Author Archives: twohorse602

Not A Review

Lego Technic Porsche 911 GT3RS Review

When the previews for the ‘Ultimate’ Technic 42056 Porsche were circulating, I was certain that I’d buy one, as a Lego fan and petrolhead; even though I’m not overly fond of the Volkswagen Beetle Sport…. a review was promised in short order.

Well, here it isn’t – for a couple of reasons.

First, LEGO pulled it from sale before it was even offered, to fix a packaging problem we were told. If by packaging problem they mean packaging an errata sheet in the instructions… We will see. It seems the massive weight of that doorstop  sized coffee table book was crushing the boxes around it.

Second, early reviews were not encouraging, highlighting a number of reasons why this isn’t really ‘Ultimate’ in anything but price.

Technically, the steering and suspension are identical to the 42039 Le Mans car. No fancy tricks, just the basics. I don’t really care about the colour of the springs if the geometry is nothing like the real car… The flat six engine is bog standard and completely hidden. There’s plenty of space back there to have a go at modelling camshafts, say, but no attempt was made at anything above the ordinary.

Likewise, no attempt was made at any kind of rear wheel steering, a notable feature of the real 911 GT3RS. The only technical aspect that shows any ambition is the gearbox, more on which in a bit… So, if you want the ultimate Lego Technic car, stick to your 8880.

What about that much heralded build experience? It’s an idea that’s appeared before, in the 8448, which does the modularity thing a whole lot better. Since I haven’t (and probably won’t unless 42056 appears at a steep discount) built the Porsche, the jury will have to stay out on that one.

Ultimate packaging maybe? It would be if the box had a strong plastic insert to sort the pieces into and lots of pictures of alternate builds. For that, you’ll need an 853. I do understand what they mean by the ‘premium experience’ of the Porsche but like a lot of things, the word ‘premium’ just means you pay more.

Ultimate looks?

LEGO Technic 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS

It is pretty, and the orange (close-but-no-cigar to the real Porsche’s ‘lava orange’ colour) does look good. But with its awkward gaps around the headlights and taillights, messy interior and clumsy rear end is it as pretty as the Creator Ferrari F40? Not to these eyes.

Now then, that gearbox, surely that must be the most impressive such thing in a Lego car?

If you like your changing up sequence to be 1-3-2-4 and lots of friction, then yes. A lot of said friction can apparently be blamed on this little fella:

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It’s a small bevel gear assembly built in the very early stages, and the problem is that pin joiner, used as a spacer. Change it for a couple of bushes and it’s fine. Expect that to be instruction errata number 1. According to Sariel’s review on Eurobricks, there are twenty gears engaged in first gear; so don’t expect that to completely solve the friction problem. Now we know why the white clutch gear was included in the powertrain…

As for the shift sequence, this can be corrected by swapping a 12T double bevel and a 16T spur gear on the back of the gearbox, which suggests a simple error in the instructions. Or it would if LEGO hadn’t tried to tell us it was ‘to reduce friction and enhance the premium experience’ or some such tosh. According to everyone who’s built one, the positions of these gears makes no difference to the friction. That’ll be errata number 2.

If these two problems are solved – and they should be when it becomes available again – this gearbox will be an impressive feat, for all that you can still change up from 4 back to 1 and have four reverse gears. That sounds like fun. Finally, it’s possible to drive a 911 as if its engine is in the right place. Backwards…

So it might actually be the ultimate gearbox. £250 is a lot to pay for a gearbox.

Hang on a sec, it’s got a handbag as well, so there’s that… it’d better be a Hermes…

Lego Technic 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS Review

Sorry LEGO. I know you tried. The idea for an ‘Ultimate’ series of Technic models is a great one which should produce something fantastic that we’ll all love. It’s just that 42056 isn’t it. It feels like the product of two partners with conflicting priorities, rather like the McLaren-Mercedes SLR; when the 8880 felt like LEGO’s McLaren F1

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42048 Race Kart Review

New for 2016, and looking like it means business….

Lego Technic 42048 Go Kart

…meet the LEGO Technic 42048 Race Kart in all its orange-and-purple glory.

First impressions are very positive – this is, by a long way, the most realistic and best looking Go-Kart style set there’s been in the Technic line. Price is pretty reasonable too, at £25 for 345 pieces.

Being a smaller set, it has an instruction book for the B-model as well, which is always a plus.

Building it is not too taxing but there’s some interesting stuff here. For the first time in a long time, there’s a proper gearbox, doing what a gearbox is supposed to do; bringing the noise! (a bit). It’s usefully compact as well; the input shaft being the rear axle itself. This does mean there’s no diff and the rear wheels are locked together though. Elsewhere, those new curved panels do a great job of styling it and, in a highly radical change from the norm, it’s got a proper floor. Whatever next!

Lots of those newish ‘pin with pin hole’ connectors, that’s what’s next. The designer is clearly very fond of these. Can’t say I blame him; whatever did we do way back in 2014 without them?

Moving forward from the superbly detailed single cylinder engine atop its 2-speed gearbox, we have a brilliantly designed seat, nice chunky steering wheel, a novel steering system that you actually operate with the actual steering wheel(!), all riding on four well chosen wheels with the lowest profile tyres I’ve seen in LEGO.

Clearly, unlike last year’s 42022 Hot Rod, the designer has seen a real Go-Kart rather than having it described to him over the ‘phone…

This set is looking more and more like a winner….

