The multimillion-dollar hypercar business is booming. The world’s ultra-wealthy have dozens and dozens of different outrageously expensive, high-performance toys to choose from, like the Rimac Nevera or the Mercedes-AMG Project One. Some are so extreme, they’re not even street-legal.
But what’s a tech-forward multibillionaire who’s more into anime than motorsports to do with their discretionary fund?
The Tsubame Archax might be the answer. This is, quite simply, a Gundam fan’s dream made a reality: a 15-foot-tall, $3 million mecha that works just like the real thing — well, minus a few pesky details like jet boosters, laser swords, and the neural interfaces explored in many of Gundam’s various (and conflicting) timelines.
You don’t earn any bonus points for guessing where this thing was made. It’s at the Japan Mobility Show, where I got up close and personal with the $3 million machine and spoke with the team behind it. The first product of Yokohama-based Tsubame, Archax is the result of four years of research and development.
And what a result it is. Inside the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition hall, a massive place by any standard, Archax towers over the pedestrian supercars and concept machines that dot the space. Every hour or so, Tsubame employees run it through a simple demo, where it lifts its arms, waves to the crowd, and transforms from Robot mode to Vehicle mode and back again.
Yes, the Archax is a Transformer of sorts. Like the Autobots, it can roll out, but you won’t be confusing this for a VW Beetle or Kenworth K100. Here, it’s more like morphing between two variations on the same theme.
The Archax has four legs, but it doesn’t walk on them as such. At the bottom of each is a Yokohama industrial tire of the sort you’d mount on a forklift, each driven by an electric motor. In Vehicle mode, Archax’s four legs are spread apart, lowering the center of gravity and enabling its maximum speed of about 6mph.
But for wowing your friends or scaring your neighbors, convert it into Robot mode, and it rises to its full height of 15 feet.
The transformation is simple by Optimus Prime standards but still quite a sight to behold — and to hear. Myriad electric motors throughout the chassis all whir into action to hoist the 3.5-ton machine up to its full height, a process that takes about 15 seconds.
The Archax is a Transformer of sorts
That’s nothing compared to the drama of the cockpit opening mechanism. From the outside, the pilot needs to hold a switch situated on the bottom left of the Archax’s chassis. Four separate hatches move in sync to provide access to the lone driver’s chair inside, a fluid motion that is very much inspired by Gundam robots.
In fact, everything was inspired by the Gundam series. Tsubame CTO Akinori Ishii is the technical director at the Gundam Global Challenge, the group responsible for the full-size Gundam RX-78F00 — which also lives in Yokohama.
“The designer, he is a young Japanese, inspired by so many animations,” Ishii told me. “It’s his original design, but I think the essence came from the Gundam animation.”
The project as a whole is the brainchild of CEO Ryo Yoshida, who posted early pictures of the Archax design on Twitter. Ishii messaged him on there and was hired to help bring the project to life.