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SBrick | Bluetooth Control | Review

SBrick

It’s time for another Review here at The Lego Car Blog. However we’re not reviewing an official LEGO set, or even an official LEGO product. After several days of fun… er, we mean ‘arduous testing’, we can bring you a full review of one the most important products to enter the Lego Community in years. This is TLCB’s in-depth review of the SBrick bluetooth control.

Regular readers of this website will know that remote control vehicles appear here frequently. This is thanks to LEGO’s excellent Power Functions system, which upon its release in 2008 allowed builders to easily motorise and remotely control their creations via infrared receivers. It was an instant success, and – judging by the amount of Power Functions equipped vehicles that still appear on these pages – it’s a product that shows no signs of waning.

There is a weak(ish) link with the Power Functions system though, as those infrared receivers struggle in direct sunlight, have a limited range, and they also restrict power to the two outputs they can handle simultaneously. But technology has moved on a lot in a decade, and it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to address these issues. And add in a whole lot more besides…

SBrick Review

Launched a few years ago the SBrick by Vengit removed the need for infrared control by bringing bluetooth to LEGO’s Power Functions system. This means that models can work in bright sunlight, there’s a huge 50m range, and – of course – that Lego creations can be controlled via any bluetooth enabled device, including your phone, tablet or gamepad control.

The SBrick itself is a wonderfully neat bit of design. Measuring sixteen studs square it’s no bigger than LEGO’s own infrared receiver, however with no, er… infrared receiver to worry about, it can fit twice the number of outputs – effectively doubling what your model can do. Plus as bluetooth uses UHF radio waves the SBrick can be completely hidden from view deep within a model – unlike LEGO’s infrared receiver which must have a line-of-sight to its controller in order to collect the signal.

Our SBricks arrived in grey, being a good colour match to LEGO’s usual Technic hue, and both looking and feeling high quality. In fact the only way the SBrick differs visually from an official LEGO piece is with square studs instead of round. The SBrick can connect to LEGO pieces in the same way that the official infrared receiver does, via studs on top, tubes on the bottom, or via Technic pins/axles on the sides. The SBrick must be connected to a power supply – in our case LEGO’s own Power Functions Battery Box – via a LEGO extension wire, at which point a green light appears to tell you power is being received.

You are then able to connect your motors, lights or sensors up to the SBrick’s four different outputs in exactly the same way as you would with LEGO’s own infrared receiver and your model is now ready to be controlled via bluetooth! Well, almost…

SBrick Review

Of course to control an SBrick-equppied creation you will need a bluetooth device. There’s no need for LEGO’s infrared controller, which can be replaced with any number of bluetooth enabled products. We selected an iPhone, downloaded the SBrick app, and got to work!

The app is a quick and easy download and install, and allows you to log in as a guest, or to set up your own SBrick account where you can create and save your own model profiles. We created a model profile for our previously reviewed LEGO 42030 Volvo 350F set and started looking through the various pre-programmed templates. The ‘Joysticks and Sliders’ seemed like a good fit and within minutes we had successfully set our Volvo up to drive, steer, raise, lower and tip its bucket all via a mobile phone! There’s a direction reverser should forwards turn out to be backwards and an ingenious ‘test’ button which gives the motor selected one second of power so that you know which one you’re setting up.

Even at this basic level the SBrick is light-years ahead of the Power Functions control, and it can do a lot more besides. Next we downloaded SBrick’s pre-programmed 42030 controller, which is one of several available for various LEGO sets (e.g. 42009 is shown in the image above). This effectively did the same as the profile that we created using the ‘Joysticks and Sliders’ template as a base, but it added graduated control (so not just ‘on’ or ‘off’) and it labelled all the controls too, creating a very pro-looking control screen. But what if you want to create your own bespoke profile for your own bespoke creation? Well it can do that too… Continue reading

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The Other Hybrid

Lego Technic Honda CRV

Toyota may be the flag bearer for Hybrids in TLCB’s home market (in fact, they sell more ‘alternatively fuelled’ vehicles than all the other manufacturers put together), but Honda were right alongside them in the earliest days of Hybrid power when they launched in Insight way back in 1999, just two years after the first Prius.