And then you steer it. On full lock, the front wheels will deviate a maximum of 11 degrees from the straight ahead. 11 degrees. The mechanism is compact, quick-acting, strong and precise, but seriously…. 11 degrees. Most cars will turn around in about 2 times their own length. A little thing like this; maybe 3 or so. Or in this case, 7. It needs 7 times it’s own length to turn around. Sheesh. With that and the solid axle, oversteer is right off the menu. Understeer is all you’ll get; something this can ill afford…

It’s not all bad news. There’s that gearbox; the lower gear of which allows the engine to spin at 2x wheel speed, the styling is superb, but if there is ONE thing you want a Go-Kart to do, it’s to steer properly. And this just doesn’t. For comparison purposes, I measured the angle of the ancient 854’s front wheels on full lock – a realistic 35 degrees. In every other respect 42048 is a better model, but because of this one flaw 854 is still a better Go-Kart.

Maybe we’ll have better luck with the B-model :

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Eurgh! Maybe not. It’s a ‘track car’ apparently. Perhaps the designer had a KTM X-Bow described to him over the ‘phone… It does steer better than the main model, though. Slightly.

There are many good things about this set. The styling. The engine detailing. A proper gearbox. That seat. The fact that it looks good with or without the stickers. Everything in its rightful place and looking all Go-Karty. It’s good value for money. It’s a superb looking model. If it steered like 854 it would get a 10. It barely steers at all. 7/10

Buy the LEGO Technic 42048 Race Kart set

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The Lego Technic Lifting Service

Satisfying your hoisting needs since 1978…

Lego Cranes

We like cranes here at The Lego Car Blog. Technic cranes tend to make excellent, functional models that can be a lot of fun to muck about with. From the earliest era of Technic, LEGO thought so too, and gave us the 855 Mobile Crane in 1978. How would it compare with its grandchildren?

Thank you for asking that question.

In the picture above, ready for battle (lift-off?) is a slightly nervous looking 855, along with 8854 from 1989, 8460 from 1995 and the later and larger 8421 and 42009 models.

After at least twenty seconds of careful cogitation I arrived at a reasonably fair way to compare them. Each crane must be parked with its stabilisers deployed, the superstructure slewed through 90 degrees, the boom lifted and extended to its fullest height; then it must hoist a steadily increasing load of batteries until something breaks. It would have been elves, but they ran away for some reason…

First up, the vintage 855:

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the old stager. I’ve always regarded it as one those models that’s dated more than most and lacked any meaningful strength due to it’s almost entirely studded construction and build-it-yourself stabilisers. Still, it’ll set a baseline…

Turns out it did pretty well – 14 batteries off the deck and nothing’s broken although you’ll see below that something’s about to…. this is why cranes need counterweights! Each battery weighs 23 grams, so that’s a good 350 grams with the pallet as well.

Lego Crane

This particular 855 is doing a most un-855 like thing; steering! Always a glaring omission from the original set, I’ve added it to mine as well as another control to slew the superstucture. I can promise you that the base / stabiliser combination isn’t any stronger than standard. There’s also a small mod to the lifting mechanism to help the boom achieve greater verticality (if that’s not a word, it should be!). The boom goes about 10 degrees higher than standard with 9 long axles actuating it instead of 8s. This mod does help its performance; without it, 12 batteries are hoisted in the air before the superstructure makes its bid for freedom.

Even with only early parts, 855 manages to do the important crane-y things like lifting and extending the boom and hoisting stuff; slewing’s manual and the stabilisers are fiddly to deploy and seem flimsy but it performs reasonably well. There’s many more types of crane illustrated on its box as well, all of which are many times better than the weak and uni-functional tipper lorry you get instructions for. 7/10 – it gets an extra point for its surprising performance here.

Next in line is 1989’s 8854 ‘Power Crane’, looking all butch and handsome and Unimoggy. Built with just 516 pieces (4 more than 855) it sports an  impressive array of features, with pneumatic boom elevation and controls for the stabilisers, slewing, steering, boom extension and hoisting. The piece count / functions ratio is one of the best of any set. They’re not all perfect, however…

Here it is taking on the TLCB lifting test:

Lego Technic Crane

Thanks to those stumpy little stabilisers, it has not a chance of lifting 10 batteries. How about 5? No.. 3?  No… it managed ONE. Pop a second on the pallet and it falls over. Oh dear. Pity, I really like this set. It corrects many of the flaws of 855, the most glaring of which is solved by a threaded axle clamping down the turntable, it’s highly playable and it’s pretty rugged. The pneumatics work well here, although their shortness does limit the boom’s maximum elevation to about 45 degrees and the pipework means this is the only crane here which won’t slew through the full 360 degrees.

I’d still recommend it though, and it has a good B-model; another tipper lorry but this time stronger and cleverer with articulated steering and a pneumatic tailgate. 7/10 – a point has to go for its poor test performance. Continue reading

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FORZA LEGO!

Welcome to TLCB’s almost timely review of the latest in a short line of Creator Expert car models…

Lego 10248 Ferrari F40 Review

Looks nice, doesn’t it? Usually in these reviews I open by rambling on a bit about personal experiences with the car in question, but since I’m not a millionaire that won’t happen this time.

Much.

Y’see, I have had the pleasure of inspecting this fine beast up close and in the plastic (the panels are glassfibre!). All you have to do is visit your friendly neighbourhood Supercar dealer. These places are almost always staffed by knowledgeable enthusiasts who sell what they sell because they love it. If they have the time, they’ll happily share it with you, a fellow enthusiast. Just try not to touch the cars they’ve spent ages polishing… Generally, they’re happy to entertain respectful sightseers and you’ll encounter none of the snootiness you might get from the classic boys…

The Ferrari F40 is an amazing thing, and hardly a people’s car like the other Lego Creator sets… except it is. It’s a thing that’s a joy to see (and hear) whether you own it or not. Three cheers for those who do and share them with the world by driving them around! If you ever see one behind you, wind down the window and hope he gives it the berries when he comes fanging past!

