Welcome to what will be the first in a series of reviews of all of Lego’s ‘ultimate’ car-based Technic sets. We start, naturally, at the very beginning. In 1977, this was the ultimate and I was a lucky boy!
This red machine (still the longest model of any such set…) featured a reciprocating 4 cylinder engine, a forward/reverse transmission, working steering and adjustable seats and…. that’s it. At the time, this was plenty – greater sophistication would come later; the great thing about this set was that it showed, better than any other, how a car went together.
The build is fairly simple – the only complex part being the engine. It feels a little strange building a Technic car chassis by mostly snapping bricks together, but it also makes you wonder if the newer elements make things unnecessarily time-consuming. Slotting the engine/transmission unit and steering assembly into place makes you imagine workers doing the same thing on a production line. An enjoyable and educative experience.
The finished model is a delightfully vintage thing and highly playable. The best thing about it is the speed and smoothness of the engine’s running as you push it along, assuming the engine’s set up just so… This gives it a personality that’s lacking in most of the later cars, whose engines simply don’t make enough noise to be truly satisfying.
Flaws; well this is a very early effort so there are a few… the biggest of which being the chassis’ lack of stiffness. Blame the penny-pinching single layer of studded beams that form the car’s structure. Double these up and it’s fine. The front wheels drag on the chassis when on full lock – something that couldn’t happen in a newer set, mostly because newer sets seem to have hardly any steering lock… A differential would have been nice, but you can slot one in easily enough now. The lack of suspension can be forgiven, I think; especially as, if it did have springs, I suspect the chassis would flex more than they do!
Now we come to one of the best features of all these early sets – the box! A proper, sturdy box with plastic compartments for all the new and special pieces that came with this set, and beautifully illustrated with a wealth of model ideas, most of which had no instructions but served to inspire the young builder’s own creativity. Note to Lego: PLEASE BRING THESE BACK!
Overall, this set deserves a solid 9/10 – there was enough to inspire the budding petrolhead here and, if you can, I urge you to seek one of these out (expensive these days, I know..) and re-discover the simple joy of a charming model.