Since then Toyota have gone on to massive Hybrid success with no less than seven Hybrid models available, however Honda now don’t sell a single Hybrid in our home nation at all. So what went wrong? Part of the blame lies with this car; the brilliant-looking CRZ.

With cutting-edge Japanese looks, forward-thinking Hybrid power (with a manual transmission too), and following the legacy left by the funky CRX, the CRZ should have been a success. Unfortunately 135bhp, a high list price, and underwhelming fuel economy (at least compared to European cars) meant the CRZ – along with the second generation Insight – bombed.

Honda ceased selling both models in Europe after just a few years, leaving a product range of just three cars – something the brand is only just recovering from now.

Perhaps what they should have built is this. Lachlan Cameron (aka Lox Lego) has recreated the CRZ’s razor-sharp looks in his Technic CRZ brilliantly, and he’s given the chassis a bit more bite than Honda managed too; Lachlan’s model adds a second electric motor giving his CRZ all-wheel-drive, which sure would’ve pepped-up the real car. There’s also remote control steering, electrically opening doors, torsion beam suspension, LED lights front and rear, a four-cylinder piston engine, and bluetooth control via SBrick.

The result is a superb Technic supercar that’s well worth a closer look, which you can do via both Flickr and the Eurobricks forum. We suspect the real Honda CRZ may one day be worth a closer look too, as we anticipate it becoming something of a cult car in time. Ironically – considering its failure – if the CRZ were relaunched today it’d probably do rather well…

Lego Technic Honda CRV

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76112 App-Controlled Batmobile | Set Preview

Lego 76112 App Controlled Batmobile

Third-party (i.e. non-LEGO) bluetooth connection devices such as the superb SBrick and BuWizz feature regularly in the models that we publicise here at The Lego Car Blog. Able to connect your creation to your phone for remote control, and – in the case of the SBrick – even programme your model in way that betters LEGO’s own purpose-built robotics systems, they’ve revolutionised what can be achieved in Lego building.

The LEGO Company have been unusually slow to meet this demand themselves, however now (and probably unfortunately for the companies above), LEGO’s own bluetooth-controller is nearly here, launching first as part of the 321-piece 76112 Batmobile set.

Part of LEGO’s rebranded ‘Powered Up’ range, the new controller adds bluetooth control and programming to Power Functions and will be available as a stand-alone product that can be added to existing sets and creations following the launch as part of the 76112 Batmobile set.

LEGO’s press release states;

“The LEGO Batman App-Controlled Batmobile, created for children 8 years of age and older, combines LEGO building and remote-control car play. It is the first codeable and programmable LEGO Batmobile that is fully controllable via smart device. Users can steer the Batmobile using one of two preset remote-control interfaces or personalize their experience through a customizable interface. With the interface unlocked, users move sliders, buttons and other elements to customize the remote control to their liking. Through a coding canvas that will be introduced later this year, users can code and re-code speed, direction, sound and duration to program various movements and stunts and create their own unique driving experiences.”

Whether this will ultimately usher in the demise of the excellent third-party bluetooth products used by the Lego Community currently or spur them on to further innovation and development we’re not sure. We hope it’s the latter, as this competition could bring about a multitude of top-quality bluetooth options for Lego models in the near future (we’ll see if we can do a back-to-back review of all three bluetooth controllers later in the year).

LEGO’s 76122 App-Powered Batmobile set will hit shelves on August 1st costing around $100, and you can read our reviews of the SBrick and BuWizz bluetooth controllers currently available via the links in the text above.

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Superfront

Lego Marion 204-M Superfront Mining Shovel SBrick

This is Marion 204-M Superfront cable-operated mining shovel, and it’s massive. First built in 1974 by the Marion Power Shovel Company (who also built NASA’s enormous crawler transporters), the 204-M Superfront used electrically driven cables to drive its huge bucket arm and had a working weight in excess of 700 tons. Built for around twelve years the 204-M worked in open mines all over the world, with the last still operating in Asia decades later.