So, if you can’t get a real one, is 10248 the next best thing?

At £70 for 1158 pieces it’s better value, certainly… better value than the Mini even, with 80 more pieces for a fiver less. Considering the likely cost of the Ferrari licence, LEGO are being pretty generous here.

The box seems smallish, same size as the Mini’s I think, but it’s simple and uncluttered design is very appealing – it’s just a shame it’s got those destroy-box-here tabs to open it up. Inside, there’s two sets of numbered bags full of mostly small pieces – there’s a lot of detail here – a small sticker sheet that if you’re lucky won’t be crumpled and the single perfect bound instruction book that’s fast becoming the norm in larger sets. And a brick separator, because you can never have too many of those…

Instructions are pretty clear, so long as you realize Lego’s inconsistent representations of dark grey and black result in what could be black parts in the early stages actually being dark grey… Another minor niggle is the usually-helpful highlighting of parts just added occasionally obscures some parts already there, which can create confusion.

No biggie. It’s a fun thing to build, with very little repetition and like the Mini and Camper before it, plenty of interesting techniques and details along the way. I especially like the way they did those NACA ducts on the bonnet and sides. Here’s a fun fact: the duct was developed in 1945 as a way of allowing cooling air in with a minimal disruption to airflow, by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the US (NACA eventually became NASA when it’s remit expanded just a bit).

I’m a riot at parties…

As for the rest of it, it’s mostly very good, starting with the engine.

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The heart of any Ferrari, of course, and this has had plenty of attention lavished on it. The 2.85L turbocharged V8 isn’t the prettiest Ferrari engine but it ain’t exactly a diesel either… LEGO have done a great job of this, right down to the pistols used as manifold outlets that you can barely even see once it’s in the car.

The interior is simpler to build, mostly because (entirely accurately) there’s very little in it. What’s there is nicely done, although it would be good if the steering wheel’s rake was fixed instead of relying on a pin’s friction to hold it at the right angle. And good luck getting the tiny Prancing Horse sticker on the 1×1 round tile in the centre of the steering wheel! They probably should have printed that…

They probably shouldn’t have printed the rear pillars. This is the only area that lets it down somewhat. Apparently the genius responsible for the camper’s front and the Mini’s A pillar is yet to retire… One issue I have with this solution is the fact that printing in red on a black part results in a darker shade of red, a point that’s not evident from the pictures on the box but does stand out on the model. Also, because the side window / pillar is one big part, the side window lifts up with the rear cover. Any MOCer worth his salt would have bricked this part properly, as LEGO themselves did with the rest of it.

While we’re having a moan, do you ever wish that LEGO would stop unnecessarily redesigning parts? I’m talking here about the 1×6 arches used over the rear wheels that have an awkward little step that isn’t there if you use a couple of older, smoothly curving ones instead. It looks a lot better if you do.

I am now done moaning. I’m not even going to complain about the stickered ducts over the rear wheels, simply because there isn’t a better way that I can see to do this with an opening engine cover in the space available.

The front end is more successful, capturing the form of the F40 in bricks accurately and well. The pop-up headlights are quite neat (you have to lever them up individually yourself using a thin gap at the front – luckily they’ve provided the brick separator you’ll need for this!). The shape of the bonnet is excellent and there’s even a bit of detail under it, including a spanner (what are they trying to tell us about Italian reliability?). While you’re in there you might notice the multicoloured structure of the bonnet’s underside – the only place where the hidden BOLOCsness of this model becomes evident.

And then there’s that windscreen… Manna from heaven for MOCers, surely! Just so long as the car you build with it is red… There’s a slightly surprising omission here, since with a 1×4 black brick right below it at the same angle, a simple substitution provides somewhere to place a wiper. After all, they’ve thought of everything else, including door mirrors that are actually attached to the doors. Hooray!

Despite a couple of visual hiccups, the model as a whole does look pretty good:

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All the panels that should open, do, which we always like to see. The engine cover pivots on an axle so there’s no friction – you’ll need the handy stick provided to hold it up. I guess Ferrari must have done the same.

Aside from opening stuff and peering at detail, there’s no playability here, as with the other cars in this theme, but I’m pretty sure any attempt at stuffing mechanics in would ruin it.

Like the Camper and Mini before it, it exists for display and it looks good enough to do that; it’s one visual flaw not quite enough to detract from the whole.

If you have petrol in your veins you’ll like it. 8/10.

Buy the LEGO Creator 10248 Ferrari F40 set

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History Repeating

One of the best ideas of last year is back. It’s the ‘Fifteen Piece Vehicle Challenge’ on MOCpages. That’s right. Fifteen. One-Five. It’s an amazing test of creativity and pure, simple fun. Just ask Tom Remy, last year’s winner with this:

Air Balloon

A Beautiful Way to Travel, so long as you don’t mind where you’re going…

If you think you can match that, head on over to Sam the First’s group on MOCpages and get building. Three weeks to combine fifteen pieces of Lego should be plenty of time, and even the Elves can scrape together the necessary plastic. It’s informal, it’s fun, it’s open to everybody, and it’s even well organized. Can you tell that we like it? Get over there!

