Welcome to the fifth instalment of our Lego car sets reviews. It’s now 1999 and Lego decided they couldn’t top the technical wonderment of 8880, so didn’t try…
What we have here then, is a significant aesthetic evolution if not a technical one. This managed to do all that was expected of it and look good doing it.
Engine: Hurrah! Finally, for the first time since 1977, a Lego car’s engine is in the right place! It’s a V8 too, and we all like those… Like the other sub-systems on this car, the engine slots into place as a unit, a very well thought out and educative system. Pity it doesn’t make much noise, even in the lowest gear, but it does run more smoothly than 8880’s and for that we should be thankful.
Steering: Works well but it lacks the secondary control of its predecessor which does prove a little awkward with some of the bodystyles. Build it as the convertible for maximum playability. One very good feature of this steering system is it’s centre-point geometry, whereby the road wheel’s pivot point passes vertically through the tyres. This makes for a much more realistic movement than any previous car – and most of those that followed, for that matter…
Suspension: Wishbones all round with good travel but a penny-pinching single spring per wheel is not enough and it’s too soft. Apart from that it’s a well engineered system that doesn’t take up too much room and, although it isn’t as strong as 8880 or 8865, it is strong enough. Don’t think it could cope with being dropped, though…
Gearbox: The one area that shows a solid advance on what went before. A full five speeds plus reverse give this car the best transmission of any 20th Century set.
Chassis: I do wonder if the ghost of Colin Chapman stalked Lego Towers at the time this was developed – they listened to his mantra of ‘just add lightness’. It’s a lot less bulky than any car set since 853 and, with the benefit of new bracket pieces and better building techniques, it’s stiffer than that dear old blancmange. Not as stiff as 8880, but, like a lot of things on this car, it’s good enough. A bit like a Lotus Grand Prix car that was designed to last until the end of the race and then fall to pieces, it did what it had to do.
Body: As the first big set to use the new multi-faceted panels and flexi-tubing, it made good use of the new styling pieces to create a sharp-looking sports car, in any of it’s myriad configurations. This plethora of body styles, all on the same chassis, was a departure from the norm and they all looked convincing. The convertible is my personal favourite, the cleverly contrived folding roof of which worked in much the same way as the then-new Mercedes SLK’s. The gullwing doored coupe was a hit as well, although those dampers wouldn’t survive many operations of the doors before wilting. More evidence of the cost-cutting that compromises this set, perhaps. Whatever, the body was definitely an overall success, however you fancied building it.
This set stands up very well on it’s own merits. Compare it too closely to 8880, however, and it does come up short in a few areas. It’s a more ‘commercial’ set, if you like, concentrating on surface aspects more than the substance within. It also has more of a ‘built to a price’ feel than the ‘money no object – let’s stuff everything in’ 8880. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – 8880’s four wheel steering was just wilful – but it seems a slight shame that, for the first time in this series, technical progress had stopped.
A short word about those panels and tubes and things – No. A long word about those panels and tubes and things – Unconscionable. Although they managed to make this stuff look pretty good here, these things were, in the decade that followed this car, responsible for more multi-faceted hideousness than the Technic theme itself could bear; a dark era from which it is only now emerging.
Rant over. And breathe…. that’s better. The above isn’t this car’s fault and, overall, I like it for its thoughtful, lightweight engineering and snappy style. 9/10