Lego Marion 204-M Superfront Mining Shovel SBrick

This incredible fully functioning Lego replica of the Marion 204-M Superfront was discovered by one of our Elves on Flickr and it comes from Beat Felber who has recreated the machine in astonishing detail. Powered by eight Power Functions motors and controlled via bluetooth thanks to three third-party SBricks, Beat’s 204-M Superfront uses an XL Motor to drive each track whilst two L Motors can slew the entire superstructure independently. A pair of XL Motors power each of the cable drums and the bucket angle and bucket door are electronically powered by another two motors, giving Beat’s model as much articulation as the real Marion 204-M.

Lego Marion 204-M Superfront Mining Shovel SBrick

There’s a whole lot more to see of this spectacular model at Beat Felber’s Marion 204-M Superfront Flickr album, plus you can read our 5 star review of the SBrick bluetooth controller that makes creations like this possible by clicking here.

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BuWizz | Bluetooth Control Battery | Review

Lego BuWizz Review

The Lego Car Blog Elves love remote control Lego creations. Well, they love them if they are at the controls. As regular readers will know there have been a number of remote control related incidents here at TLCB Towers, resulting in much Elven hospitalisation. Well things are about to get taken up a notch…

Revealed here as a Kickstarter project back in June 2016 the BuWizz bluetooth control battery brick has become a regular third-party accessory within the Lego Community. With claims of up to eight times the power of LEGO’s own Power Functions battery set-up, now expanded to twelve times with the release of BuWizz 2.0, the potential to transform the way Lego models move is huge. But does the BuWizz live up to the hype? We’ve been sent a copy to find out…

Lego BuWizz Review

The Brick

Our BuWizz arrived a simple cardboard box, packaged only with a little piece of paper denoting the required warnings and LED indicator meanings. The BuWizz brick is a clever thing, incorporating both a rechargeable li-ion battery and a bluetooth control into one 8×4 stud box, reminiscent of LEGO’s own battery boxes from the 1980s. There are studs on top, tubes on the bottom, and four Technic pin holes with which the BuWizz can be attached to genuine LEGO pieces.

Our BuWizz came in a dark grey hue that we don’t think matches any of LEGO’s colours, but seeing as it can be mounted internally within a creation an exact match isn’t required. The moulding quality is OK, perfectly adequate for the job in hand, but certainly not as good as an official LEGO piece (or the rival SBrick reviewed here previously). On top of the BuWizz are two connection ports, a status LED, and four LEGO Power Functions compatible power outlets.

You must charge your BuWizz upon arrival via a micro USB, which the pack does not contain. This is a bit of a shame as it means the device is not truly plug-and-play, requiring a lead from something else in order to charge. We found a lead, plugged in the BuWizz, which let us know it was charging via the LED on top, and busied ourselves for a few hours.

Lego BuWizz Review

Set Up

Upon returning to our BuWizz a green light indicated we were ready to go. Like the aforementioned SBrick, the Buwizz brick uses an app to connect your phone or tablet to itself. The app is an easy download and connects the device seamlessly. Within it are six pre-programmed control interfaces available to operate your model. Each requires a small amount of set-up so that the app knows which of your motors is connected to which port which is simple enough, although there is no ‘test’ function as per the SBrick, which would be useful.

We connected four XL motors mounted within a direct-drive skid-steer test rig to the BuWizz battery and hit the controls. Weirdly one motor (and only one) span the wrong way, but the BuWizz’s simple ‘reverse’ option soon cured that. Then, because we have the mental age of five, we engaged ‘Ludicrous Mode’…

Inspired by Tesla, BuWizz’s ‘Ludicrous Mode’ turns up the power to the motors by a factor of three. Multiply that by the four motors you can drive at once and you get twelve times the power! And boy, does it show… Continue reading

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That Stance Tho

Lego Technic Remote Control Stanced Car

Let’s be clear about this. ‘Stancing’ cars ruins them. It ruins the way they ride, the way they corner, tyre wear, fuel consumption…

The Elves however, having tiny brains similar to that of your average bro, love stanced cars, and thus there’d have been a mass Elven sulk if we didn’t feature this one. Fortunately we can, as whilst the subject matter is questionable the build itself is most excellent, and the builder is something of a legend too.