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Kandy Kolored Krazy Karts

…Or according to the picture below, just red and blue ones; but as everyone knows, they’re the best Smarties….

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Under Starter’s Orders…

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…

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Technic Lewis Gets A Wiggle On…

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…

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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. Continue reading

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Green Speed

If ever a Technic set could polarise opinion, it’s this one…

42039-1

It is of course the new for 2015 42039 24 hours race car.

Some say it’s ugly, others say it doesn’t do enough, or what it does do is gimmicky, or there’s the sticker haters (can’t say I blame them..). Time to confuse the issue further with TLCB’s two pence worth…

I rather like it.

Let me explain, since the above four word review might not be what you came here for. First of all, to these eyes it looks nicer without stickers, and it’ll certainly look nicer than one with peeling stickers a few years down the line…

Lego Technic 24 Hours Race Car

The bright green and white panels work pretty well. Not flawlessly (there’s a few awkward gaps here and there) but the overall effect leaves you in no doubt about what it is. It was differently designed in the preliminary images (I won’t put one here because they’re all watermarked, but you’ve probably seen them) and most people seem to prefer the way it was in prototype form.

The main changes made before the production version concern the headlight design, wheelarches, cockpit design and the loss of the rear central fin. This last point is a bit of of a pity since it hurts the model’s authenticity but I actually agree with Lego’s decision about the other aspects. While the headlight design we got isn’t as sleek, it’s more realistic and actually looks better. This change was probably made to facilitate the installation of PF lights. The original, rounder, wheelarch pieces, while individually more attractive than what we were given, didn’t blend as well with the side profile and look too narrow from above. I’ll take the too-square wheel wells of the production version, just. I find the changes made to the cockpit and door design to be an improvement as well.

So there. That’s settled that. Now, time to see what this beauty (?) does…

It’s an enjoyable build, working from the single, large square-bound instruction book. Still no sign of another one for the B-model… At 1200 pieces or so, this set is on the large side for one without numbered bags but I encountered no problems finding anything in the large pile of bits. After a few hours I had an engaging toy to play with. It’s a lot like the old 8461 Williams from 2002 in that respect…

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Anyone hoping for an all-singing-and-dancing Technic Supercar is in for a bit of a disappointment. 8880 this ain’t, but it does have a V8, working steering and suspension as well as opening gullwing doors and engine cover. These last two functions are controlled via the machine’s only gearbox using an unobtrusive black gear on the side. It is a bit gimmicky although the system works well. The new gearbox parts used here do make assembly more foolproof (no more putting free-wheeling gears on the wrong way round…) and operation feels slightly more positive than before. The difference is small, but noticeable. I’d still prefer the transmission to vary the speed of the engine relative to the wheels though…

…Mostly because the engine is (again!) very nearly silent. This is a race car! Give it some noise! It could do with a bit more detailing as well. While it’s nice to be able to raise the engine cover, there’s not a lot to see when you do.

Suspension works well, with about the right travel, stiffness and ride height. The design is fairly standard double wishbones all round. A pushrod set-up like that in the aforementioned Williams might have been nice, but what we get does it least work properly.

Steering is fine; again a fairly standard HOG system, but the hub parts used here do allow a decent amount of lock and it works smoothly and well. There’s nothing for me to complain about, then… apart from the completely vertical and unconnected in-cab wheel, perhaps.

Like many recent models, it’s designed to be easy to motorize, although in this case there’s not much point. It might be fun to watch the doors or engine cover whirr up once, but that’ll be it. The electrics are well hidden however, with plenty of space under the opening front panel for the battery box to hide in.

The B-model is a Paris-Dakar style rally raid truck, and it looks pretty good. The very low profile tyres that suit the main model perfectly do look odd on it though. Still, a fine effort. The Le Mans car is a fine effort too. Good looking, thoughtfully designed, fun to build, and something Lego Technic hasn’t done before in a colour that’s new to Technic and very attractive. We’re still waiting for that all-singing-and-dancing Technic Supercar, however.

In many ways, this is more like the old Racers line than a true Supercar, and if you can accept it on those terms and like the look of it, you’ll enjoy it.  8/10.

Buy the LEGO Technic 42039 24 Hours Race Car

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Superbike?

The new 2015 Technic sets are in the shops now and I’ve made my customary annual pilgrimage to the temple of Mammon…

I returned with a very nice green and white Le Mans style racer (about which more soon) and this:

Lego Technic 42036

Looks very racy dontchathink? It is of course set 42036, the Sports Motorbike, and it might be LEGO’s most handsome bike yet. 375 pieces of Technic goodness for 30 quid. Decent value, then, if not outstanding.

New element news! This comes with some very handy ‘technic single bush with pin’ pieces that’ll get moccers salivating. They have appeared in a few 2014 sets, including the big Tumbler, but 2015 is their first appearance in Technic sets. There’s also a piece that’s a 1L smooth sided bush – imagine half a pin joiner and you’re there. 42036 comes with just two of those, one of which is a spare.

What else have we got? Well, after you’ve destroyed the box, you’ll find two instruction books, a worryingly large sticker sheet and a few bags of bits. You’ll enjoy the build well enough over a leisurely hour or so, ten minutes of which will be c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y. placing stickers over curved panels.

