MP-28 Hot Rodimus, AKA Masterpiece Hot Rod, has the distinction of being the first Transformer I ever pre-ordered. That’s no surprise. Being late to the Masterpiece game meant I missed out on MP-09, but as it is that toy’s infamously bad QC meant that owning it never became a priority.
Yet Hot Rod remains a favourite character. So when MP-28 burst on to the scene at the same point in time that I was becoming a ‘serious’ Transformers collector, the decision to pre-order was both immediate and easy
It’s been a couple of years now since Hot Rod turned up in a well-packed box from Kapow Toys, so yes – this review is a little late. But as a central part of my collection the figure was bound to get the limelight sooner or later. And honestly? I couldn’t think of another bot I’d rather have kick off the Masterpiece reviews on the site.
There are two elements you’re likely to focus on when you first see MP-28, and whichever grabs your attention first is likely to inspire your opinion of the figure. Let’s talk the paint job and the proportions.
We’ll cover the oft-criticised proportions first. Yes, Hot Rod could look more streamlined. Compare the figure to the animation model and it’s clear that the chest of the Masterpiece is too blocky, in turn giving the figure broad shoulders and a skinny waist. These are valid, objective criticisms. If the aesthetic choices taken to create this figure as a real transforming toy are not to your liking, that’s entirely understandable.
But. This is an instance where I’m one of “those” guys. Because of familiarity with the design, because of how the figure feels in-hand and because I just don’t think it looks bad, MP-28‘s design has grown on me. Slimline waist aside, Masterpiece Hot Rod looks more than enough like the character we all know so well – and that’s what I bought this toy for.
And so on to the other striking element: the paint job. Masterpiece Hot Rod glows with colour, the saturated orange and maroon bodywork standing out by a mile in a display. Between the cartoons, the comics and the toys there’s always been some confusion over exactly what colour Hot Rod should be. With MP-28 it feels like TakaraTomy got the palette just right. The yellow fire crest on Hot Rod’s chest is clean, the chrome piping shines and the face sculpt, itself is a fantastic expression of the character, is capped with two bright blue eyes.
There are a couple of unfortunate plastic choices that show through in certain poses – I’m talking specifically about the red ankle and neck joints – but these are nitpicks rather than critical flaws.
Even after a couple of years I remain impressed with how Hot Rod’s alt-mode folds up so tightly. The figure has a backpack but it’s clever, compact, and nowhere near as big as it could have been. The yellow wings don’t sit as high as the animation model, but that’s the reality of re-creating the model in three dimensions. As these pictures attest the wings are still very much present.
Articulation is very good. The ball jointed neck and decent clearance allows a full range of motion. The shoulders have a great range, albeit at times abetted by unpegging and flipping the transformation hinge outward. The elbows bend over 90 degrees, the wrists twist and the hands grip with sufficient force. A waist hinge used for transformation doubles as a forward ab-crunch. There’s good range at the hips and knees, while the feet are solid and large enough to accommodate most poses.
A big selling point of Masterpiece Hot Rod is the range of accessories. The two guns are G1 in style and look superb in hand, well sculpted and gorgeous in matte grey. Hot Rod looks good either double wielding or with a single rifle in a two handed grip. It’s a classic look that works better than ever.
Yet it’s when the war weapons are out of the way the pack-ins get really fun…
The spinning blade is a chunky, articulated piece that may be a tad big but looks fantastic in-hand. And if you’re thinking it looks perfect for slicing pizza, then I’m right there with you. I’ve not yet dared to use it on a four-cheese Pizza Margherita but I wouldn’t want to bet on the result either way…
Hot Rod’s final extra is up there as one of the most fun items ever included with a Masterpiece Transformer: a fishing rod. These kind of character-driven accessories really hit the spot for me, whether we’re talking about fishing rods, Sunstreaker’s alien mask or Beast Wars Megatron’s rubber ducky. Call me simple-minded but these kind of details make me very happy.
Of course you may have noticed that we’re missing one accessory in particular – the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Hot Rod’s chest opens to reveal a Matrix cavity, but the MacGuffin is conspicuously absent from the box. Turns out the only way Masterpiece Hot Rod can get that bad boy is by getting an MP-10 killed.
Yep. I went there.
It’s more a feature than an accessory, but this is the right time to mention Hot Rod’s flip-down visor. I can’t figure out if it’s very cool or a little bit goofy. All I do know is that sometimes I love it and I’m very glad it’s there.
Transformation is satisfying and repeatable, making this one of my favourite Masterpieces to convert. It takes a bit of tabbing to get the car right, but when complete you’ve got a real looker on your hands.
As a 1980’s car of the future Hot Rod has a sleek and sexy design by default, and MP-28 pulls it off. The piercing front bumper, raised dome and iconic chrome exhausts all contribute to an alt-mode that nails Hot Rod’s character. The canopy reflects light beautifully, the clear translucent headlights are very well done. The exposed engine looks fantastic. The rear of the car clips together and squares off well. To look at Hot Rod from any top down view is impressive.
Then you’ve got attack mode. Hot Rod can attack with a single rifle in the engine block or with both pegged into the roof. Is it goofy? Yes. Is it a fun feature on a fun toy? Yes and yes again.
Unfortunately, the vehicle mode also exposes Hot Rod’s biggest flaw. With no clearance for the wheels it’s impossible to roll the car; the underside sits on the robot mode’s collar. This is the biggest disappointment of the toy, especially when you consider the compromises taken to merge both modes together.
Hot Rod’s vehicle mode also pushes another issue to the fore, and that’s the chrome wear. It’s not terrible (yet), but it’s not as shiny as it was back in 2016 either. So, top tip to anyone considering buying this figure brand new today – don’t wait two years to complete your photo review.
This year TakaraTomy released a re-deco of MP-28 with a darker paint job, reflecting Hot Rod as he appeared in the AKOM-produced Headmasters episodes. It’s actually a colour scheme I prefer, but that’s not the biggest point of contention. In lieu of the spinning blade and fishing rod, the MP-40 release comes packed with Hot Rod’s Targetmaster Firebolt.
Dammit, Takara. I haven’t even got single versions of all the Masterpiece figures I want yet. Why do you have to go and make the idea of double-dipping on this figure so tantalising? Yet as I fall further down the rabbit hole the idea of picking up a second version becomes more realistic, and that’s almost entirely due to the strength of the mould.
Hot Rod isn’t the greatest Masterpiece ever. But for character, simplicity and style (if you can learn to love the design choices), it’s definitely up there.
Just the less said about that Targetmaster the better.