The “mini-cars” from Transformers were a perfect price point to buy for birthday gifts when I was a kid. And they were just cool, particularly as Transformers were one of the hottest toys on the market.
All the mini-cars, and non-cars, were Autobots. The two that didn’t seem to fit with the other good guys were Warpath and Powerglide. The Autobots were peace-loving and battled the Decepticons only out of necessity, so having tanks and fighter jets on the same side as the good guys was somehow difficult for my young mind to grasp. But elements of war had always found their way into the Autobots; Hound was an army jeep, after all.
Powerglide was shaped like Cobra’s Rattler, and painted in a colour I could have seen Cobra wearing (i.e. “Cobra pink”). He had a lot of the Rattler trademarks – chin gun, bubble cockpit, big engines, and square tail fins. His airplane mode was also similar to the first iteration of the “Tank Smasher” in the GI Joe comics (issue #22).
Interestingly, with different paint jobs, four of the 1985 mini-cars may have passed for mid-80s GI Joe and Cobra vehicles: Powerglide as the Rattler, Beachcomber as the Awe Striker, Warpath as the Mobat, and Seaspray as the Killer Whale. Plus, Cosmos would have fit right into Star Brigade in the 90s.
Powerglide really could have gone either way, as Autobot or Decepticon. But since I had so few bad guys, some of the Autobots switched sides to become adversaries for Windcharger, Mirage, Omega Supreme and the others. So Powerglide crossed over and was used as a Decepticon.
Apart from the chin gun, Powerglide also reminded me of a float plane, given the large pontoon-like structures where his arms folded up.
Part of the reason I would have seen him this way was growing up in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. In the 1970s and 1980s, many of the NWT’s small communities could only be reached by airplane, and Fort Smith, on the border with Alberta, was a key transportation hub for float planes.
Powerglide was one of the more complex mini-cars. He required multiple steps to transform from airplane to robot, and back. His feet were limited, being stuck together, but so many Transformers were similarly limited; it was commonplace to simply pretend they could walk. His face is somewhat mysterious, his mood very much open to interpretation. But his arms made him such a strong character. The thickness of his forearms was reminiscent of Popeye after a can of spinach.
To this day, he remains one of my favourite of the mini-Autobots.