The bike itself looks ace, in a Japanese suzhonda firebusa kind of way, while functionally it’s a mixed bag…

The engine’s pretty neat. It’s a V4 (NOT A TWIN!!) that takes its drive from the centre of the crankshaft, it’s mounted across the bike and canted forward. Not being an expert on bikes, I have no idea how realistic this is but I find it does make a nice change from the usual set-up in Technic bikes. Still turns too slowly, though…

Suspension, on the other hand, is pretty bog standard with no surprises; wobble-strut front forks and all. Because of the thicker tyres, the front one will foul the springs too easily when it’s compressed, and I really would have thought a wider rear tyre shouldn’t be too much to ask on a bike like this… maybe they can mount the primary chain inside the swingarm while they’re at it. Some things never change…

Colours change sometimes, and this time for the better. The medium blue and red combination is very attractive with the dark grey wheels. I was hoping it’d look so nice I needn’t bother with the stickers, but alas without them it does look a bit underdressed. With the stickers on it looks great, until they start to peel…

Which leads me to LEGO’s treatment of the seat. It’s a pair of stickers on the frame! This is. Just. Not. Good. Enough. At least with the exhaust underneath the rider can keep warm.

In other news, the B-model looks pretty cool:

Lego Technic 42036 B Model

…makes a change from the endless sea of choppers and dragsters doesn’t it? I like this drag-bike type thing very much, mostly because the front end doesn’t wobble so much. There’s an instruction book for it as well.

Overall, this is a bit style-over-substance (engine excepted) and, while it looked like it might be an outstanding bike, it’s really rather… average. It’s saved by its good looks and that B-model. 7/10

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Milky Way

Because classic spacemen still need calcium…

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The very wonderful Classic Space Pocket Money Contest is running for a third year on MOCPages. We’re very excited by this, and not just because it gives us an excuse to build something elf-sized and fire it into space…

All you have to do is come up with a 100-piece (or less) set in any of the classic space colour schemes and build alternates using the same pieces. It’s a fun challenge and there’s even prizes! Although you’ll be going some to beat Stephan N‘s entry above, which is designed to supply to our smiling vintage friends plenty of the white stuff (no, not THAT white stuff.) Time to dust off the (old) grey and blue…

The Classic Space Pocket Money Contest is open for entries until January 13th.

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Truck Economics

In our recent review of the 42030 Technic Volvo loader set, a reader did make the very valid point that the newer, more elaborate flagship sets, while very nice, do cost rather more than they used to. Where was the equivalent of those ’80s supercar sets for a reasonable price ?

Thomas, this is for you.

42029-1

At £70 for 1063 pieces, it would seem that Lego has been listening with the recent 42029 Customized Pick-Up Truck set. With engine, steering, suspension, transmission (sort of..), a winch and a tipping truck bed this is at least as playable as, say, set 8860, the car chassis from 1980.

That fine old stager cost $59 for 668 pieces way back then, equivalent to $167 in today’s money according to the office abacus. 42029 is $100, or less than half the price of the Volvo.

Let’s see if it measures up in other ways…

First of all, the box is almost exactly the same size as 8860’s, and probably a good deal fuller. It’s simple and attractive in the modern Technic way, showing various different features of the Pick-up and the alternative plough / grabber crane B model.

Upon opening, you’ll find a selection of un-numbered bags, two crumpled instruction books and a creased sticker sheet. Arrgghh! I would have sprung an extra quid for some protection for these…

Moving on, it is a pity that 42030’s innovation of a single, large book isn’t continued here and, once again, there are no paper instructions for the B model.

I’ll stop complaining now. For a bit.

It’s a reasonably straightforward build, with some clever design and thoughtful touches to keep you entertained. There’s four of those excellent sliding Cardan joints here, as well as a quartet of the best springs for moccers – those yellow harder ones that are the same size as the old soft springs. And red panels. Lots of red panels. All good stuff, although I didn’t notice anything new here.

The result of your expenditure and labour is a bit smaller than the old supercars, but it looks good in it’s nicely styled red bodywork. It works alright too…

The engine’s a V6 (two pots short, surely ?) and looks nice under the opening bonnet with what appears to be a six pack of carburettors sitting atop the block. Or are they six turbochargers ? That’d be fun… It’s driven rather slowly by the rear axle. It’s good, but it would be better if you could hear it when the car’s being pushed along. For seventy quid I don’t expect to be making the ‘vroom’ noises myself…

Steering is by the usual hand-of-god gear behind the cab. It feels a little loose and the lock is just OK, but it works. The in-cab wheel is not connected, and it’s not angled, leaving it looking too low and not quite right. A note for moccers – if you make a fantastic looking car and bung the ‘wheel in dead straight and too low it RUINS it. Fact. For a reasonably priced set it’s forgivable however. Just.

Suspension is pretty impressive. Independent all round, with one hard spring per corner, it feels perfect in stiffness and travel; and a good deal better than what’s underneath most real vehicles of this type… The double wishbone design is very robust and capable. This passes the drop test! TLCB will not be liable for any breakages that occur when you chuck it down the stairs, however.

The transmission has nothing to do with changing engine speed relative to the wheels – instead the lever between the seats can toggle between drive from the gear on the side being sent to the winch or the tipper mechanism. There’s a secondary control just inside the door where it’s easier to reach, but I do love the fact that the ‘gearlever’ moves as well.

The tipping bed works via a single small linear actuator that you’d swear wouldn’t be man enough, but it is. A little wobbly, yes, and it does only go up about 45 degrees, but it can take some weight in the back. And hooray! for the fully lined bed; there are no holes left unplated and the tailgate will flop down. Very good.

Also good is the winch. It does what it says on the tin. The transmission that sends drive to it and the tipper is easy to motorize as well, although it’s a lot less necessary than it is on 42024, the Skip Lorry. The gearing for the manual control seems about right.

