The Ultimate Supercar

… Is one that goes into space…


Until 1996, the top-of-the-range Technic set was always a car. Then Lego had another idea. Welcome to TLCB’s review of set 8480, the Technic Space Shuttle.

With only a handful of pieces more than the 8880 supercar, but the addition of some 9V electrics, this retailed for $30 or so more. Since I was recently privileged to put one together, I thought I’d tell you, our esteemed reader, all about it.

First of all, the box is huge. Ma-hoo-sive, as I’m told some people say… rather more than is necessary; although having a plastic tray to sort the pieces into is a boon. Unlike new sets of this size, there is just the one – thickish – instruction book, which covers both the shuttle and the submarine B-model. This naturally means that every build step involves quite a lot more than it would now… the assembly of this large and complex model is broken down into just 40 build steps.

You know that warm feeling of accomplishment you get when you complete a model? Well, you get a similar frisson for completing EVERY PAGE of this. You do need to concentrate, partly because of the relatively large amount of pieces added at each step, but also because there will be ONE piece added somewhere, at the other end of the model from most of the rest, that you will miss. It’s like  40 pages of ‘Where’s Waldo’… If this sounds like complaining, it isn’t; this was a properly challenging and very enjoyable build.

I do have a couple of TLCB Top Tips: At an early stage, you attach two 2×6 black plates with holes to the underside. Leave these off until much later, as you’ll only knock them off many times until they are attached at more than one end. It’ll spare your sanity, I promise… Another thing – make sure you test these near-20 year old electrics; especially the two long wires that are carefully routed along the length of the fuselage from an early stage of the build. If you discover one of these doesn’t work later on, it’s major surgery to remove it. This leads to swearing…

After many hours of careful assembly, you will have a Technic model of unusual handsomeness, and a (for the time) quite staggering technical density. Time to see what it does.

This was (I think) the first set to use a gearbox for purposes other than a car’s transmission; thus setting a template for every large motorized model since. This allows this machine’s single 9V motor to control any one of four functions:

Doors: The two cargo bay doors will whirr gracefully open in perfect synchronicity. In theory. In practice, the gears are prone to skipping; thus throwing them out of sync very easily. It seems to do this no matter how careful you are with clearances and ensuring freedom of movement. Best to just click it back when it goes…

Canadian Arm: So called because it’s the part that Mexico did.. wait, that’s not right… This will lift its load, and rotate it with a flick of the gearlever (OK, a careful guiding into place is not strictly a flick, but you get the idea..). This works very well, and at a seemingly authentic pace.

Engine lights: The fourth gearlever position operates the fibreoptics that snake through this machine’s three engines, flashing in sequence as the motor turns. Apparently. This is the one aspect of the electrics that appears, on my copy at least, to be defunct. And it’s not the long lead. I’ve checked…

Attached to the Canadian Arm is a dinky satellite, the arms of which will unfurl upon the operation of an even dinkier micromotor. It’s hard to believe this tiny thing has any torque at all; but it does! This is a little gem of a piece, with a thousand uses; if only they’d appeared in more than two sets…

Now that you’ve worn out the batteries, you may as well play with the manual functions. There are two levers, one either side of the fuselage, and these operate the flaps and the undercarriage. These are both blessed with an unusually well-damped and satisfying movement, particularly the undercarriage; assuming you’ve assembled the front wheel with the belt pulley it’s attached to precisely, otherwise the hoped-for haptic happiness will not materialize.

New batteries are easy enough to install, although partially removing the battery box is also necessary to turn it off and on. A minor inconvenience in the grand scheme, but an inconvenience all the same…

Also less than convenient is finding somewhere to put it – it’s not a small model. The best idea is to build a stand for it so it’s pointing at the sky; ready to explore new worlds, or maybe just hang around in low orbit… You can even put a spaceman in it – this might be unique among Technic models in being to (more or less) Minifigure scale, although it doesn’t look quite right if you do; his head will be poking out of the side window due to the motor being sited between the seats.

Whatever you do with it, you’ll be impressed. Not only does it do plenty of impressive stuff, but it looks good doing it. A strong contender for the best Technic set ever. 10/10.

5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Supercar

  1. Asininedrivel

    Great review of a magnificent set. However I also have the same problem (after endless troubleshooting – I had a pained smile on my face when reading the ‘check electrics before construction’ part). My fibre-optics don’t work either however when you bypass most of the controls to plug the cable directly from the motor to the battery box and piggyback the small optics cable to it the fibre optics work seamlessly (go through the firing sequence via the gearbox etc.) but not when its connected properly. Everything else works fine…. Maybe try that to see if they work on your example? Then let me know how you fixed it.


    1. twohorse602

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the review, and I guess that fibreoptics set-up is generally less than reliable… I tried it the way you suggest, but no dice.

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