[Note: For the purposes of this post, we will be completely ignoring IDW's 2007 assertion that Beast Wars Ironhide is, in fact, G1 Ironhide.]
Ironhide falls among a very, very select few: Transformers that I loved the character of in spite of their G1 toys. I’ve always been about the toys first and a bad toy could make me hate a good character, likewise a good toy can make me like an otherwise bad character.
The original cartoon perpetrated its fair share of hoaxes. Chief amongst these was the appearance of an ornery old ‘bot named Ironhide.
As a kid I was instantly drawn to his cowboy attitude as well as his cowboy accent. Having travelled all over the world and ended up in England at the time Transformers came on the scene, I was absolutely delighted to hear a giant, tailpipe-kicking robot that talked just like my family. When he said his own name, it wasn’t “Ironhide”, it was “Ahrn-haaahd” through his southern drawl, sounding just like pretty much everyone from my home state of Texas. Technically this doesn’t make sense. Why would a robot take on the very specific accent of a very specific part of the world? Transformers never really attempted to answer this, leaving it up to interpretation. My own personal take, echoed in some of the later fiction, is that this is a race built on the concept of adaptation. Ironhide took on an accent to match his attitude for the same reason he traded in his Cybertronian vehicle mode for an earth-based one. His accent went a long way towards humanizing him for me, making him a more sympathetic character. And boy was he a character. He certainly tried to live up to his name, if there was a battle, he was in the thick of it. He definitely had his share of spills, getting blown out of the sky in the first episode by Skywarp for example (silly Autobot, flying is for Decepticons.)
Imagine my surprise when I got my first look at the toy of this rough and tumble Texan of a ‘bot.
It would be literally decades later that I found out that his toy actually was supposed to have a head. Go ahead, take a closer look at the chairface behind the windshield. Yeah. Chairface.
The comic book even – very briefly – included Ironhide’s toy model, with a weapon “he playfully calls his ‘water gun’.”
I eventually managed to move past my surprise and sadness at his complete dis-similarity to the robot I loved. Perhaps out of a misremembered nostalgia, I picked up both G1 Ironhide and his mold-mate G1 Ratchet when their 2007 Japanese Encore series releases were heavily discounted. I do not regret it. As much as he may not represent the cowboy of my childhood, the toy still works as a display piece, mounted atop his battle platform and ready to rumble, for those that simply must display everyone in robot mode.
People continually attempt to “improve” upon his G1 toy by adding heads. The official Encore release even had a cardboard cutout of their cartoon model heads included on the flap of their packaging, to be inserted after transforming. The end result is a little… odd, to put it nicely. Unfortunately, the lesson no one seems to learn is that nothing can really be done to make this toy’s robot mode look like the cartoon. However, if there’s anything they got perfectly correct, it’s the alt-mode.
Despite the robot mode’s flaws, G1 Ironhide’s toy transforms into a pretty convincing Nissan Vanette.
The reverse can be said for the 2008 Classics update for Ironhide. With a very ‘Ironhide’ robot mode, Classics Ironhide gives the cowboy his head back and a bulky body to match his attitude. To mimic his G1 cartoon counterpart’s habit of sprouting weaponry and other useful things from his wrists, he has a two-sided weapon that can be attached to his arm.
Along with being double-sided, it can be attached to either arm. A nice little touch is that during transformation, a plate with mechanical details and an autobot symbols slides up into his chest cavity.
Unfortunately, as great of an update to his robot mode, his alt-mode just isn’t Ironhide enough.
A G1 toy with a great alt-mode and a severely lackluster robot mode, a Classics toy with a well-articulated robot mode and a misguided badly fitting collection of panels for an alt-mode.
Of course, the cure for that is simply displaying Classics in robot mode, and G1 in alt-mode and all is well on the Transformers shelves.
In the Botcon 2005 “Descent into Evil” set I recently received I have found the update to Ironhide that I was looking for. The bonus here, for me at least, being that even though he is a remold of a previous toy with a new head, I don’t actually own this mold yet. There is a lot of the Transformers: Energon line that I didn’t buy, mostly due to disinterest brought on by the poor quality of the cartoon. Two of these molds just happen to be used for Botcon 2005′s Ironhide and his set-mate “Fallback” (who has now been added to my previous post on Outback.)
Ironhide here has all the pieces I felt Classics Ironhide was missing. To begin with, he has an actual van for an alt-mode.
Being a remold of an Energon toy, he comes with a translucent weapon that can be attached to his van mode to form a radar array.
Also like his G1 toy, his alt-mode is actually made up of his robot mode and a battle platform combined. His weapon can also be attached to his battle platform.
Speaking of robot modes, this time, he looks much more like a halfway point between his G1 Cartoon model and his G1 toy.
The gimmick for the Energon line was combination. Every Deluxe sized toy could form either the top half or the bottom half of a combined mode. However, this mold was one-of-a-kind in the fact that the robot mode could form only the top half of a combination while the battle platform could form the bottom half. Due to this, Ironhide has the peculiar ability to combine with his battle platform.
Setting aside this added little oddity, Botcon Ironhide has knocked Classics Ironhide out of his place next to G1 Ironhide on the shelves.