Styling is generally a success, although it does have a slightly unfortunate Hummer-esque aspect from head on. The front wing area is a little sketchy but this is nitpicking now. It’s a good looking model. The wide track seems to suit it’s (not cartoonishly) elevated stance. I’d leave the stickers off, though. The ‘roaring bear’ motif looks like he’s already broken his jaw, poor fella…

Inside, there’s not much to see. There’s the aforementioned vertical steering wheel, the gearlever and a pair of too-small seats. That’s pretty much it, although it’s good that the door mirrors are attached to the (opening) doors.

I really like the look of the B model. It’s an articulated plough / grabber truck thingy that looks like a fun build with a versatile result. I haven’t built it yet but the signs are good.

So. A Supercar replacement on a budget ? I’d say yes – it’s not better than 8860 but it is better value. 8/10. It should suit most Technic building petrolheads, including TLCB’s good friend Thomas.

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Incredible Lego Technic – Book Review

Pawel Kmiec, better known as Sariel, has been busy…

Incredible Technic Book

Thumping onto the doormat at the TLCB Portakabin this week, has been a copy of his second Lego Technic book. It’s called Incredible Lego Technic and it’s clearly intended to show us just how incredible Lego Technic can be. 36 different builders, most of whom have graced these hallowed halls before, show you how. It showcases more than 70 of the very best Technic models out there and it’s designed to inspire.

It does. Running to 280 pages and printed on thick, glossy paper, it gives each model 2-4 pages of very high quality photographs, some accompanying text that gives details of the models’ various functions and a bit of background info about the prototypes. It’s a lot like flicking through the greatest hits of MOCpages, in a parallel universe where the photo resolution is high, and everyone presents their models faultlessly. And there’s no-one saying ‘come an chek out mi awsum tuner’…. although to be fair, that doesn’t seem to happen as much as it used to.

Incredible Technic Book

Anyhoo, this makes it the best kind of coffee table book; one you can dip into when the mood takes and probably refer back to many times when looking for inspiration. There are no instructions or building tips here (Sariel covered that in his previous book) but experienced builders will find the diagrams that highlight the motors and gears on a lot of the models quite helpful.

(Spoiler Alert!)

To whet your appetite, I’ve chosen two of my favourite models from the book:

Lego Technic Supercar

Nice, yes? It’s Francisco Hartley’s Lamborghini Aventador and, like many of the builds here, it’s quite recent. The author admits that this book may date quickly due to ever more brilliant models being produced, but there’s also a smattering of truly timeless classics, such as this gorgeous MAN truck built by Jennifer Clark in 2003:

Lego MAN Truck

Brilliance on this scale doesn’t date. It’s motorized as well, using old 9V motors to do everything the real thing does. Impressive stuff and all the better for showing da studs.

There’s a lot more than cars and trucks here, with Aircraft, Watercraft and Farm and Construction equipment represented also, as well as half a dozen real oddballs that show amazing ingenuity – buy it and find out what they are!

Incredible Lego Technic is published by No Starch Press, and will be available from Amazon in the next week or so as I write. It’s fairly expensive at $29.95 (US) but you are definitely getting what you pay for.

Recommended.

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Get Out Of My Way

There was a time you had to watch out for Volvo drivers; unpredictable, incompetent pilots who felt ‘safer’ in their tank while putting everyone else at greater risk… then two things happened. The unsure drivers migrated to even more tank-like SUVs and Volvo started making decent cars. Terrible drivers don’t like good cars so the ones who didn’t fancy a 4WD got themselves a Peugeot, who as luck would have it stopped making good cars at about the time Volvos got better. So now you know who to watch out for. You, of course, are a perfect driver…

For the ultimate get-out-of-my-way, bog-off-Range-Rover experience you’ll need one of these…

Lego Technic 42030 Volvo Review

Coming Soon To A Town Centre Near You..

Yes, TLCB has finally got around to reviewing the set that everyone’s talking about… last summer. It is of course the Technic 42030 Volvo L350F Loader.

The Technic range is always best topped off with something big and yellow and this is bigger and yellower than most. It’ll drive right over a Peugeot, and it rivals the 8110 Unimog for sheer size. So it should for 170 smackers….

At just over 1600 pieces, it doesn’t scream value at that price, but the 4 PF motors and remote control gubbins makes the outlay more palatable. And you do get a very big box for your money; not the fullest box in the world, exactly, but there’s plenty of good stuff in there.

One innovation I really like here is the single, thick instruction book. So much better than half a dozen thin ones… now how about another one for the B model? Anyone? Hello? Nevermind… let’s crack on and build the thing. What’s surprising here is how easy it is compared to other recent large sets. This is mostly down to each function having its own dedicated motor so there’s no complex gearbox arrangements to contend with. There’s not even that many gears… it’ll only take about 3-4 hours to assemble, but it still makes for an enjoyably lazy afternoon.

As for pieces, there’s little new here, apart from that huge bucket – the biggest Technic piece ever, apparently – although ‘Mog wheels in yellow are nice to have, and engine cylinders in green are a thoughtful and accurate detail. I did see some ‘5L axle with stop’ which fortunately are a different colour to the older ‘4L axle with stop’ but that’s about it for elemental innovation. Maybe Technic has enough connectors and brackets and beams and so on to be going on with. There certainly seems to be plenty of choice now.