Lego Technic RC Car Stanced

Powered by LEGO’s Power Functions system and controlled via bluetooth via the 5-star-rated SBrick, Mahjqa’s ‘SUP BRO’ stanced tuner runs a 22.5 degree camber on its remote control chassis. Despite this obvious handicap it still looks proper fun to pilot around an empty car park – take a look via the video below!

 YouTube Video

There’s more to see of Mahjqa’s latest build via both Flickr and the Eurobricks discussion forum, plus we’re delighted to reveal that Mahjqa has become the latest builder to be awarded Master MOCer status here at The Lego Car Blog!

Joining fourteen other of the world’s very best Lego builders, Mahjqa tells us his inspiration, reveals what sort of LEGO brick he would be, and explains how he creates his amazing models. Read his Master MOCers interview below!

Master MOCers Season 2, Episode 4

Mahjqa

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The Other Challenger

Lego Challenger MT-865 Tractor

The Dodge Challenger has appeared here numerous times over the years. This isn’t that Challenger. Nope, this one is made by Caterpillar, and it comes from a series of tractors that were the first to be specifically designed to run on tracks.

This brilliant Model Team recreation of the latest Challenger MT865C comes from the appropriately-named Eric Trax, who has done a simply astonishing job replicating the Caterpillar in Lego form. And Eric’s creation is far from a static model…

Lego Challenger MT-865 Tractor

Inside the beautifully constructed exterior are a wealth of electronic and pneumatic components, allowing Eric’s Challenger to drive, skid-steer, and power both an on-board compressor and power-take-off.

Hooked up to the back of the MT865 is a Kinze 1050 grain trailer, complete with its own Medium motor and pneumatics to control the unloading auger.

Lego Challenger MT-865 RC

All of these functions can be controlled remotely via bluetooth, thanks to the third-party SBrick concealed within the build. This enables the models to be controlled by a phone or, as Eric has done, by a Playstation 4 controller!

There’s much more to see of this amazing Caterpillar Challenger MT865C tractor and Kinze 1050 grain trailer at both Brickshelf and the Eurobricks forum – click the link to see all of the images and to read complete build details.

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Deutschland Duel

Lego Technic Großer Mercedes 770

Iiiin the red corner, representing West Germany, driven by Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring and Pope Pius XI, and powered through the 1930s by eight cylinders and a supercharger, it’s the Großer Mercedes 770!

Aaaand in the beige corner, representing East Germany, driven by peasants, and powered through the 1950s… and 60s… and 70s… and 80s… and 90s… by two cylinders and hope, it’s the Trabant Combi!

Two very different yet very German cars today, represented by two very different but very excellent Lego creations.

Above we have the Großer Mercedes 770, built by Aleh of Eurobricks in Technic form and absolutely packed with amazing technology. Aleh’s recreation of one of Mercedes-Benz’s most opulent vehicles includes Power Functions drive and steering, an inline-8 engine hooked up to a three-speed+R gearbox, working all-wheel mechanical brakes powered by a Medium motor, all-wheel suspension, LED lights, and SBrick bluetooth control.

At the other end of the automotive scale we have this wonderfully replicated Model Team style Trabant Combi, resplendent in an authentic hearing-aid beige and built by fellow TLCB debutant Dan Falussy. With opening doors, hood and hatchback plus folding seats, Dan’s homage to the world’s finest cotton car (yes really) is about as well equipped as the real thing, and very probably better built.

There’s more to see of each model on Eurobricks (as well as Flickr in the Trabant’s case) via the links above. Take a look and choose your winner!

Lego Trabant

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BuWizz Buggy

Lego Technic Remote Control Buggy

[Whiiiir] [Elven Screaming] [Thump] [Whiiiir]…

An all too familiar pattern of noises floated into TLCB Office from the corridor today. Said pattern has been heard here at TLCB Towers on numerous occasions and it always means tidying up for us. Sigh.

A glance into the corridor revealed the scene of expected carnage, with an Elf – high on power – repeatedly driving a nimble off-road buggy over a group of already squashed Elves.

