Hot Rod is a popular Transformers character and was one of the first to get a Classics deluxe version in 2006. Since then he's been a Titanium, Universe 2 Legends and a larger Combiner Wars Legends as well as appearing in two Platinum sets Rise of Rodimus, which used the Titanium version, and Clash on the Planet of Junk, which used a slightly updated version of the now 10 year old Classics mold. Even given two reuses this year he's probably due a new deluxe version and so he gets one in Titans Return.
None of the Movie Autobots had the Headmaster gimmick which has been redone in Titans Return but Hot Rod, Blurr & Kup were all redone as Targetmasters and there's already been a Titans Return Blurr which turns his Targetmaster Haywire into Titanmaster Hyperdrive. Hot Rod follows the same pattern by turning Targetmaster Firebolt into Titanmaster Firedrive. This results in an all grey Titanmaster that while evocative of Firebolt isn't what you'd expect from Hot Rod's Titanmaster which really should be a mini Hot Rod with something like a yellow or orange chest and red arms, legs & head for a red Hot Rod, and not everyone agrees Hot Rod should be red. That would result in an all red head for the deluxe, which would look decent. What we get is the traditional Hot Rod face and helmet surround with a big grey blocky lump behind it.
I've found attaching the head to the body to be more traumatic than most Titans Returns toys. I've gone for leaning the front of the top forwards slightly and rocking the Titanmaster's head into the socket. Once attached to the deluxe body it makes a large toy which is about an inch taller than Classics Hot Rod and somewhat bigger all round. Nowhere is this more noticeable than the hands: The Classics version has very small hands, so much so the peg holes were moulded to a size smaller than the standard 5mm whereas the Titans Return version is now the standard size. He comes with a pair of rifles to hold which are virtually a mirror image of each other and, with their long barrels, reminiscent of the gun the character wielded as Rodimus Prime. Said guns attach to form a dual barrelled weapon but sadly, unlike Twinferno, there isn't a 5mm peg on the underside, the handle's just stick out to the sides. This means that, until someone on Shapeways provides an adaptor, Arms Micron B2 will be continuing to serve as my stand in for Firebolt in double barrelled gun mode. Additional 5mm holes can be found on the side of each shoulder to mount the guns on.
Unfortunately the thing that really stands out for me in this mode is a huge grey stripe down the sides of his body, which really stands out and looks wrong. It's another piece that could have done with being moulded in red plastic to match the rest of Hot Rod's body and would have helped bring the toy together instead of making his body look like a sandwich with grey filling between two slices of red bread. The chest looks rather odd too with a section at the bottom cut away to reveal a six pack like stomach panel. It's not his engine, that's higher up the chest as per usual. Most odd. Fortunately this one's curable: fold his chest, formed as usual from the car's bonnet, up at the top of the body and fold the missing portion out before folding the chest back into place. The Chest won't quite be flush with the grey part now but the chest will look better from the front. The chest panel detail hints at an unlikely retool, as do the very un-Hot Rod grey kneecaps, but some blame has to be attached to the design of the chest/car nose for not being able to fold flat. Maybe a different cut out section, involving just the underside of the car nose, would have worked better. The grey plastic is also used for leg front detail and feet, which works OK, and for the exhaust pipe guns on his arm, but even there they look a little plasticy and could do with being painted or, better yet, chromed. The lower legs look a bit too thin and look odd without wheels and pipes on the side. You can achieve that by folding the rear of the legs out to the side but that then leaves you with the lower leg interior exposed, the kind of thing many Transformers fans have moaned about in recent years.
Articulation: The hinged ankles are immobilised by the configuration on the instructions sheets and you'll need to fold the rear of the lower legs round to the sides to use the pinned joint there for posing the figure. Knees bend and thighs swivel. The hips are far FAR too loose and it appears it's a problem on all examples of the toy. Time to breakout whichever is your favourite method for tightening loose ball joints. The waist turns as does the head, thanks to the Titanmaster's ball jointed neck. The shoulders move up and down at the body as part of the Transformation and are ball jointed at the arms. There's a low bicep swivel, just above the elbow, and the elbow bends.
Apart from that it's a decent looking Hot Rod. Most of what's wrong with the robot that can be fixed by making the grey red on the as yet unrevealed TakaraTomy Legends version thought the chest could still do with being filled in at the bottom and maybe having a slightly wider border at the toy.
Transformation: remove guns and Titanmaster. Fold the chest up, as you do on most Hot Rod's, and fold the front bumper out from under the chest. Rotate the waist 180° before things start getting in the way. Straighten the arms to the sides and fold the hands in. They don't quite fold all the way, the first knuckle will be sticking out. Move the arms up & in by folding up at the body shoulder joint and down at the arm shoulder joint, tabbing the shoulders onto the bonnet. Place so the robot's front faces downwards and the car bonnet top and leg fronts face up. Fold the rear of the legs out to the sides then tab the legs together. Fold the feet in. Fold the lower legs back & up 180° at the knee so they cover the upper legs. Tabs on the sides go inside the wrists. The pipes on the arms fit into the pipes on the legs. Bend the spoiler section back 90°, then rotate it 180° before bending back a further 90° degrees making sure the slots on the two spoiler supports fix onto the tabs on the rear of the car.
I can't really fault the design of the car mode, it looks really good. My only nitpicks involve small parts of the colours used: the grey exhaust pipes look a little plasticy still and in addition the spoiler's yellow looks a little odd. Close inspection reveals that the yellow paint, which is actually two layers as his leaked colour chart reveals, is over a piece moulded in the same blue plastic as the car's canopy window. Most of the time it looks OK but under certain bright light it looks a little odd. Personally I'd prefer it moulded in yellow plastic by itself but I can understand how tool economics affects a toy. A similar problem afflicted Classics Rodimus who had his spoiler moulded on the same sprue as the upper legs. And yeah, the grey and orange on the canopy hinge stick out amongst the red looking out of place and both would be better as a matching red.
There is one feature of the car mode that's really worthy of praise. After having had clear windows on the original and classics versions we finally have a Hot Rod whose driving compartment can be opened for you to put a figure in, something that I've always wanted since seeing Daniel ride in Hot Rod in Transformers The Movie. Unfortunately the compartment interior is moulded in the grey plastic that annoyed me so much in robot mode. With the window closed over it all looks fine but open the compartment to insert the Titanmaster and it looks dreadful. It doesn't help that the all grey Titanmaster just merges with his surroundings sitting in there!
As we've said the two guns merge together and although they don't have a 5mm handle underneath the weapon there are two tabs which slot into the engine block giving him a dual cannon as if he had Firebolt mounted on him. Firedrive or another Titanmaster can sit in this cannon. Alternately the shoulder holes are now on the side of the car so you can mount the dual cannon one side of the car or a gun on each side.
In addition to the cockpit and the dual cannon there are also two widely spaced Titanmaster footpegs on the rear of the car which allow a further two Titansmasters to stand on Hot Rod.
So. Slightly iffy robot due to some paint and moulding choices with really wonky hips. A combined gun he can't hold flat horizontally. But the main problem is that there's just too much grey on this toy, probably as a result of the Titanmaster going for an authentic Firebolt look. Now if they'd have gone for something more Hot Rod like, all red with maybe an orange chest, that would have lost the dreadful grey in the body and car cockpit. Wheels would still need painting, as would feet and exhaust pipes. I await the Takara version with some interest....
In a change to the standard configuration used through Combiner Wars and into the first two waves of Titans Return Hot Rod is packed at 3 per case in Titans Return Deluxe Wave 3 with 2 each of Twinferno & Triggerhappy and a single Breakaway/Getaway filling out the wave.