Lego Technic 42030 Volvo

You might think 170 quid is a lot to pay for 3 hours of building, but consider the many hours of playing this fully remote controlled beast will give you… this model actually does do quite a lot:

Engine: An inline six, as per reality, and it’s 4 wheel drive. It’s green too, but I don’t mean environmentally friendly… It doesn’t turn terrifically quickly but it’s always a nice thing to have. It’s impressively accessible too; the grille on the back will hinge open, as will both side panels. You can even unlatch the rear mudguards to open another panel and walk right in! It’s driven, as are all four wheels, by the XL motor beneath it, at what seems to be an appropriate pace. Not too fast, not too slow. Just right.

Steering: This is articulated in the middle, just below the operator’s cab, and it’s actuated by a PF Servo Motor. These do make the steering easier to operate than a standard motor, but with the standard remote control it’s all or nothing. I think I’d still prefer an M or L, geared down to make it controllable unless I had the speed controller. This is minor quibbling really; the system works very well and PRAISE BE! The in-cab steering wheel is connected!! There’ll be dancing in the streets tonight! Or maybe just in my house…

Suspension: Yes, there is some. Sort of. The rear axle is pendular, albeit unsprung. It’s one of those features that doesn’t need to be there but I’m glad they made the effort.

Bucket Elevation: Controlled by two large linear actuators driven by an L motor, the bucket will move up to impressive height, and it’ll maintain the tilt angle through the upper two thirds of the travel. All very good. The box makes the proud boast that it’ll lift up to 1Kg, and this it will do. It absolutely will not lift 1.1Kg however. You can’t fault LEGO for honesty…

Bucket Tilting: A single linear actuator, controlling the bucket’s angle through a wide range of movement via some clever leverage, this works seamlessly and well. An M motor does the driving and it proves to be strong enough. If you feel the need to lift 1.1Kg, I’d swap it for an L at the same time as stuffing in an XL for the bucket elevation though. Having said that, it sounds like the limiting factor is the LAs’ internal clutches rather than the motor.

42030 feels like a belated successor to the sainted 8043 Excavator, in that it does all it sets out to do, and it looks pretty good doing it. It’s not quite as sophisticated as that model, and styling-wise, while it looks enough like the actual Volvo to wear it’s stickers with pride, the areas beneath the cab and under the bucket are a tad sketchy. This may be just because the back half is so thoroughly detailed, with all the railings and panels and so on that give this some real visual heft.

The B model looks good as well – it’s an articulated, tipping quarry truck, modelled after another actual Volvo, for which there’s a complete second set of stickers; presumably you just have to peel off the A model’s stickers first! It’s got the typical Technic tipper see-through bed however… I’d stick with the better, more sophisticated Loader.

Overall, I’m very grateful that a Technic designer has a mate who works for Volvo (true story – it’s why this exists) and it deserves it’s place at the top of the range. Like all good RC vehicles, it’s excellent for spooking the dog. 9 and a half / 10.

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Mini Mini

 

10242-1

Welcome to our review of LEGO’s latest set for gearheads. If you’re from the UK and of a certain age, there’s a good chance your first car was one of these. Probably ten years old, falling apart with rust, smoking like the Flying Scotsman… maybe that was just mine, but how I loved it!

I am of course talking of the ‘UCS’ Mini, set no. 10242. This model depicts one of the later 1990s Coopers with much interior finery that my plastic-seated ’70s example may have lacked, but the appeal is the same. So long as it IS a classic Mini, not one of those BMW-sponsored supertankers that should probably be called Maxis, really…

Where were we? Ah yes, 10242, what’s it like?

Comparisons with the 10220 Camper Van (still available but probably not for long…) are inevitable, and 10242’s 1077 pieces for £75 looks slightly worse value than the Camper’s 1332 pieces for £80. Naturally, the model’s smaller as well… still, all those rare pieces in dark green make up some of the difference for MOCers.

The box looks to be the same size as the VW’s, and it looks good, with a tempting pic of the Mini on the front, and the rear showcasing all the opening features and interior detail. Appetite suitably whetted, it’s time to liberate the instructions and get to building.

It’s a fun build, with not too much repetition all things considered, and there’s some neat solutions, especially in the way they’ve designed-in the half-plate gap behind the doors that enable them to close smoothly whilst keeping the curve at the top of the side panel. There’s not quite as much surprise-and-delight in this as there was in the camper, but there is some; the spare wheel under the hinged boot floor may not be realistic, but it is a nice detail that leaves this Mini with probably more boot space than a real one…

After a not-too-taxing couple of hours, you’ll have a good looking model.

The front looks excellent. The lights, grille and bumper are all in proportion and the sloped bonnet opens to reveal the detailed engine. This isn’t quite as detailed as it could be, but what’s there is nice enough. In answer to many a MOCer’s prayer, the headlights are about two and a half studs across which makes them exactly the right size. Hurrah! for that. The silvered pin joiners used for the bumpers are very pleasing too.

Moving rearwards, and things are not quite so rosy; the lower parts of the bodysides are fine – excellent, in fact, with the printed stripe on the curved elements that form the top part of the side panels – but the pillar / window treatment lets the side down, literally… It’s those slope pieces for the ‘screen pillars, with stickers that attempt to black out the portion of slope brick that shouldn’t be there. To my eyes, this doesn’t work at all, and yes I did put the stickers on straight…

Those green wheelarch pieces are brilliant, though. Nice going for what’s really a windscreen piece! The wheels are nice too, doing a convincing impression of the ‘Minilite’ design that was always popular on these.

At the rear, another nice and shiny bumper, above which is an opening bootlid that’s almost but not quite exactly the right shape. It’s a good try, though. Maybe it’s the too-steep angle of the rear screen that does it, but it doesn’t look quite right from some angles at the back.