The controls have now been taken away, the victims patched up, and we can take a look at the vehicular weapon in question. Built by Anto of Eurobricks it’s an entry into the current BuWizz Fast Car Competition, in which the third-party bluetooth brick specialists have challenged builders to make, well… a BuWizz powered fast car.

Lego Technic RC Buggy

With up to eight times the power of LEGO’s own Power Functions battery/receiver system a BuWizz powered creation is certainly able to outrun a fleeing TLCB Elf, and with competition entrants having to complete the longest jump possible Anto’s RC buggy had the suspension to bounce over victims without any problems at all.

There’s more to see of Anto’s brilliant remote control buggy at the Eurobricks forum, plus you can watch it in action via the video below.

We’ve also got our hands on our own BuWizz brick, courtesy of the BuWizz team, and will be conducting our own tests shortly [maniacal laugh!] in order to bring you a full review. Whilst we find out whether eight times the power really is possible you can find all of the BuWizz powered creations previously featured here via this archives search, and you can read our five-star review of BuWizz’s rival SBrick by clicking here.

YouTube Video

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Mack Daddy

Lego Mack LMSW 6x4 Wrecker

This utterly wonderful vehicle is a 1940s Mack LMSW 6×4 wrecker, as used by both civilian towing companies and the British and Canadian military during the Second World War. The LMSW was powered by a 10-litre 6-cylinder petrol engine driving the two rear axles, with a Garwood single and later double crane (as shown here) mounted above them, each of which was capable of lifting 8 tons. The fiendishly complicated-looking booms and stabilisers are actually very simple, using steel wires to winch into position without the need for hydraulics and other complications.

Lego Mack LMSW 6x4 Wrecker SBrick

This stunning Model Team creation comes from Flickr’s Dirk Klijn and he’s recreated the classic Mack absolutely beautifully. Underneath the unbelievably realistic and superbly detailed exterior is a fully remote controlled drive train, with a combination of XL and Servo motors plus a third-party SBrick bluetooth controller allowing the model to be driven via the SBrick app on a mobile phone.

Dirk’s model is one of the finest Lego trucks you’ll find anywhere and there’s more to see of his Mack LMSW on Flickr. Head over to the Mack’s Flickr album via the link in the text above for all of the superb images.

Lego Mack LMSW RC SBrick

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Thermidor Part II

Lego Scania 142 PWT Thermo

Dennis Glaasker (aka BricksonWheels) is a firm favourite here at The Lego Car Blog with his beautifully detailed Model Team trucks. This is his latest, an awesome Scania 142 in PWT Thermo livery.

Built to partner a previous PWT Thermo truck featured here last year, Dennis’ Scania 142 is constructed from over 4,300 bricks and includes Power Functions drive and steering, SBrick bluetooth control, and an in-built RC battery pack.

It’s a top quality build and you can see more at Dennis’ photostream via the link above, plus you can read our interview with the builder to discover how he creates models such as this one by visiting TLCB’s Master MOCers series by clicking here.

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Centenarian

Lego Technic RC Lamborghini Centenario

This is a Lamborghini Centenario, Lamborghini’s birthday present to, er… itself. Whatever, the world is better place for mental Lamborginis, and the Centenario is surely one of their most mental efforts to date.

Just forty Centenarios were produced from 2016-17 to celebrate the would-be 100th birthday of the company’s founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, with each car costing a ridiculous $2.2million. Powered by a version of the Lamborghini’s familiar 6.5 litre V12 producing 770bhp, the all-carbon Centenario is no faster than the Aventador upon which it’s based, but it is vastly more expensive, and it seems in world of limited-production supercars that a high price is almost as celebrated as a high top speed.

Not here at The Lego Car Blog though, so we’ll move on quickly from Lamborghini’s extravagant gift to itself in favour of this, Lachlan Cameron’s spectacular remote control Technic version. Controlled by two SBrick bluetooth receivers, with remote control steering and drive, electrically opening doors, a V12 piston engine, functioning gearbox, LED head and tail lights, and some trick in-board independent suspension, Lachlan’s model is a work engineering mastery.

There’s lots more to see of Lachlan’s Technic Lamborghini Centenario at his photostream plus you can read further details and join the discussion via the Eurobricks forum. Click the links to join the birthday party.

