…Or according to the picture below, just red and blue ones; but as everyone knows, they’re the best Smarties….
The Technic Go-Kart. These have been delighting lovers of oversteer and leaving tyre marks on kitchen floors since 1978. Time to see what’s what.
First up, the dear old 854, whose under-tyred front wheels and odd-sized seat mattered not a jot when it came to whizzing it along the carpet, engine singing away as it zoomed around in ever decreasing circles. It was strong enough to handle it too (not always the case with the early efforts..) so long as those grey toggle joints around the steering column haven’t cracked. Did someone say kragle? Banish them! This set is a little blue bundle of fun, there’s the usual early set selection of alternate models on the box, it was wildly popular when new and therefore cheap and numerous now. If you haven’t already, get one; TLCB will give you your money back if you don’t love it* 10/10.
A great score, but how does it do in the handling test? In the interest of consumer research (nothing to do with playing with toys, you understand..) this and 5 other Technic Go-Karts have been subjected to an exhaustive analysis of their handling. This encompasses such vital aspects as controlability, grip, weight distribution, sound effects, strength and breakaway characteristics. A go-kart is not a Go-Kart if it isn’t fun to fling around…
First up, the 854. Flinging it around holding on to the steering wheel is possible (provided it’s assembled carefully and the joints aren’t cracked), the single cylinder engine clatters away at 3x wheel speed nice and smoothly, the hard tyres lack grip. This is excellent. Thanks to it’s relatively long wheelbase and slight rearward weight bias, it can be persuaded to perform graceful drifts at any angle you like. Too slow, though, and it’ll understeer. Overall, a very respectable 8 on the oversteer-ometer.
Next, the tiny 98 piece 1972 from ’85. A larger gear acting on the steering rack makes this exceptionally flickable; its short wheelbase makes it very tail-happy and grip of the softish tyres is easily overcome. A winner. It’s strong enough thanks to it’s lightness and the only thing really lacking is noise – the engine’s a dummy. 8.
The largest of these sets, at 281 pieces, is 8842 from 1986. It took Lego 8 years to dare to replace 854! They used the time well. This machine’s Model Team tyres afford an amusing lack of grip, the overall design is interesting and unusual, it repeats 1972’s trick of a very flickable steering rack and it’s long wheelbase makes it effortlessly controllable. This machine is king of the high-speed J-turn. The engine could be louder (it runs at wheel speed) but that’s easy to modify. Overall, a successful model and a fun steer. 9.
The 8815 ‘Speedway Bandit’ promises much. It looks like a 1972 with the bonus of an engine. At 78 pieces it should have been the ultimate in cheap thrills in 1991. However, it’s handling was hobbled by new steering parts that include that awful flexible rack that Lego foisted on us for a few years; this makes the steering wheel feel far too flimsy in your hand as it has no other support. The engine’s nice, if a bit quiet, and not at all smooth thanks to the crank only being supported at one end! It’ll oversteer nicely though, if you’re gentle. 5.
Next up, the 8219 ‘Racer’ from 1998. This is definitely one of the better efforts from that year… At 103 pieces it’s still small and cheap, it looks good and, despite using the same steering rack piece as its predecessor, it feels sturdier thanks to a little extra support. Its longish wheelbase, slow steering and soft, grippy tyres curtail the oversteer fun somewhat, but it’ll do it on a smooth surface. Its engine runs at 3x wheel speed and provides a chattery soundtrack. 7.
The most recent go-kart is 8256 from 2009. Since I don’t have this, I made one up from my collection, minus the lime green panels but in all other respects the same. It’s certainly the most realistic looking of these (even without the panels) and it’s plenty strong enough, but the steering system kills it. Instead of a rack, you have a pole reverser handle flailing about in a gap along the track rod and, while quick-acting, it feels loose and there’s not enough lock. With that and the long wheelbase and grippy tyres, oversteer is pretty much off the table. Boo. The ride-on lawnmower B-model looks more fun. 4.
Speaking of B-models…
The big red one is from the 853 car chassis set, and the blue comes from the 5541 ‘Blue Fury’ Model Team set, reviewed not long ago by m’learned colleague.
Unfortunately, nice as they are, they can’t challenge the best of the players above. In 853’s case, the steering column WILL come off with any even slightly vigorous twist action, and it’s really too big and top-heavy to handle well. The twin cylinder engine is nice, if conservatively geared as standard, but that can’t save it. Like most early sets, better B-models are illustrated on the box without instructions. 3.
5541 does a bit better, mostly because it looks ace, but it’s also a tad heavy, meaning the steering column connection isn’t quite strong enough. Thanks to those slidey tyres it will shake its booty if you can muster the right combination of speed and finesse. This is much more of a display model, and I actually prefer it to look at than the very nice Hot Rod main model. The engine’s a dummy as well, but it’s a pretty dummy. 5.
So. Which is best? If it’s sliding you want (and why wouldn’t you?) you’ll need an 8842. This machine’s sheer chuckability hasn’t been equalled before or since. Just don’t even look at it’s B-model. Honestly, it will hurt your eyes. 854 is the best set here and the go-kart comes a close second in the oversteer stakes, so that’ll be 20 quid very well spent. 5541 waltzes off with the catwalk prize, which it nicked from 8256, while 8219 would probably kill them all for cornering speed.
Golden raspberries to the Speedway Bandit and 853 B-model, and an honourable mention to the dinky little 1972.
Technic Go-Karts. The most fun you can have in your bedroom. So I’ve been told…
*Cheque’s in the post. Truly, it is. Probably. OK, not really.