If the above sounds like nit-picking, blame the VW Camper for setting the bar so high. While this model IS a good representation of a Mini Cooper, there are several areas where it could be better. The one area where the Camper could have been better has at least been nailed on the Mini…

And another thing; when are LEGO going to stop using tiny minifig levers where something three times the size would be better? Answers on a postcard please… It’s the roof-mounted aerial this time and it looks ridiculous.

Inside, it gets better. The roof lifts off to reveal the beautifully detailed seats with their chequered trim, and a perfectly detailed dashboard with the sort of late – ’90s wood veneer that was almost definitely not plastic… The front seats tip forward to allow your imaginary figures into the cramped rear bench. This is a couple of studs too far forward, presumably to give enough boot space for that utterly delightful picnic basket, complete with fabric towel. And a piece of ‘cheese’ that’s actually a piece of cheese; gotta love that Danish humour!

The only criticism inside is the massive steering wheel.

One very nice detail is a choice of number plates according to your chosen European country. The English ‘R’ registration makes this a 1997 model. Also very English is the colour: British Racing Green, no less, and it looks great with the white bonnet stripes and roof.

Overall, it’s a good model. A nice thing to have if you’re a Mini fan. It doesn’t quite achieve the dizzy heights of quality of the Camper set, though.

It’s still a Mini and Minis make you smile. 8/10

Buy the LEGO Creator 42042 Mini Cooper set

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Who You Gonna Call ?

…Well, what else was I gonna call it …?

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Welcome to the TLCB review of the new Lego Ideas 21108 Ghostbusters Ecto-1 set.

I was in my early teens when this brilliant film was released, and I have fond memories of it. It was pleasing to find on seeing it recently that it’s aged quite well. Unlike some of it’s audience… and of course that 1959 Cadillac ambulance still looks effortlessly cool.

Turns out it looks cool in Lego as well.

This was always gonna be a day 1 purchase – I knew that as soon as I saw the preview pictures. Unlike the DeLorean model, Lego has stayed very close to the original designer’s idea, making it the most realistic minifig scale car I’ve seen from them by a long way.

You have to pay for this excellence. Forty five smackers is a lot for an 8-wide car, however you look at it, although as we’ll see, Lego have done their very best to make the outlay worth it.

First, the box. In common with other Cuusoo / Ideas sets this comes packaged in a sturdy, high quality Architecture set-style box that’s beautifully illustrated with an atmospheric shot of the car and the four main characters in Minifig form. On the back, we’re reminded that it’s the film’s 30th anniversary. Just in case anybody who saw it first time around doesn’t feel old already…

Instructions are a similarly high quality square-bound book with glossy pages, lots of interesting snippets about the film, the characters and the car, and the instructions themselves are interspersed with quotes from the movie to enjoy as you build. Take your time over it. It’s like doing an Architecture set, where you’re learning about the building as you, er.. build. The only thing that might annoy is the book’s inability to lie flat; but what are paperweights for ?

It’s quite rare for me to be remotely interested in a set’s Minifigs, so I’m no expert on such things… The four main characters do seem to be a pretty good representation of Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore. I have seen comments elsewhere about Venkman’s hair not being right but it looks fine to me. I told you I was no expert… I like the way his sardonic features do a passable impersonation of Bill Murray though. All of the heads are printed on both sides, to provide a scared face when the situation arises, which it will… The four all wear identical torsos with their initials printed thereon, which you’ll need a magnifying glass to read, but it’s a nice touch. They also have identical backpacks, well greebled with all their ghostbusting gear, and Zeddemore has his, er his…. ectomplasmic activity sensor thingy as well.  All in all, these are excellent. Probably.

The meat of the build is, of course, the car. A white ’59 Caddy ambulance fully equipped for any paranormal emergencies. Building it serves as an object lesson in how to form a perfectly shaped minifig scale car. Lesson one: you’ll need a lot of brackets. Lots and lots. Those new 2 stud long curved slope pieces will come in pretty handy as well… Anyone used to just building City style cars is in for a surprise: this is building at the very top level of moc quality, and it shows in the finished article. It’s scaled properly to the wheels, it’s stance and proportions are spot on, the level of detail is right for it’s size (the only thing really missing is door handles; but then I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t look clunky – that’s one of those things that’s better left out, I think), even the side windows have the correct ‘tumblehome’ and trimmed edges. All extremely impressive in a model this small, although that does mean that nothing opens.

Fortunately, the roof with all it’s… stuff comes off for playability. Three figs will fit inside (someone’s gonna have to walk, unless he wants to lie down in the back…). For such an intricate model, it’s surprisingly sturdy too.

One of the reasons it looks as good as it does is the use of silvered pieces for the bumpers, for that typically Cadillac chrometastic look. If they’d have stretched to silvered instead of grey pieces around the windows as well it would look fantastic. And be even more expensive… Another bonus is the fact that there are no stickers (Hallelujah!); everything that needs to be is printed, including four 2×2 curved slopes with the Ghostbusters logo and the ECTO-1 licence plates.

This is a model that screams quality. It probably wasn’t subject to the same cost constraints that may have hobbled the (cheaper, worse) DeLorean; and I’m glad that a lesson may have been learned. Collectors will pay for quality, and this is very much a display set; one to perch proudly on your mantelpiece and await the ‘wow’s from visitors. Or pose it atop your television and sit back to enjoy the film…It’s better value in the US ($50) but even in Europe, it’s worth the price of admission. 10/10.

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The Ultimate Supercar

… Is one that goes into space…

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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. Continue reading

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