A few months ago,the folks behind Reprolabels decided to launch an online message board. In order to encourage Transformers fans to give their new board a chance, they offered fans a free set of Minerva and Go-Shooter Reprolabels to anyone who either had the original Japanese exclusive toys (which are notoriously hard to find), or a recently-released knock-off set emulating either toy. I wasn't especially interested in Go-Shooter, but I went ahead with the KO Minerva, since it seems unlikely to me that Takara will ever get around to a proper reissue.
The knock-off is a surprisingly close likeness of the original Minerva. Ignoring the entirely-different stickers (which I was going to replace, anyway), the most significant difference between the KO and the original is the black torso. All the other colors are a very near match. Another important difference is that the guns that form the "ears" of Minerva's head only have pegs on one side, which prevents them from sitting as flat against the head as the alternate pegs on the originals would have allowed. Mildly annoying, but beyond my limited kitbashing skills to do anything about, as was the final noticeable distinction between this toy and an authentic Minerva: the "plus sign" on the side of Minerva's chest piece.
The KO also comes with a couple of pieces which have no Minerva-accurate counterparts, and thus aren't pictured here: a sword and a green lightbar. The latter is perhaps a bit ironic, because although Minerva is supposed to be a rescue vehicle, which would actually need a lightbar, the effect is achieved simply by the red plastic of the main body, showing at just the right places on top of the vehicle by virtue of a hinge needed for transformation. No extra piece is necessary.
Anyway, back to the Reprolabels offer. In order to make sure that they were sending sticker sets to people who could actually use them, they asked that anyone interested send a picture of themselves holding the toy the stickers were intended for. So, after the KO arrived in the mail, I took advantage of my camera's remote trigger, took the required shot, and sent in the image.
I knew that it would be a few months before the stickers were actually ready to be sent, which gave me time to make the one major modification I felt the KO figure required to become an acceptable Minerva stand-in: that black torso simply had to be made white! I have a fairly small apartment, and my one attempt to get an airbrush set many years ago ended up with the airbrush largely unused and eventually thrown out. Rather than mess with that again, I intended to use a spray can. Looking up popular model varieties, I decided to use Tamiya for Plastics, which was the only acrylic model paint I could find that came in spray cans ready to use. Unfortunately, it turned out that none of the several hobby stores in my area had the Tamiya "Pure White" I needed. One vendor explained that this was due to the fact that much of Japan is still rebuilding from the tsunami damage of a year ago. I was willing to wait, but weeks came and went with no change. In fact, the stickers finally arrived and I still hadn't found the white paint I needed! I finally asked a fan who had painted his KO Minerva, and it turns out that Krylon Fusion is just fine for this kind of plastic, and is widely available! A couple of days later, my KO Minerva was finally repainted, reassembled, and restickered.
One of the reasons that Minerva is considered important to Transformers history is that she is the very first female Transformer to actually have a toy. Technically, this is because she is a Headmaster whose head component is female (in fact, in the Japanese Masterforce storyline, the main body—called a transtector—has no life of its own, but is a mecha controlled by the human Minerva*). This fact, coupled with the Japanese-exclusive nature of the toy, make authentic Minervas extremely hard to come by. If you manage to snag one at a reasonable price, consider yourself lucky!
*The transtector is granted life at the end of the series.