb-as-a-sack-of-hammers strong guy, Road Ranger isn’t going to be hugely endowed with smarts. He’s plenty sophisticated in some ways, but he always got bored at school, unless it was Phys. Ed. He spent most of his formative years thinking of new ways to get out of school and back into the gym, or his college years were spent doing a gobo-football scholarship while he hung out at the bar in the evenings and picked up. (4)
Road Ranger is all about the power, and less about how quickly you get there. He’ll haul loads all day and party at night (after a good training session). Expect him on time, but just don’t expect that time to be soon. (4)
Road Ranger’s physical shtick is reflected in his endurance. He can take incredible amounts of damage before needing to be dragged to Rest-Q for even an oil change (although when he does, he insists on premium oil. He says anything else is bad for his filters). As a brawler, he can take it just as well as he can dish it out. He’s also got the stamina to do a hard day’s physical labour as well as a variety of extra activities. (9)
Rank tends to equal responsibility. While Road Ranger can be pretty responsible with the things he cares about, he doesn’t often give much of a damn about things that he doesn’t. Besides, to his way of thinking, rank equals responsibility. Responsibility equals paperwork. Paperwork means less time having fun. (3)
As a defender of the weak and oppressed, as well as someone who routinely charges into fire armed with his fists, or a metal pipe, or a big rock (but only if it was clean, and didn’t scratch his detailing), Road Ranger has courage in spades. (8)
Guns aren’t something that Road Ranger enjoys. He’d much rather mixing it up hand-to-hand, or ripping a Renegade Thruster apart piece by piece. Still, there are times that one needs to shoot things and you just can’t get round it. I’d say that he shoots superheated oil from his knuckle-blasters, the impact of which can melt through steel. Once inside, it magnetically bonds to nuts and bolts and loosens them off, causing his enemies to fall apart (4).
Road Ranger is a good truck. He likes to drive and can park wherever you want, but he’s not so skilful when it comes to many things. He’s more a ‘punch it until it breaks, then keep punching it until it works again’ kind of guy. (4)