About time we had one of those here again.
It's funny: I have all those Windchargers lying about at home, but I don't think I ever really made a review of either of them. Well, today I got a very nice specimen from Mr. H (thanks, man!) and figured I might as well review this one. Alas, no pictures available, but feel free to head over to Ben Yee's site, and read his review (with pictures) here. My specimen is not quite as worn as the one in his pictures.
Windcharger was part of the very first line-up of Transformers figures from 1984, and fall into the minibot category alongside Bumblebee, Brawn, Huffer, Cliffjumper and Gears. Like his brethren, Windcharger originates from the japanese Microman subline called Microchange, where he was available in Japan in 1983 and named 'Trans Am'. The funny thing about Microchange toys is that they are all 1:1 scale -- i.e. he is a little toy car that turns into a small sentient robot, unlike his human-scaled TF counterpart.
'Trans Am' is part of the 2nd wave of Microchange minibot designs, which is evident by the quality and design of him: The big plastic wheels (as opposed to the rubber ones from the previous three releases of pre-Bumblebee, pre-Cliffjumper and pre-Bumblejumper), the lack of diecast parts (do.), very non-humanoid face designs (do. again) and the lack of resemblance to ChoroQ cars (do. yet again; aka Penny Racers).
The very first wave of TF Windchargers are very close to the Microchange version. The only difference is the change of stickers; 'Trans Am' had no vehicle mode stickers and a square blue/gold chest sticker design. Early Windchargers have no blue/gold chest stickers, but an Autobot symbol on the hood and on the torso. Other than that, the toys are identical, down to copyright stampings and color shade.
For some reason, when Hasbro decided they wanted to add the rub mark to their TF toys in 1985, they also decided to remake Windcharger in a slightly darker color of red. My version here is the early brighter, more orangy-red version, and has the Autobot sticker on the hood rather than the rub mark.
I just love this car. I have a weak spot for sports cars, and also a weak spot for red. So Windcharger is the best combination for me as possible. The vehicle mode is a bit deformed with very big wheels and a very wide wheelbase (and I think the trunk section is modified as well), but other than that has a very close resemblance to the 1982 Pontiac Firebird (Wikipedia pic here).
The black parts of his rear window, the front window and the sunroof is a nice contrast, and the chromed grille is a very nice detail.
A very simple and Micromaster-like transformation sequence later, and you have Windcharger's robot mode. Possibly one of the most modified character designs, the toy really doesn't look like his cartoon and comic appearance at all. I prefer the toy look personally, as he really looks like a robot with the non-humanoid face. The grey of the torso adds a new color to the toy, and the chrome legs really stand out as well as the silver on the mouthplate in adding some diversity in appearance.
All in all, I would give this toy 9 out of 10, especially in his lighter-red pre-rub mark version. It's a cool little car with lots of nice details (like the chromed parts and all), and fun to play with since the transformation is so quickly executed. Takara could have gone more overboard with the design, though, and added rubber tires and some diecast as that would have made him a perfect G1 ambassadeur. But then again, he was supposed to look like a little toy car to begin with (in his pre-TF days), so all in all they did pretty good.
Around the world...
Windcharger is probably one of the most variant prone molds out there. Besides the colorchange from the stickered 1984 release (which is basically identical to the Microchange version) to 1985 rub mark release, there's the even darker red keychain reissue from 2002. Add to that the grey BotCon UK release named 'Rook' and the japanese 7-11 black keychain versions of that keychain, and you've barely touched grounds with variations...
Mexican toymaker IGA made 3 versions -- one in red, one in white and one in yellow (the last 2 because that's what IGA felt Tailgate should look like...); Brazilian toymaker Estrela made 4 different version -- 2 in red and white respectively in 1985, and then 2 in either purple or dark blue in 1987; Antex in Argentina made the yellow and blue ones commonly seen on ebay, and then there are undocumented peruvian releases plus the french Diaclone version, and then who knows what...
It's a very tough hunt, as the "weirder" ones are very rare and far between (you think Lucky Draw toys are rare? Think again...). I have been very fortunate with a few of my Windchargers, but I don't think I will ever get a complete line-up of them all. But I definitely enjoy the challenge of trying to, as I have found a very nice little niche for myself.