The story so far…
The LEGO Company make the 9398 Technic remote control Crawler. It works well and looks awful. LEGO launch a competition to design a prettier body. Said contest is won by a talented Russian gentleman called Egor Karshiev, whose ‘Boss Crawler’ design gets the nod. LEGO announce they will only make 20,000 of these sets, with many unique elements and extra features, and sell them for the same price as the standard 9398…
Cue the most ridiculous speculator-driven feeding frenzy since Beanie Babies tanked…
As I write, just one month after 41999 was released, these change hands, sealed, on eBay for around £350; or nearly three times RRP. Many are being bought by the same UK-based buyer (not me!) in the hope they’ll keep climbing.
I’ve just got the one, bought from LEGO for a very reasonable price, for the purpose of building it, displaying it, even *gasp* playing with it… I’m willing to bet that more than half of these plastic building toys will remain forever sealed in their boxes in the hands of collectors or, worse, speculators; unbuilt and unloved. A shame, because it’s a really good set, and here’s why:
The box is pretty special. A simple, elegant design on the front showing a close-up of the distinctive dark blue panels that so lift this model; it’s made of sterner stuff than usual, too. Inside this treasure chest it’s fairly tightly packed with lots of good stuff; enough for a few hours of leisurely, pleasurable building.
There are four instruction books which are easy to follow, as we’ve come to expect, and there are no mistakes. The build is relatively straightforward, but there’s no shortage of cool features:
4 Wheel Drive: This is achieved using a new L motor on each axle, and although the name Crawler might suggest extreme slowness, I’ve seen slower; it goes fast enough and seems all but unstoppable. The engineering purist in me doesn’t like having the heavy motors on the axle assemblies and therefore unsprung, but the motors themselves seem able to survive the resulting onslaught; and this solution does help to keep the centre of gravity lower. A good system.
4 Wheel Steering : Activated by a Servo motor, which makes this a much more easily controllable RC vehicle than those steered by a normal motor, the rear wheels steer in opposite phase to the fronts, and to the same degree. This is just as well, since the lock is pretty poor: without four steering wheels it’d have the turning circle of a supertanker! As it is, it’s good enough – just. The system uses 8110-style gear blocks at each wheel to improve ground clearance, and although these hurt the steering geometry (forcing the pivot point away from the wheel) they do benefit this model’s go-anywhere ability.
Suspension : Live axles at both ends, sprung by the bigger, harder new Unimog-style springs, the system works extraordinarily well. Travel is huge, as is the possible axle articulation, and together with the grippy nature of the balloon tyres and low-speed torque of the drive motors, this thing can climb over almost anything! It really is impressive watching it work and it won’t stop until you put something really big in front of it.
Two little extras in this set that 9398 doesn’t have is a very nifty electric winch, controllable from inside the car, that’s just the thing if it does get stuck; and lights at the front. The winch fills the underbonnet space, but since the drive assemblies are confined to the axles themselves a fake engine wouldn’t be easily doable anyway.
Topping all this is, of course, Mr Karshiev’s stylish bodywork, and very nice it is too; especially after the horror of the standard 9398. The dark blue technic panels and beams are unique to this set – expect replacements to be very hard to come by! and the silvered elements at the front give it a real lift. The styling is reminiscent of any number of ’70s US Muscle Cars, but to these eyes it most resembles a Dodge Challenger. The doors and bootlid open – a nice detail – although the boot doesn’t have a floor, I guess one could easily be slotted in. The doors are clasped shut by a pair of rubber axle holders on each side; a system I expect we’ll see popping up in mocs all over the place pretty soon – mostly because it’s simple and works really well.
There is a sticker sheet, to allow you to give it the full NASCAR look if you want, but I think it looks better without…
Criticisms ? Nothing major, although the battery box could be more accessible (a fairly extensive operation is required to retrieve it) and the nicely made tan seats are really half-seats, since the floor is so high.
Overall, it feels like this set combines the best aspects of Technic kits (robustness, well proven functions) with the looks of a much more refined moc, and all for the same price as the inferior, uglier 9398. LEGO themselves can’t have made any money with this; they didn’t want to: it’s a halo product created by a fan for the fans. If you can afford it, I’d still recommend it, for opening up and building! Remember, investments can go down as well as up, but when this bubble bursts we’ll still have a very enjoyable model. 10/10