Ohhh yes…. 42009, the Mobile Crane MkII, is finally here. Was it worth the wait ? Was it worth 150 smackers ? Was it worth spending my entire day off building it ? Read on…
Well, what do you think ? I mean, look at it. Before I get down to it, a quick word about how we do our reviews around here. LEGO doesn’t send us review copies (yet; hint, hint…) so we spend our own money on sets for review, but these are sets that we’d have wanted anyway. This might explain the usually positive flavour of our musings; we’re not going to spend our hard-earned on something we know we won’t like. I haven’t reviewed the 42000 Grand Prix racer because I won’t be getting it.
We do still try to be objective.
Enough already, get on with it!
So, to business. First impressions: Wow, that box is heavy! 2,600 pieces, plus motor and battery box would explain that. It’s the largest Technic set ever, by some margin. Not the most expensive, though, which remains the 8110 Unimog at a fiver more than this; which fact rather gives the lie to the notion of LEGO inflating their prices with each successive generation. You get 550 more pieces and a fiver in exchange for the ‘mog’s pneumatics.
Fortunately, the bags are numbered to reflect the three main stages of the build. This isn’t quite the advantage it might be with the chassis forming well over half of it… Many, many bags all numbered ‘1’. Give yourself plenty of room. And time. That said, it never took me long to find a piece, and I never sort first as LEGO suggest.
There are six instruction books; 3 for the chassis, 2 for the crane part and the last one for the boom. Books 4 and 5 could have easily been combined to make it 1 for the crane part; book 5 is inexplicably slender. There were no mistakes, as we’ve come to expect, and this time not all the build steps are quite so tiny. There is nothing to confuse here as long as you concentrate and don’t forget to insert the 15 long beams alongside the stabilizers; causing you to perform major surgery part way through, or anything silly like that…
At the end of an enjoyable 6-8 hours of building, what have you got ? It’s a very robust, playable, multi-functional and impressive thing. There’s lots going on here, so I’ll break it down.
Chassis : Sturdy enough, although it will twist lengthwise under duress. This is probably the most impressive of the crane’s three sub-assemblies; thoroughly engineered and it’s functions work in perfect synchronicity (big word, feeling proud…) and will continue to do so. The sturdy base that any crane needs if it’s to be any use at all is delivered here.
Steering : Progressive rate movement on 4 of the vehicle’s 5 axles, with the rear axles countersteering compared to the fronts, it works very well indeed and this large and heavy vehicle manoevres with no tyre scrub. The control at the back is light enough, despite being very direct, and, as always, there’s not a huge amount of lock. That aside, this is a faultless system which shows that it can be done properly! Well done on that one.
Stabilizers : Well done on this one too. One of the four functions to be connected to this crane’s single L motor via the main gearbox, all four will slide out of the body (quite slowly) together at the flick of a switch. Flick another switch, and the four feet will extend groundwards (very, very slowly!) together as well. The lack of speed to this operation is explained by it’s ability to lift the entire body when the feet touch the ground, although the motor is straining when it does this. You can make life a little easier for it by substituting the two friction connectors at either end of a moving link in each foot for frictionless ones. Why, Lego, Why ?
Engine : A good old fashioned V8, driven by the centre (unsteered) axle, rather slowly as usual, but it’s a nice thing to have. I like the fact that you can see it, rather than having it buried inside the chassis – which is probably where it should be – although there really is no room anywhere but where it is behind the cab.
Cab : There’s enough detail here, but only just. They didn’t exactly go overboard. There’s the usual blue-and-grey seats, unconnected steering wheel, opening doors and moving mirrors, but little else. What’s more important than mere greebles though, is the fact that it looks right. At the other end, it’s not quite there. It’s a bit naked behind the last axle, lacking the grey panelling that tidies up the rest of it, or any styling save the simple light bar. Overall though, I’d call it’s looks chunkily effective, and that’s what we want from a crane, isn’t it… The extra length compared to previous cranes makes the whole thing much better proportioned as well.
Now let’s see what this can really do…
The box makes the proud boast that this is 77cm high when fully extended, and I can confirm this is correct. I can also confirm that it could, and should, be higher still. The boom doesn’t make the best use of the chassis’ length, the inner sections don’t fill it fully when retracted and the sections themselves are quite short. Still, it’s not all about size… it’s probably like this to ensure it’s stability and ability to lift significant loads at any elevation or rotation, and this it does very well – better than any previous LEGO crane – so I should probably stop complaining…
To the functions!
Rotation : Mounted on the obligatory large turntable, but without a mechanical means to turn it, you simply do it yourself…. it might have been cool to watch the motor do it for you, and given this model’s size that should be possible, but it’s an omission I can live with. The next three are all motorized and selectable via the main gearbox.
Boom Elevation : Raised by two linear actuators, this works smoothly and not too slowly to achieve an adequate level of verticality. (is that even a word ?) The boom is relatively light, and the LAs have no trouble lifting it, even with a load attached. I didn’t try anything really heavy (didn’t want to break my new toy!) but it seems to do what it says on the tin. A success.
Boom Extension : One of the things that most intrigued me about this model was seeing how they managed to communicate the movement of the centre section of the boom to the inner, allowing them to telescope in and out together from the single control. I won’t spoil it for you here, but it’s amazingly simple, seemingly fragile yet (slightly jerkily) effective. As well as a whole lot cleaner than the flapping length of chain I’d have used. Kudos also for the large selection of studded beams that make up the booms’ two inner sections. I don’t know why, but I always like seeing them… As already mentioned, I might have liked it to extend further but it works well.
Hook : Not the usual single moulded piece, this: it’s done properly, and the motor raises and lowers it agonizingly S-L-O-W-L-Y , again to allow it to deal with a bit of weight. I can’t help feeling that a stronger XL motor and faster gearing for this and the stabilizer feet would be an improvement.
So, what have we learnt ? That Lego Car Blog reviewers are picky blighters, possibly, but I am glad I bought this. Its real strength lies in its… strength, and it’s clearly been engineered to be useful and playable, and not just decorative; its compromises are all made in the direction of playability and robustness and for that I applaud it. LEGO’s best crane, bar none. 9/10