A Classification System for Transformers Part 5: Alt mode shell redistribution

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Above: Sunstreaker (C0), Optimus Prime (B0) and Sideswipe (A0); Roof-chest, windshield chest and hood-chest, respectively

Although I have worked on a means of describing transformation schemes as a compact code of letters and figures (see my original system) I now plan to take a break with this work because of time constrains, as well as for some doubts as for what the use would be for such a coding system) and instead focus on lighter pieces for a while. Further, I find it hard to rank which would be the next trait to use as basis for further classification. After some discussions with fellow forum member Geokaiser, who added a layer of symmetry studies to my system, I came up with the following idea for “ranking order of traits”:

1. How do the robot as a whole reorientate itself visa vi its environment during transformation? (The types, se part 1)

2. How do the segments of the robot change their orientation towards each other along the superior-inferior axis? (I.e. do the robot rotate its waist and/or head during transformation?)

3. How do the appendages on the respective segments relocate themselves? (Arms, legs, chest plates, etc)

As for step 2 it is however hard to determine which should come first in ranking order; head or waist rotation? While waist rotation certainly rearranges the bilateral symmetry of a given robot more in a quantitative sense, it is, in a qualitative sense, the exact thing as head rotation, so which one should take precedence in a classification scheme?

While I will leave this issue for now, I however wish to share some thoughts and vocabulary regarding alt mode shell redistribution I have come up with during my study of Transformers anatomy, some of which I find useful for distinguishing between different body types and transformation patterns. If any of these resonate with you, please adopt them!

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Above: Trailbreaker and Air Raid, everything black on these (except for wheels) are their alt mode shells

First, what do I mean by “alt-mode shell”? If we look at car-formers, possibly the quintessential, archetypical type of Transformer, it is basically the body of the car, windows included. I you think about it, the underside of for example Prowl in alt-mode might not look like an ordinary car, but this is also not necessary for his disguise as a police car, either. As is, the alt-mode forms a disguising (and protective) shell around the transformer, much like on a beetle or turtle. And often what makes Transformers look different from each other is how this shell breaks up and redistribute itself on the robot mode of the Transformer, in particular what part of the shell ends up on the robot´s chest.

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Above: Sunstreaker and Wheeljack, “roof chests”.

As for C0-type car-formers, it is basically always the same thing. The rear end of the vehicle folds back, forming a sort of backpack, to reveal the head, typical examples are Sunstreaker and Tracks. Two prominent exceptions are Bumblebee and Wheeljack. In the case of Bumblebee, the head is revealed through the simple opening of a hatch. This however seems more likely to be a result of his toy´s alt-modes inherently deformed proportions, effectively rendering it without a back section. Looking at Bumblebee in the cartoon and his masterpiece toy, there is however indeed a backpack. As for Wheeljack, the head is revealed through the splitting of the rear of the car into his arms. Looking at a character like the targetmaster Sureshot we have a bit of both; arms split off from the car rear, but his head is revealed by the part holding the spoiler, folding back. What we DON`T have for C0-type transformers is kibble folding forward, i.e. their chests are typically constituted of the car roof. Hence, I refer to these as “roof chests”.

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Above: Optimus Prime and Trailbreaker, “windshield chests”

For B-type transformers, with many of them being cab-over engine trucks, the head is often revealed through a hatch in the car roof. Since their chest is generally constituted by the windshields of their cars, I like to refer to these bots as “windshield chests”. Optimus Prime and Inferno are typical examples of this subtype. Further, regardless of how we might like to type them, Hoist and Trailbreaker also belong here, as do the A0 types Ironhide and Ratchet.

It´s however for the A-types it gets really interesting, as we here have three common types of head reveal, all involving the car hood moving in some direction.

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Above: Prowl and Jazz, “grill chests”

The first type have their car hood folding forwards 90 degrees, examples are Prowl, Jazz and Skids. I like to refer to these as “grill chests” as their chests sport the whole front of their alt mode, including the grill. This is an iconic look, for sure, for me it is almost the quintessential car-former look.

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Above: Sideswipe and Mirage, “hood chests”

The next type have their hood folding down 180 degrees resulting in a chest plate which is effectively constituted by the hood of the car, thus I refer to them as “hood-chests”. Examples of this type are Sideswipe and Mirage.

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Above: Dead End and Breakdown; alt-backs with naked chests

The third type of head reveal for A-type bots is those having the car hood folding backwards over the back of the robot. Since the car, or anything else from the alt mode casing ends up on the chest of these bots I refer to them as “nakeds”. Typical examples of “naked” bots are the Stunticons Dead End, Breakdown and Wildrider. As for C2 bots, we have examples such as the Headmaster Siren. Bots falling into “naked chests” can also be referred to as “alt-backs”, robots whose alt mode shell components never move from back to front across the frontal plane of the robot during transformation,  i.e., they carry basically all of their alt mode shell on their backs in robot mode. Think about it, if you make an intersection in the frontal plane of Dead End, then there is really nothing about his front half that suggests what he turns into, other than it having some sort of wheels.

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Above: Gears and Siren, both alt-boots, both naked chests

Alt-backs have a close relative, “alt-boots”, where the boot part of the robot (lower legs, generally heftier than the thighs rather than the other way around as on a naked human) by unfolding at the knees is the only part of the alt mode shell crossing over the frontal plane and thus “expressing” itself on the robot. Examples of alt-boots are Gears and the aforementioned Siren.

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Above: Starscream and Air Raid, both have F-15 jets as alt-modes, but vastly different alt mode shell redistribution.

There is an equivalent to the above among for jet-formers, where “cockpit-chests” such as Starscream and Dreadwind, have the jet cockpit on their chest as opposed to alt-backs like Silverbolt, Air Raid and Skydive, who have “naked” chests.

So, why would the above denominations be significant? Simply put, they condense a long description of a given bot’s transformation pattern giving a condense expression of its general design, which allows for easier comparisons and distinctions against other bots. Let us look at Sideswipe, Sunstreaker and Breakdown as an example

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Above: Three iconic Lambo bots, but which of them are truly more closely related?

All of these three bots have Lamborghini Countachs as alt modes, but their robot modes look strikingly different in how their alt mode armor is distributed on them. For example, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are commonly referred to as “brothers”, but seeing that the former is an A0 type bot and the latter a C0 bot I would say that they are not even remotely related. Sideswipe and Breakdown are more closely related, both being A0 types, they however relocate the car hood differently in robot mode, Sideswipe being a “hood chest” bot and Breakdown a “naked chest” type of bot.

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Above: Digibash of the upcoming Combiner Wars Stunticons as classic Autobots 

As Combiner Wars is upon us, we have gotten yet another faux-chested Optimus Prime, as he is a remold of Motormaster with an inherently different transformation scheme. There have been suggestions that the limb members of Stunticon should follow in this and become remolded/repainted as classic Autobot Car characters. I however would not look forward to such an arrangement, repainting Breakdown, even giving him a new face, won’t turn him into Sideswipe; the latter´s hood chest is too much of an integrated part of his design for this to be a viable option. I however have no problems with back-loaders getting more “integrated” robot modes, as in, the alt mode is integrated in all parts/sides of the robot design. I will discuss this further in the next post… Peace out!

Thanks to Seibertron for the pictures

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