Welcome to the second in our series of Lego’s big car sets reviews. The year is 1980, and the sophistication of suspension arrives at Lego Towers. Not very brilliant suspension, but we’ll come to that..
First, the build. Still fairly straightforward, and the flaws of it’s 853 predecessor are skilfully dealt with – it’s nice and stiff, the steering works well (provided you’ve put the axle bushes on the right way round…), there was now a differential and it’s definitely sportier than before. Again, the engine is the only fiddly part, but if you set this up right it will run smoothly in all three gears (very fast in the lowest gear, which was intended purely for use with the motor and gets blanked off in the instructions. Leave it open and savour the noise!).
This is a truly satisfying model. The colours look right, there’s enough technical stuff going on and it’s playable. It seems like Lego’s designers made a concerted effort to include all the features they could manage with the pieces then available. Briefly, these include the sliding / reclining seats, the rear-mounted flat four engine with some lovely detailing, a three speed transmission, steering and swing axle rear suspension. This was Lego’s first attempt at a car’s suspension and, like the VW Beetle it resembles, it didn’t work brilliantly – forcing massive camber changes as the springs were compressed. Still, it was a start and better than nothing.
It’s an easy model to modify, too. Adding front suspension with the newer steering links and ball joints is pretty straightforward and, with a little rearrangement of the rear reinforcement there’s space for a pair of ‘+2’ rear seats. You now have something that’s exactly the right size and mechanical layout to build a Porsche 356 body on… this is the sort of thing you can mess about with for hours!
Oddly, the second model – some kind of weirdly scaled dragster – isn’t that good, but it’s easy to build something nice with this very complete selection of parts.
As with 853, the box is nice and solid and beautifully illustrated – although it would have been good to have as many ideas on it as 853’s had. It doesn’t need to be quite so big, either, but I’m nit-picking now….
Overall, this superb set deserves a 10/10 – it might not be flawless but, for the time, it’s deeply impressive and still stands up today as a good-looking, effective model. Get one and you’ll see why it was good enough to sit at the top of the Technic tree for eight years.