The most exciting release from Lego Technic for a long time. This very faithful representation of the Mercedes Unimog go-anywhere light truck could mark the beginning of a return to form. We can but hope…
First Impressions… it’s a big and vividly illustrated box, promising great marvels within. The pieces are bagged according to sub-assembly, but since the main ‘sub-assembly’ is about three quarters of the total this isn’t as helpful as it might be… still, I somewhat absurdly quite like trawling through masses of bits. Instructions are good and clear, with no colour mysteries but such tiny incremental build steps you suspect they could be followed by a reasonably gifted 7 year old. Nothing wrong with that, but it does make for a lot of pages…
The build. What can I say – a revelation! It’s a really enjoyable thing to put together, especially as this set brings elements I haven’t seen before and cleverly combines electric motive power and pneumatics (in the same way as the old 8868 Claw Rig but no less effective for that). It’s a long process, mind – give yourself most of a day to wallow in it.
There’s no shortage of features to delight and intrigue (and in one case infuriate, but we’ll come to that…), so in no particular order:
Engine. An in-line four cylinder nestling in a quiet corner of the undercarriage and driven (rather slowly) by all four wheels. There’s only a single ratio fixed transmission but there simply wouldn’t be room for anything more.
Suspension. Live axles at both ends, sprung by a single, very firm, spring for each wheel. Ground clearance is convincingly high, thanks to gear blocks at each wheel that send the drive down to them from high-mounted differentials. The suspension’s movements at first appear to be corrupted by the Panhard Rod that helps to locate the axle, but then you appreciate just how thorough the designers have been : It’s supposed to be like that . Hats off to Lego for that one, especially as the springs seem to be correctly resilient, there’s ample travel and an amusing lack of stiffness in roll. That’s probably correct, too.
What can’t be correct is the steering. As standard, this model has the turning circle of a supertanker, with an action so sloppy it makes you fear something will break! And WHY, in Lego’s flagship model, can’t we have the in-cab steering wheel connected ? End rant. It can be corrected. Omit the three quarter pins that so restrict the movement, gear it down so that there’s less strain on the control wheel and change those STUPID ‘knob wheels’ for bevels and it feels much better. Still not as nice as most of Lego’s early Technic models, but no longer terrible.
Pneumatic crane. My favourite part. I could play around with this for hours (yes, I know…), it works very well and is completely capable of doing what it looks like it should. The working of it is a little jerky and hard to modulate, but can be done with practice and a light touch. Or airtanks. The air feed and alternative mounting point to the front allow it to work equally well there, too. The built-in retractable stabilisers do their job superbly, not something you can say about every Lego model that has such things… All in all, this part is a triumph.
The winch on the front, to which can be switched the motor’s power, works well, too, although it’s rather low-geared – I suspect to protect the motor. Easy enough to fix that, of course.
The cab. So big, so bright, so orange! It looks great – better than in the pictures on the box. An easy thing to put together, it comes as a bit of light relief after the complexities of the chassis. There’s enough detail here to satisfy, as well, including the welcome use of some actual old fashioned studded bricks (remember those ?) on the front. It’ll tilt by releasing the long red pins at the back, but you’ll need small fingers for this.
Overall, this is both a superbly playable toy (once you’ve fixed the steering…) and a delightful display object, well worth the (steepish) price of admission. If only the steering didn’t let it down so badly, it would merit an easy 10; as it stands it still earns 9/10. Recommended.