Exhaust Masterpiece MP-23 KO, Takasa Tony

Ah, yes. Marlboor Wheeljack finally officially released as a Transformer! This is the first direct Diaclone reference that we have been gifted with in the Masterpiece series, and what a gift it is.  From the racecar-accurate paintjob to the killer head sculpt, it seems like the Takara designers have properly paid homage to pre-Wheeljack’s Diaclone brethren, making him into a Decepticon no less! Everything on this figure just works out so nicely, and it’s such a shame that stores had to cancel their orders when the ball was dropped on the Marlboro trademark infringement issue. Thanks, Phillip Morris. So, I bit the bullet and ordered a KO version, and wow am I impressed. Oh, and I upgraded my photo studio setup, so here’s the first time using the new kit. And I’m pretty happy with the results!

KO-Exhaust-3923
TAKASA TONY???! I love that the KO manufacturers took a humorous spin on bootlegging copyrights. It’s almost like a parody brand.
KO-Exhaust-3918
Inside and out. Note The Immobilizer is included with Exhaust instead of Wheeljack.
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Interesting artwork on the collector card, very different from the other Masterpiece figures. This is most likely because Exhaust didn’t really exist as a character in the Transformers world until this figure was released.
KO-Exhaust-3921
Looking at his tech specs, not bad marks overall. He’s well on his way to middle management. The “10” mark is for Endurance, presumably because he is a race car.
KO-Exhaust-3911
GODDAMN this is a good looking car! No wonder the Lancia Stratos is such a beloved design by car aficionados. It’s a mean looking ride.
KO-Exhaust-3913
The Italian rally car Lancia Stratos Turbo Group 5 (#539) won the WRC in ’74,’75, and ’76. The MARLBORO sponsored Lancia Stratos was its predecessor, before its livery changed to Alitalia.
KO-Exhaust-3914
The rear vents are quite flimsy, with a spring-loaded mechanism. Not sure if that’s a gimmick or a cheap out.
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Whether they pulled the plug on the Marlboro licensing on this toy, it sure looks like a cigarette box. So take that, Phillip Morris.
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This alt mode looks exactly like a model car, with almost no indication that it transforms into a robot. Oddly enough, the side mirrors need to be removed from a sprue, and feel like toy model plastic.
KO-Exhaust-3724
Great looking bot mode. I’d say he might be the coolest looking figure out of all the Masterpiece cars, so far.
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Watch out for my pea shooter! He comes with The Immobilizer too, but I’m not too interested in props.
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The ball sockets and joints allow for some very decently articulated poses.
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The colors are a bit off on the KO version – the red is a little too neon, almost pinkish, and the Decepticon logo’s purple is a bit magenta. But overall, can’t really complain.
KO-Exhaust-3706
Such a cool looking figure. I have no major gripes with this design, even the KO version. But some of the plastic used on the head, fenders, and rear windows feels very flimsy, like that of a toy model. I’m not sure if the authentic release is the same or not. Takara did a great job on the original head sculpt. It looks very similar to the original Diaclone Marlboor Wheeljack head, but with more detail. He looks like Wheeljack’s evil cousin.
KO-Exhaust-3699
One last look at this guy, just chillin’ after a hard day at the track.

As a long-time collector, the issue surrounding buying KO’s has always been a slippery slope, on which I’ve admittedly fallen time and time again. While purchasing a knockoff inevitably hurts the original manufacturer that owns the trademarks, patents and other intellectual property, let alone the hours of manpower and energon energy involved in producing such a complex piece of engineering, every once in a while the bootleggers somehow do such a damn good job in reproducing the original that it almost seems like they are just putting out over-runs stolen from the official factory.  KO Exhaust is one such example of an amazing reproduction that really does make you wonder just who these plastic pirates are. The makers of this KO were AT LEAST decent (or silly) enough to stamp their own fake bootleg copyrights, so it would be easy to identify it as a fake and not the real thing.  In any case, I originally just bought this guy thinking it would be a cheap toy that would break after the first transformation, but it turned out to be almost as good in quality as an official Masterpiece release. So, does that mean that Takara Tomy needs to step up their manufacturing game, or their legal game – or both?

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