Transformers have always had imitators, even from the earliest days. It should come as no surprise, then, that the success of the Alternators inspired a whole line of knock-offs. Chinese company Happy Well, which has a long tradition of creating pseudo-TFs, followed Hasbro and Takara's lead by licensing real vehicles to create their own line - the Roadbots.
The Roadbots don't have any names or biographies, so you can make of them whatever you want.
Since names make things much easier to talk about, and constantly calling this guy "Road-Bot: Lamborghini Murcielago (1:32 with lights)" is unwieldy, we'll refer to him as "Sparkplug." Hardcore Transfans will get the reference; everyone else can just assume it's a random "Transformy" word and leave it at that. Now here's a fake bio for him:
Sparkplug is the Roadbots' little brother. He's small, eager and at times can be a bit of a smart-mouth. Yet for all his wisecracks, he obviously idolizes the bigger robots. He is useful as a messenger and a spy; he can go where other vehicles would not dare because he does not look threatening. And his relatively small size occasionally enables him to use routes not available to the others. More than anything, Sparkplug wants to be accepted, and this sometimes causes him to take chances he shouldn't.
One strength of the Roadbots
is that they generally gave us vehicles that the Alternators didn't - there was some overlap, but not a lot. As hinted above, Sparkplug is a Lamborghini Murcielago, the successor to the Diablo, which was retired in 2001. With a whopping 8 mpg (city) and 13 mpg (highway), the Murcielago has the dubious honor of being the least fuel-efficient vehicle on the road. Yay?
In car form,
Sparkplug is entire indistinguishable from the real thing: it's got the Lamborghini badge on the hood, the painted labels on the sides and trunk, and all the distinctive lines. There are real rubber tires on authentic rims, the doors and trunk open, and the wiper is a molded part of the windshield. The car's interior is accurately designed - as long as you think the inside of a Lamborghini Murcielago looks like a random pile of robot parts jammed together.
The car looks really nice, but the transformation leaves a lot to be desired. Any time a modern transforming robot requires
you to take a bunch of pieces off and then reattach them later, that's cheating. It's robot half-assery, is what it is! Seriously, the first five steps involve taking off the doors, hood, windshield and bumpers. From there it's just a matter of spinning a few things, folding a few others... a simple yet reliable transformation. And once that's done, you put all the kibble back on him.
Well, most of the kibble.
Rather than internalizing all his weapons and accessories, like the Alternators, Sparkplug has a bunch of extras unrelated to the car. There's a vac-metallized shield, two translucent swords that can light up when plugged into the battery-powered block, a mace, and a... bird? Sparkplug comes with a bird. And more than that, the car's front bumper sits on the bird's wings, for some reason. Weird. I mean, come on: this is a Murcielago; shouldn't it be a bat?
Since the robot is basically just wearing a car shell, the articulation is plentiful. Sparkplug's only about 5½" tall, but he has a swivel neck, balljointed shoulders, double elbows, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs and hinged knees - no small amount on a Transformer-style figure! As for the kibble we pulled off earlier, the rear bumper plugs into his chest and the doors hang off his butt; make of that what you will.
Unfortunately, the robot mode is where this toy falls flat. We're used to Transformers: expertly designed robots who (usually) integrate their vehicle kibble into their bodies in really clever ways; 'bots with proportions that make them look less like toys and more like some kind of weird mechanical species. The Roadbots don't have that - at least, not as much as they could. You look at our ersatz Sparkplug, here, and as nicely as he's designed, he still looks like a knock-off.
When the Roadbots were first announced, excitement was high:
the news came during one of the many gaps in the Alternators' shipping schedule that Transfans faced during the life of the line, so the promise of new toys that would fit in and offer different vehicles had real appeal. Sadly, the cars may fit in, but the robots don't quite make it. Of course, it doesn't help that, whether because of legal concerns or some other reason, Happy Well released the Roadbots in three scales (1:12, 1:18 and 1:32), but not in the 1:24 scale used by the Alternators: any Roadbot you buy would either be too big or too small. The Lamborghini Murcielago is part of the 1:32 group, which puts Sparkplug in the same general scale as Leader Class movie Brawl, but mix him with your Alternators or Masterpiece Prime, and he looks like a Mini-Con.
If you find the Roadbots cheap somewhere - a discount department store, or a sale online - then sure, pick one you like and give Happy Well's transforming toys a try. But don't pay a scalper's price, and don't go overboard. With a so-so transformation, a disappointing robot, a pile of kibble to misplace and oddball sizes, the Roadbots don't meet the (admittedly high) expectations of picky Transfans.