Lego Technic RC Lamborghini Centenario

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Toyota Hilux – Picture Special

Lego Toyota Hilux 4x4

Toyota’s legendary Hilux is now in its eighth generation, and it’s more impressive than ever. But we’d rather have this one, a glorious mid-’80s fourth gen. Still seen all around the world in the most inhospitable climates, the ’80s Hilux has become something of a cult car, helped no doubt by BBC Top Gear’s unsuccessful attempts to destroy one.

Lego Technic Toyota Hilux 4x4

Which makes it a little strange that we don’t see more Hiluxes recreated in LEGO form. However today, after three years of engineering, we do have a LEGO Hilux to share, courtesy of Technic wizard Egor Karshiev (aka rm8).

Egor’s N40 series Toyota Hilux looks absolutely spot-on, even including the famous ‘TOYOTA’ script on the tailgate. Underneath the accurate Technic bodywork Egor has installed a wealth of superb off-roading goodies, allowing his model Hilux to do everything the real one can. Only in miniature obviously…

Lego Technic Toyota Hilux 4x4 RC

An XL motor provides power to all four wheels via differentials on each axle, both of which are solid and fitted with three or four link suspension. Remotely controlled steering is provided by a Servo motor, LEDs illuminate the headlights, and a third-party SBrick bluetooth receiver allows the model to be controlled via a mobile phone.

Finally the entire pick-up bed is removable, and the doors, hood and tailgate all open, revealing an engine bay and a detailed five-seat interior.

Lego Technic Toyota Hilux 4x4 RC

Egor has built both stock and ‘adventure’ versions of his remote control Hilux and has photographed them brilliantly both in-studio and in some awesome outdoor shots. There are lots more images available of both the stock and adventure versions on Flickr via the links above, you can read full build details at Egor’s MOCpage, and you can join in the discussion at the Eurobricks forum by clicking here.

Finally of course, no Technic model can be considered a proper remote control off-roader without a suitably cool video. Take at look at the Hilux in action below…

YouTube Video:

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Ford GT – Picture Special

Lego Technic Ford GT

This glorious Technic Ford GT was found by one of our Elves this morning, and it comes from previous bloggee Artemy Zotov (aka Fanylover). One of the most visually accurate Technic vehicles we’ve seen in some time, Artemy’s GT is loaded with aesthetic realism. Being a Technic creation the beauty isn’t just skin deep though, as a working miniature V8 engine driven by the rear wheels, functioning steering via both the steering wheel and a hand-of-God system, and opening doors, engine cover and front trunk all feature.

Lego Technic Ford GT

There’s more too, as Artemy has built a remotely controlled version alongside the manual car pictured here, utilising a third-party SBrick bluetooth receiver, two L Motors for drive, a Servo for steering, and four sets of LED lights. There are more images to see of the manual car via both MOCpages and the Eurobricks forum, where you can also watch a video of the RC version in action. Click the links above to find out more.

Lego Technic Ford GT

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Multiple Loads

Lego Scania T143H Bulk Carrier

Nope, not your Dad’s browsing history but this, Dennis Bosman’s incredible Scania T143H bulk hauler, with not one but two enormous tilting hauler bodies behind the cab. Based on a 1994 Scania T143H used in Nieuwveen, the Netherlands, a truck which racked up over 2,300,000kms in seventeen years of service, Dennis’ model replicates every aspect of the real truck, including an wonderfully accurate recreation of the original livery.

Lego Scania T143H Bulk Carrier

Both tilting bodies are operational, powered by an XL Motor hidden within the truck unit (with a power-take-off for the trailer) and a linear actuator mounted underneath each tipper. The truck itself is also remote controlled, with both drive and steering operable via a bluetooth device thanks to a third-party SBrick bluetooth receiver.

There’s a lot more to see of Dennis’ stunning Scania T143H on Flickr, where you can also see images of the real truck on which his model is based. Head over to the Scania’s album by clicking here, and you can read our interview with the builder as part of our Master MOCers series by clicking here too.

Lego Scania T143H Bulk Carrier

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