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How does Sentinel Prime have an earth based ALT-mode even when he had crashed on the moon ? The Autobots find him in the exact same state. So my question is how could he have an earth based ALT-mode even before he had ever visited earth?

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Since you mention the moon, I assume you're referring to Sentinel Prime in the film "Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon" (there have been numerous characters named Sentinel Prime throughout the various continuities).

Spoilers, just in case

In the Michael Bay universe, a Transformer only requires a few seconds to scan & imitate a vehicle. When Sentinel is first found and then later awakened, we see only his robot form. Later, when we first see his vehicle form (a red fire truck), he has been on Earth for at least two days - possibly longer - while working with The Autobots and NEST. Since the fire truck form he uses is of a military variety, we can safely assume that Sentinel scanned one of the NEST emergency response vehicles to use as a disguise, an event which occurred off-screen during the timeframe in which Sam & Seymour attempt to crack the mystery surrounding the moon landing.

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That sounds very much like it, but I'm confused because sentinel had parts of the fire-truck even in the scene where they resurrected him. You can clearly see the tires of the truck in the exact same spot as they are later. Even the glass windows. It doesn't really look like a different alt-mode's artifacts. –  ash_k29 Feb 18 at 3:47
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True, although aside from Megatron we never really get to see what a Transformer looks like before imitating an Earth vehicle or form. The landings in the first movie kept their Cybertronian forms hidden in shadow, though Optimus Prime's Cybertronian silhouette still vaguely resembled his shape post-Earth form. –  Omegacron Feb 18 at 3:52
    
Yes we do. In film 3 when the autobots visit The Ark to rescue sentinel we see lots of autobots in their native form. None of them seem to have even the most remote resemblance to any earth machine. Also Soundwave in his satellite mode in film two. Even he doesn't resemble any earth machine. –  ash_k29 Feb 18 at 3:55
    
You're right - I stand corrected. It looks like this was an oversight on the part of the film-makers. –  Omegacron Feb 18 at 12:47
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